Tonopah Group Takes Steps Towards Incorporation Status

A May 26 meeting could end up being a small step toward a change in Arizona’s jurisdictional landscape.

Buckeye spokeswoman Annie DeChance confirmed Thursday that staff met with a group from Tonopah regarding the May 26 incorporation.

Although incorporation as a city or town is usually a long and arduous effort that involves many steps, agreements, votes and investments, the reunion symbolized one of the most significant efforts in years for the small community to to incorporate.

Details of the May 26 meeting were not disclosed.
Buckeye City Council also met behind closed doors in January to discuss elements of a potential Tonopah incorporation along the western edge of Maricopa County. Tonopah is just west of Buckeye along I-10.

Angela Hanna, a resident of the Tonopah area, sent Independent Newsmedia several documents from various government agencies related to the incorporation efforts. Although there is no formal action planned by Buckeye City Council, at this stage the path to incorporation would have its ups and downs – and it could be an even tougher battle than the one at which d other communities have faced in the past.

Arizona community groups wishing to incorporate must meet several objectives. These include securing the approval of two-thirds of voters in any city or town that would share a boundary line with the new municipality.

In March 2009, voters in the town of Buckeye rejected a proposed question about Tonopah’s incorporation, 523 to 356. Buckeye has grown tremendously since that time; it’s hard to say whether current Buckeye residents who are against rapid growth would vote for or against such a move in 2022.

The numbers also work against the Tonopah community: the 2020 U.S. Census listed population for the unincorporated area is just 59 people. This not only means that a handful of supporters would have to do much of the meeting, briefing, filing documents and convincing neighbors themselves, but also, it would be easy for just a few detractors in Tonopah or Buckeye to hijack or derail the whole effort. A large unit would be needed.

Benefits would include the creation of a local planning and zoning commission and a council to vote on development and make ordinances to create the type of community Tonopah residents would prefer.

Buckeye grew to 50,000 people in 2010 and now has a population of over 100,000, spread across the second largest city (by land area) in Arizona.

It is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, and as more and more unincorporated tracts on or near the western edge of Buckeye are annexed to cities by landowners and council votes, it’s conceivable that Phoenix’s westernmost suburb could engulf Tonopah in a short while.

Several large-scale developments have been announced by developers planning construction in the area. In October last year, Vermaland announced plans for a 1,100-acre planned community near Tonopah.

A company associated with IT tycoon Bill Gates scouted land for a self-sustaining, self-sustaining city in 2017, but those plans have yet to materialize.

The large Douglas Ranch development, which will include more than 100,000 homes along the northwest edge of Buckeye, north of Tartesso, already has a few permits.

That effort now involves former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo and the Howard Hughes Corporation.
The first place in Arizona to incorporate was the city of Tucson in 1877.

The most recent was Tusayan, a small town near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, in 2010. The town of Maricopa was incorporated in 2003.

However, Tusayan and Maricopa are isolated communities with no neighbors like Buckeye to contend with. Residents of Big Park, better known as the Village of Oak Creek, would presumably need the cooperation of the City of Sedona to become a town or city, but those informal discussions have faded as the coronavirus pandemic COVID-19 has made public meetings more difficult.

A newly incorporated community would need to find ways to fund municipal needs, such as fire and police services, as well as perhaps utilities, as well as road improvement and maintenance and city services such as the development and application of the code.

The City of Buckeye website only mentions Tonopah one way: in the FAQ: “When will a high school or college be built for Tartesso?” is covered.

City staff point out that Tartesso Elementary School is located in the Saddle Mountain Unified School District and is a kindergarten through eighth grade school. It is one of three elementary schools in the district.

Currently, the Saddle Mountain District has only one high school, Tonopah Valley High.

“We encourage you to work with the school district to determine the possibility of building another high school in the district,” the city states.

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