Florence officials have decided not to endorse the proposed city of San Tan — stopping the suburban island's incorporation effort dead in its tracks.
The Florence Town Council voted 5-2 Monday against allowing the proposed south East Valley city to be formed. Mayor Patsy Williams and Councilman Wilbur Freeman voted for it. However, Florence Town Attorney James Mannato said Arizona law does not prohibit the Town Council from taking a second vote if incorporation leaders address concerns raised at the meeting.
Concerns include whether incorporation leaders have sufficient support from area residents, and fear that San Tan leaders would annex land that Florence wants, Mannato said.
Three council members — including two who voted against the resolution — and the mayor will be replaced in May by newly elected officials, he said. A small but vocal group of rural-area residents was mainly responsible for persuading the council to vote against the incorporation proposal, said Brandon Fish, one of three Pinal County residents leading the incorporation effort.
"Every time a point was made in their favor they would applaud," he said. "(The council) took the opinion of those 50 or 60 people and said, ‘No.’ "
Incorporation supporters did not rally a large group to attend the meeting because they thought the council vote was just a formality, Fish said.
"We fully expected to get the resolution because we had complied with all the requests that they made," such as leaving out a five-square-mile section that Florence would like to annex, he said.
For the incorporation to succeed, Florence, Queen Creek, Mesa and Coolidge would have to approve the measure, and two-thirds of the area's roughly 2,000 registered voters would have to sign petitions. The Queen Creek Town Council is scheduled to vote on the matter tonight, but leaders of the incorporation effort have asked them to postpone the vote until the issues with Florence are resolved. Mesa and Coolidge have yet to schedule a vote. Fish said his group will attempt to gather the signatures in the hopes they will sway Florence officials to vote again.
Residents of the rural San Tan Ranches area called Monday's vote a victory for their way of life.
"Our profound thanks to the Florence Town Council for seeing the light," wrote San Tan Mountains Pride Association president Alden Rosbrook in an e-mail Tuesday.
Rosbrook and others have repeatedly stated their opposition, saying the proposed city would only accelerate the urbanization of the area.
But incorporation leaders say the area already has about 20,000 residents and needs more local control. Fish said the council's vote denies residents the right to decide for themselves.