Vail is hoping three time’s a charm when it comes to incorporation

Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 9:32 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Residents of Vail in southeast Tucson may have a third chance to vote on incorporation this November.

The town failed to pass articles to incorporate in 1995 and failed again in 2013 when 56% of the voters rejected the idea. But things have changed in the once small community which leads incorporation supporters to believe this time may be different.

First of all, the population of bedroom community has nearly doubled in the ten years since the last incorporation effort.

When voters rejected the attempt ten years ago, the population hovered around 11,000. Now, it’s closer to 21,000 which means a larger base to help pay for services.

“At 10,000 people it’s just really tight,” said David Hook, who is one of the leaders of the effort. “But at 20,000 people, we’ve run the numbers and it’s like, yeah, this is enough people to actually make it work.”

One reason for that is the town would receive about $10 million in state-shared revenues. It would also be eligible for money from the Pima Association of Government’s RTA plan. It would also give the town a seat at the table to determine its transportation future.

It’s believed the $14.2 million would be a good starting point when it comes to providing services, such as law enforcement and fire.

“If we don’t take control of our own destiny, I guarantee you somebody else will,” Hook said.

And that somebody could be the city of Tucson which has hinted in the recent past that annexation is a priority. Vail could be a lucrative target.

“If they told us they’re going to incorporate some parts of Vail, and we’re going to strip annex and we’re going to have some of that retail, then we would absolutely rise up and say, we don’t want Tucson,” Hook said. “But they’re very subtle about it.”

While Vail doesn’t have much of a tax base now, it has the potential to develop along Interstate 10, which has been a key to Marana’s success after incorporating in 1977.

Sahuarita has used the same model since it was incorporated in 1995 along Interstate-19.

“We’ve got a couple of interchanges on I-10 and right now they’re undeveloped but if you were able to look at that and figure out how to properly create some retail at the interchange at I-10, we would create a tremendously wonderful tax base,” Hook said.

A recent poll shows about 53% of the voters believe in incorporation but 44% do not, which is a close call.

“It’s a very evenly divided idea right now in the population and I don’t think there’s a clear-cut winner,” said District 4 Pima County Supervisor Steve Christy.

The town of Vail sits in Supervisor Christy’s district. He says he’s agnostic on whether they incorporate or not but says the best way to decide is to cast ballots.

“I do want it to go to a vote and I do want to see what the community wants,” he said. “And the truest and best form of finding out is to put it to a vote.”

But before the town moves ahead, it must get permission from Tucson because the town’s boundary is within the six-mile “urbanized area” limit established by state statute.

Pima County will also have a vote on the town’s boundaries.

If the town passes those two hurdles, it must still collect 2,000 signatures with a short window if they want to get it on the November ballot.