With some of its outward growth tied up in a prolonged state land dispute, Apache Junction is attempting to grow within its own boundaries, city officials said.
The Apache Junction City Council voted Tuesday to distribute annexation petitions to property owners on 140 acres north of U.S. 60 between South Tomahawk and South Starr roads.
Property there includes a vacant lot, a mobile home park, a Burger King and land owned by four utility companies. It’s an area surrounded by the city.
Assistant city manager Bryant Powell said the property is a county island, one of a few areas left unincorporated when Apache Junction formed in 1978. Now that the current property owners seem amenable to incorporation, the city wants to do so, he said.
Some of the city’s outward growth is stymied by a legal dispute between the state Land Department and Maricopa County over a 19,000-acre section of state trust land south of the city. The county was granted a flood control easement on the property in the mid-1960s, but the state contends the easement is invalid because the county paid nothing for the land when it should have paid fair market value. While that’s being resolved, Apache Junction is finding other ways to grow — like incorporating the county island.
Powell added that much of the mobile home park property would be converted to single-family homes to add to the city’s tax base.
Not all of the property owners are sure they approve of incorporation, however. Hal Cochrane, who co-owns the 20-acre piece of land surrounding the Burger King, said he hadn’t made his decision yet.
"They’ve been after this for a long time," Cochrane said. "They have to convince us that it’s to our benefit. We haven’t seen that yet."
Rudy Esquivias, the city’s director of development, said letters will be sent to property owners explaining the benefits of annexation.
County ordinances allow the city to send out the petitions on Oct. 25. More than half of the property owners have to sign the petition before the city can annex.