Mr. Marana, we hardly know you from the blue collar Joe or bib overall-wearing farmer who lived in the dusty crossroads that became a town 25 years ago.

To run into the typical Maranan on the street today would be to meet an individual who is well steeped in the middle class and busy chasing the American Dream, according to the latest data releases from the 2000 U.S. Census.

Census data released last year placed Marana as the fastest growing community in the state, with its population exploding 519 percent from 2,187 people in 1990 to 13,556 in 2000.

Data released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau gives details of that surprising growth rate. The new information ranges from household incomes to mortgage payments and provides a snapshot of a rising middle class town with small pockets of poverty remaining in its rural neighborhoods.

The new Mr. Marana - since men make up 50.1 percent of Marana's total population of 13,556 - would more than likely be a resident of the Continental Ranch subdivisions, where well over half the town's population is concentrated.

According to an analysis of a four square-mile census tract that takes in Cortaro Road on the north to West Linda Vista Boulevard on the south and is bisected by Silverbell Road, 8,841 people inhabit the dense suburban housing of Continental Ranch.

The average Mara-nan is 34 1/2 years old, the median age of the town's total population. He, like 81.8 percent of Marana, is white.

In suburban Continental Ranch, the number of white householders rises to 84.9 percent, with Hispanics making up 14.8 percent, Asians 4.1 percent and blacks 2.2 percent and Native Americans 0.9 percent.

The total percentages exceed 100 percent because of respondents who categorized themselves as belonging to more than one racial or ethnic group.

Like 66.1 percent of Marana's total population, the average Maranan is married, although 16.9 percent of his fellow town folk over 15 years old have never been married.

Similar to 29 percent of the population, Mr. and Ms. Marana have children under 18 living at home, according to the census.

The age of those children -or more likely child, since the average family size in Marana is three people- is overwhelmingly young. The census lists 50 percent of Marana's children three years old and older enrolled in school as being elementary students in grades one through eight. Fifteen percent of Marana's 3,281 students are in high school and 19.6 are attending college or graduate school.

The fact that he never quite completed that college degree himself - 30.2 percent of Maranans have some college with no degree, 20 percent hold bachelor's degrees and 9.1 percent have graduate-level college educations - doesn't seem to have placed Mr. Marana too out of whack with the national average. Nationwide, only 24.3 percent of the population hold bachelor's degrees.

Marana's educational attainment is certainly a sea-change difference from the last decade. According to the 1990 census, only 91 people over the age of 25 held bachelor's degrees in a town of more than 2,000 people. A surprisingly high number of adults - 459 - had not received a high school diploma in 1989 when the census was conducted.

The rise in educational attainment for the typical Maranan no doubt helped him benefit from the economic boom of the 1990s. The town's median household income in 1999 when the census information was gathered rang in at $58,870, surpassing the state's median household income of $40,558.

Marana's median household income in 1989 was a paltry $22,245.

The typical Marana family is not doing as well as Paradise Valley north of Phoenix, which had the top median household income in Arizona of $150,228, but it is bumping up against Oro Valley, which had the 10th highest in the state at $61,037, and the Catalina Foothills, which came in 6th with $65,657.

Beyond the median, 64 households, or 1.3 percent of Maranans had annual incomes of $200,000 more. Conversely, 268 homes, or 5.4 percent, listed incomes of under $10,000.

Keeping up with the Joneses required a white collar in Marana. According to the census, a whopping 43.1 percent of employed Maranans over the age of 18 classified themselves as toiling in "management, professional and related professions," and another 23 percent considered themselves as working in sales or office occupations.

Indeed, the bib overalls are pretty much gone from Marana's farm fields. Only 52 working adults, or 0.9 percent of the population, listed their occupation as being in the area of farming, fishing and forestry occupations. The construction and mining industries employed 8.6 percent of the town, while 17.3 percent of the population worked in the service industry.

Overall, 74.1 percent of the total employed Maranans worked in the private sector, but surprisingly, more than one in five worked for the government, a category that would take in defense contractors such as Raytheon, whose employees are well represented in Continental Ranch.

Another 411 Maranans might be classified as "orange collars," as they were inmates of the Marana Community Correctional Treatment Facility. Their presence in the census adds to the amount of shared revenue Marana receives from the state, which is determined by population.

Getting to their jobs was tough for Maranans, but not nearly the hassle that Continental Ranch suburbanites often gripe about. Probably due to the proximity of Interstate 10 which off-sets much of the congestion on south Marana surface streets, the median commute time for a demographic sampling of Maranans was 29.4 minutes.

Nationwide, the census placed the mean commute time as 25.4 minutes in 2000.

Most of those harried commuters, 80.6 percent of them, drove to work alone in their own vehicle. Car pools accounted for 12 percent, and a minuscule 0.9 percent used public transportation. According to the census, 34 well located, car-less, foolhardy or health conscious people walked to work. Another 3.8 percent had an even shorter commute, as they said they worked at home.

The walking to work option didn't seem to be a pressing need in a town where 30.5 percent of the households had one car, 54.1 percent of the households had two cars, and 12.9 percent had three or more. Only 2.5 percent, or 121 households, said they had no car at all.

Like 42.3 percent of the population, the typical Maranan moved into his home between 1995 and 1998. Only 49 people, or 1 percent of the total population, moved into their home before 1969.

The vast majority of homes owned in Marana, 48.7 percent, were valued at between $100,000 and $149,000. The median value for homes was $134,500, up dramatically from $55,100 reported in the 1990 census.

The 2000 census listed no homes that were valued at more than a million dollars.

The largest percentage of homeowners, 86 percent, were paying mortgage, and 36.6 percent of them made monthly payments that ranged from $1,000 to $1,499.

Diversity in Marana remained stagnant. Although the individual numbers of minorities in the town rose, the influx of white residents diluted any percentage gains.

While 1990 census numbers showed only 37 black residents in Marana, the total rose to 392 in 2000 to become 2.9 percent of the total population. The town's Asian-American population grew from 29 to 334, but still made up only 2.5 percent of all Maranans. The population of Native Americans rose from 135 to 392 and now make up 2.1 percent of the total population.

In keeping with the national demographic trend, Hispanics accounted for the biggest surge in Marana's population, rising from 649 to 2,663, and now account for 19.6 percent of the total town population.

The population of white residents grew from 1,555 in 1990 to 11,094 in 10 years. One in five Maranans claimed German ancestry. Irish-Americans, who accounted for 13 percent of the population, made up the second largest ethnic category, followed by England, from which 12.7 percent of Maranans claimed descent.

Despite the prosperity that the census numbers show the vast majority of Maranans experienced in the last decade, pockets of poverty remained.

According to the census, Marana's unemployment rate of 2.9 percent was well under the national average, but incomes in the poverty range ran high.

Utilizing a formula that takes into account income and family size, the Census Bureau listed 5.5 percent of Marana households as living in poverty. In those homes, 34 percent of the families were headed by women without a husband present, and 6.6 percent of the impoverished families had children under the age of five.

The census showed 173 households, or 4.5 percent of the total population, that derived annual incomes of less than $10,000, and 459 families, or 9.3 percent of the population, that made between $15,000 and $24,999 per year.

Home values of less than $50,000 were reported by 41 families or individuals, or 1.1 percent of the total population.

When questioned as to what was the primary heating fuel used in their homes, 24 families said they relied on wood. The census also noted that 14 families did not have complete plumbing facilities.

In a 12-mile square area of north Marana that takes in most of the town's rural population west of Interstate 10 and north of Continental Ranch, rental properties made up 34.7 percent of the 542 occupied homes in the region, the highest rental rate in the town's boundaries.

The racial make up of rural Northwest Marana stood in stark contrast to the predominately white suburbs to the south: 67.7 percent of the householders were white, 30.6 percent Hispanic, 6.8 percent black, 6.8 percent Native American and 0.7 were Asian.


by Bob Svejcara

By your numbers you've come to be known, Oro Valley.

In the 28 years since your incorporation you've become the richest town around, your residents are among the best educated and your unemployment rate of 1.9 percent as the new century began was the lowest in comparison with Tucson, Phoenix, Pima County and the state as a whole, according to data developed in the 2000 census.

You've become a town that embraces a population ranging from those who spend more than a million dollars for just the land on which their homes are built to residents living in a mobile home park where the land is often worth more than the home.

More than 40 percent of your residents earn incomes of better than $75,000 annually, and median household incomes top out at $61,037 a year. Only about 30 percent of the town's families earn less than $50,000 a year.

These are among the findings recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau based on initial population data circulated last year resulting from the 2000 census.

You've had an incredible decade, Oro Valley. From 1990 to 1999, your population grew from 6,670 to 29,770, the number of housing units grew nearly five-fold from 2,846 to more than 14,000, median home values increased by 138 percent from $128,100 to $177,400, median family incomes soared 144.6 percent from $46,727 to $67,562 and the civilian labor force expanded from 3,131 workers to 12,945, a 413 percent increase.

You're a white collar, upscale town growing more upscale each year. Ten years ago, only 10 homes in Oro Valley were valued at more than $500,000. At the end of 1999, there were 94 in that bracket, including 13 worth $1 million or more. In the same period, the number of homes worth $200,000 or more increased more than ten-fold from 275 to 3,585, according to census figures.

There were only 23 homes valued at less than $50,000, 16 homes were without complete plumbing or kitchen facilities and 11 had no phones, according to census data.

Of the nearly 13,000 acres designated for homes within town limits covering 19,942 acres, 7,341 acres, or more than half, are at densities of two homes per acre or less. Nearly 2,400 acres, or about one-third of the land set aside for homes, are zoned for one home per three acres, according to data developed by the Oro Valley Community Development Department. Add in another 3,891 acres designated for parks and open space.

Blacks and African Americans, according to census figures, constitute only 1.1 percent of the town's population and Asians a mere 1.9 percent, compared with a population that is 93.1 percent white. Minorities continue to make substantial inroads, however. The black population has increased from 37 to 418 and the Hispanic population has gone from 431 to to 2,218.

A mere 5 percent of Oro Valley's households had incomes of less than $25,000 a year; 22 percent earned less than $35,000. and nearly 6 percent earned less than $15,000. There were 223 families on poverty status, 42 of which included children under five years old. But while the number of families living at below poverty level rose from 86 to 223 between 1990 and 1999, the percentage dropped dramatically from 4.1 percent to 2.4 percent.

Oro Valley's residents represent a well educated population with 26 percent holding bachelor's degrees and 17 percent graduate or professional degrees. Fewer than 1 percent have less than a ninth grade education while 3.4 percent have completed ninth to 12th grade but received no diploma.

Schools become a high priority when census figures reveal, as they do in Oro Valley, that 57 percent of the town's population three years old and older are enrolled in preschool, kindergarten or elementary school and another 23 percent are in high school.

More than 50 percent of Oro Valley's workers hold management or professional occupations, 26.3 percent are in sales and office jobs, 11.5 percent are in services, 5.7 percent in production, transportation and material moving occupations and 4.7 percent in construction-related work.

Oro Valley is a town made up of more women than men, 15,281, or 51.5 percent female, to 14,419, or 48.5 percent male. A typical family consists of 2.76 people with parents in their early to mid 40s and a child under 18 who have moved here since 1995. More than three quarters, or 76 percent of your residents own their own homes, 13 percent are apartment dwellers, nearly 8 percent reside in condominiums or townhomes and 2.2 percent live in mobile homes.

In the area of transportation, census figures indicate nearly 92 percent of employees 16 years of age or older drive alone or carpool to their jobs.

They're not overjoyed by the prospect: 71 percent of residents surveyed recently said they believed traffic congestion to be a problem. Ninety-two percent either favored or strongly favored taking steps such as installing synchronized lights or widening roads to address the problem, while 84 percent either supported or strongly supported more opportunities for bikes and walking. Seventy-nine percent supported or strongly supported access to freeways and transportation corridors in or outside of the town. The least support was shown for expanding transit services, with 71 percent of those surveyed indicating support or strong support.

Census data, said Oro Valley General Plan coordinator Melissa Shaw, "merely confirms the data we're getting from resident surveys and serves as background information to help in the shaping of community goals." It gives planners and citizens a clearer picture of how income and education, as an example, are shaping residents' vision for the town over the next 20 years, she said.

Data relating to when the homes were built, as an example, help shape decisions as to whether emphasis ought to be placed on design criteria or home rehabilitation programs such as those in Tucson's barrios.

Knowing that 89 percent of Oro Valley's homes were built after 1990 would most likely result in more emphasis on design than rehabilitation, she said.

It is obvious from the data that Oro Valley is a town whose residents, for the most part, can afford the good life for themselves and their families.

That means security, open spaces, mountain views, parks, good roads and good schools.

Their desire to preserve these elements is being reflected in an environmental protection approach now being considered as a top community goal as Oro Valley goes about updating its General Plan.

That plan will help lay out the means by which residents' vision for the future will be implemented.

By 2030, after all, the town's population is expected to reach nearly 74,000, based on projected General Plan territorial limits.

A statement made in part of the 1996 General Plan, the last updating, presents a clear picture of what residents want out of Oro Valley:

"A town that is recognized as a well-planned community that strives to balance the needs of today against the potential impact to future generations, while recognizing the limitations of its resources.

"Oro Valley's unique quality lifestyle is defined by the highest standard of environmental integrity, quality education, infrastructure and services, and public safety.

"It is a community of people working together to create the town's future with a government that is responsive to residents; and a government that ensures the long-term financial stability of the town."

Dealing with Oro Valley's growth has been and continues to be the biggest challenge in fulfilling that vision.

According to recent surveys, 46 percent of the town's residents believe the town is growing just about right, while 47 percent believed the pace of growth to be too fast.

In those surveys, too, nearly two-thirds of residents rated the job the town is doing to preserve scenic views as good to excellent, while only 45 percent gave the same rating to the preservation of open space.

Asked how they would go about ensuring an adequate water supply for the future, 96 percent supported doing so through conservation, 93 percent through the use of recycled household water for landscaping, 82 percent through the development and use of alternative water resources, and 75 percent by limiting growth in some fashion.


by Patrick Cavanaugh

Marana officials say they have yet to begin interpreting the latest data from the 2000 U.S. Census, but some of the preliminary numbers did come as a surprise to them.

Marana Town Manager Mike Hein said comparisons of his town's older population and Oro Valley's provided an unexpected contrast, considering that Marana has two large retirement communities - Heritage Highlands at the Dove Mountain development and Sunflower in the Continental Ranch subdivision - and an aging population in its rural Northwest.

"I was struck by some of the differences between the percentage of older citizens in Marana and Oro Valley. We have Sunflower and Heritage Highlands, and I knew that Oro Valley has a sizable older population, but I was really surprised that they were substantially higher in older, retired citizens than us."

According to the census, Oro Valley had 4,244 residents, or 14.3 percent of its total population of 29,700 that was age 65 to 74.

In contrast, Marana had only 868, or 6.4 percent of its total population of 13,556, in the same age bracket.

According to an analysis of a four mile-square census tract of the town's rural Northwest centered on Marana's town hall, 32.2 percent of the 354 householders who own their homes in the region are age 65 or older.

Another 11.2 percent of the 188 people who rent their homes in that rural census tract are older than 65.

While indicators in the census show a rising tide of prosperity for Marana in the last 10 years, pockets of low income and poor housing conditions remain in the rural Northwest. Hein said the census did not reveal anything Marana officials weren't already conscious of and concerned about.

"We have always talked about the need to bring the employment opportunities to some of those populations there, and it's also the reason why our council is committed to affordable housing projects in the area. We will continue do be committed to that in the future," Hein said

In addition to being used by the state and federal government to decide the disbursement of shared revenue funds to Marana, the census also provides information the town uses to plan for growth and the placement of services in the community, said Marana Planning Director Joel Shapiro.

"Ages in the community gives an idea of what types of services we have to provide. Housing data and income data are also important to gives us an idea of affordability of housing. It gives us a good snapshot of what the community looks like and that helps us plan things out with a degree of accuracy," Shapiro said.


by Bob Svejcara

There are 23 homes in Oro Valley valued at less than $50,000, according to the 2,000 census, and the bulk of them are more than likely to be found tucked in among the rolling hills around Lambert Lane between La Canada Drive and First Avenue.

The 67-acre community is called The Highlands and it's Oro Valley's only mobile home park

It's a 55 and older community with no children under the age of 18 and no pets allowed. All its roadways are named for mountain ranges around the world, from Matterhorn Street to Kilimanjaro Avenue.

Originally laid out in 1960, the property became part of the town in 1994 in what was known as the peninsula annexation, a 4.5 square-mile annexation that increased the town's population by 17 percent to 12,335 with the addition of 2,600 residents. The annexed area was called "the peninsula" because it was nearly encircled by the town's previous annexations.

The Highlands is in a peaceful, almost idyllic setting with its freshly painted, well kept units, shade trees, flower boxes and grassy area surrounding the park's community center and pool. It stands out as well because all the residents own the land on which their units sit. That's important to many of the residents who are on fixed incomes because their rents cannot be increased.

"I've always loved the beauty of this place," said Dorothy Farrell, 87, who has lived in the Highlands since 1969. "I always felt like I had the best of everything here. I've hiked all over these hills and used to know where all the beautiful flowers were."

Seclusion is a virtue, too, for Harriet Hough, past president of the community's homeowner association and a Highlands resident since 1992. "We're tucked in, back off the street and unless people come in and take a look around they never see us," she said. "With hills all around, it's like we're in a bowl."

Hough came to the Highlands from south of Los Angeles and bought her home and the lot for $35,000. "That's about what the lot alone runs today," she said.

Originally, the property consisted of more than 300 acres and there were plans for a golf course and much larger retirement community, Hough said, but when the landowner ran into financial difficulties he was forced to sell off larger portions. The community eventually was trimmed down to its present size of 279 units and a winter population of about 450 people. Fewer than half the population remain through the summer, however, Hough said.

On the surface, the community's tranquility is almost mesmerizing. When certain names crop up in conversation, however, that tranquility is shattered. Gerard Denicola is one of those names. Denicola, a Highlands resident since 1979, described himself as "one of the most hated people around."

On being told that, Hough said she was surprised that he was even aware of his status.

Hough and others fault Denicola for his alleged manipulation of residents and numerous filings of lawsuits that have cost residents thousands of dollars a year.

"He's never won any of his lawsuits and that should tell you volumes," Hough said.

Denicola in turn said his actions as a past officer of the homeowners association and a member of the Highlands Inc. board of directors have been the result of mismanagement of funds and waste by other homeowners' association boardmembers and employees.

The Highlands became a corporation under his leadership after residents bought out a group known as The Associates in 1991 but over the next few years all of the boardmembers backed by Denicola and his supporters were voted out.

Another major feud erupted over maintenance fees. At one time residents' fees were based on the size of their lot. Now they're being charged so much per household, so that the owner of a small lot pays as much as the owner of more than one lot.

Denicola has attacked this as being unfair and has also railed against recent increases in maintenance fees from $36 to $40 a month.

He compared those fees to days when he was a director and the park had a maintenance reserve fund of more than $50,000, resulting in a lowering of fees two years running.

Over the past 40 years ownership of the subdivision's common area, including the community center, pool, an RV area and all the streets has changed hands several times as a result of bankruptcies, lawsuits, residents' harassment of those in control and internal squabbling. Any spark is likely to set things off.

Opposing sides in recent years have battled over everything from whether the oleander at the entrance way should have been cut or not, to allegedly excessive charges against residents for roadway improvements.

The task of healing bitter rivalries has fallen to Carl Hart, 68, president of the Highlands Inc. board of directors since February 2001. Hart said he hopes to do so by seeing that the property is well maintained and building on the friendships he's established since arriving 3 1/2 years ago.

"It's hard though," Hart said. "There are still a lot of hard feelings on both sides."

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