The deadline for submission of an annexation petition for the Teal Blue Trail area in unincorporated Pima County to be brought into the Northwest Fire/Rescue District has passed without enough property owners agreeing to be annexed.
Carla Reece, a Northwest Fire spokesperson, said only 15 signatures had been collected by the Oct. 26 deadline, when 34 signatures were needed.
A petition needs 50 percent plus one of the property owners and the aggregate assessed valuation in order to succeed.
The deadlines for two other annexations to the Northwest Fire District are in the offing. The Camino de Manana annexation petition must be turned in by Dec. 14 and the Tangerine-Moore petition by Jan. 12.
Northwest Fire records show that Camino de Manana currently has 35 percent of the signatures needed for annexation, while the Tangerine-Moore area has 24 percent of the signatures required.
Reece said that Northwest Fire would work on single-parcel annexations with those property owners in the Teal Blue Trail area that are adjacent to existing Northwest Fire District boundaries.
“We will work to annex those parcels that are adjacent to our boundaries who want to be annexed,” she noted, adding that the district must still meet restrictions that require annexations to be limited to contiguous parcels.
Another option being pursued by Northwest Fire, Reece said, was to petition Pima County to allow the fire district to annex the Teal Blue Trail roadway.
If accomplished, annexing the roadway would allow property owners along the road to be adjacent to the fire district boundaries and for those who wished, to pursue single-parcel annexation into the fire district.
Jeff Piechura, Northwest Fire chief, said Northwest is working with the county to determine if the roadway annexation can be done in the interest of providing fire service availability to an area that currently has none.
He noted Northwest Fire has only four fire protection contracts in two of the three annexation areas. He added that the Northwest Fire District governing board decided earlier this year not to offer further fire contracts and end those existing ones when they expire because they might cause the district to run afoul of the Arizona Gift Clause.
The Gift Clause prohibits a municipality from loaning or giving its credit to aid an individual, association or corporation.
There is no mandate in Arizona for a fire district to respond outside of its geographic boundaries because the primary concern of a fire district is the protection of those who agreed to be in the district and pay the taxes to protect them, although fire districts can offer subscription services or charge a fee for responding to a non-district call.
Ross Mannino, a Teal Blue Trail homeowner, said he’s currently under contract with Northwest for fire protection, paying 125 percent of the tax rate for coverage.
“I approached them last year and petitioned the board for coverage and got approved,” Mannino said. “But if I get the opportunity, I would petition to get annexed into the fire district.”
Another property owner in the now-defunct annexation area, Gary Knox, did not sign the Teal Blue Trail annexation petition. He owns three unimproved lots on the east side of North Thornydale Road, north of West Moore Road, surrounded on three sides by the fire district.
“I would have expected to pay approximately $360 per lot for fire coverage in the Northwest Fire District,” Knox said, adding that he currently does not have fire protection coverage on the properties.
Knox, who said he is a retired lieutenant from Portland (Ore.) Fire Department, lives in the Picture Rocks area, but is attempting to sell the Thornydale Road properties.
“I’m much more in favor of contractual agreements with fire departments,” he said.
Concerning the two other annexations, Piechura noted many of the homeowners in the Camino de Manana area are supportive of the annexation, but there are many owners of vacant land who don’t support the petition.
The Camino de Manana annexation area is approximately five square miles with more than 600 parcels, about 400 of which are improved parcels.
In the Tangerine-Moore annexation area, contained within the town of Marana, Piechura said there is a lot of vacant land in the Butterfly Ranch development on the north side of Moore Road to the east of Camino de Oeste.
“Most homeowners there are supportive of the petition,” he said. “Those owners of vacant land who are interested in developing the properties are showing interest in signing. We think the petition has a good chance to pass, given the conversations we’ve had with the interested parties.”