FLORENCE — Residents throughout Pinal County have expressed concern over a $73 million land purchase the county seeks to make.
A handful of residents spoke before the Pinal County Board of Supervisors during a public hearing Wednesday morning, some cautioning the supervisors about taking out long-term debt to acquire land for economic development purposes.
The notice announcing the public hearing did not mention where the county wants to buy land or for what purpose, but County Manager Greg Stanley referenced the project’s connection to a California-based company.
“Obviously this is in anticipation of getting a development agreement completed for Lucid Motors,” Stanley said during the hearing.
The electric car startup announced in November it plans to build an assembly plant in western Casa Grande, near Thornton and Peters roads. County officials previously stated how the county plans to buy 500 acres and lease it to Lucid, with the company buying the land outright after five years.
Jimmy Whitaker, a Gold Canyon resident, thinks the startup company will burn through its investments before reaching production goals.
“They’re gonna go through that like it’s just water over a dam,” Whitaker told the supervisors.
He doesn’t feel the market for electric cars is big enough to keep a startup company, like Lucid, sustainable. The property owner doesn’t want to be held “hostage” if the county uses property taxes to finance the land.
“What happens to the taxpayer if Lucid is unsuccessful?” Whitaker asked.
Stanley said the county is still negotiating the development agreement with Lucid, but stressed that there is no proposal to increase property or sales taxes to buy the land.
Four options to acquire the land were presented on Wednesday: taking out general obligation bonds, creating an obligation subject to annual appropriation, an upfront cash expenditure or excise tax revenue obligations.
The last option is currently being recommended by county staff as the most favorable.
Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith, R-Maricopa, told spectators he’s committed to economic development but would not compromise by raising taxes.
Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, echoed Smith’s statements, stating this deal was not going to be executed by boosting taxes. But the project has the potential to strengthen the quality of life throughout the county, he added.
“These opportunities don’t come along often and I see this as a true opportunity to Pinal County,” Miller said.
Despite these assurances, other Pinal County residents have dissented about the land purchase in letters submitted to the supervisors.
“This ongoing corporate welfare must stop,” wrote one couple from Gold Canyon.
“Our county is not the bank for new business,” wrote a resident from Apache Junction.
Another couple suggested in their letter that Lucid should take their plant to the East Coast, “where progressives might drive (a car) and drive to a subway station.”
Bill Dunn, a resident of Kelvin, told the supervisors on Wednesday he is concerned when the government tries to make economic speculations.
“I just feel like this is something that you should leave to developers instead of the county,” he said.
No actions were taken by the supervisors on Wednesday regarding the project, as details of the development agreement have yet to be made public.