FLORENCE — Eloy’s efforts to delay the purchase of right of way for a proposed north-south highway corridor was rejected this week by county officials.
On Wednesday, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors was asked to approve a purchase of land to eventually be right of way for the proposed freeway that would stretch from San Tan Valley in the north to Eloy, where it would connect with Interstate 10.
The 426 acres will be purchased from Saint Land Holdings for $8 million. According to the contract between the county and Saint Land Holdings, the closing date already was set for Feb. 25.
But prior to supervisors approving the purchase, Jon Vlaming, community services director for the city of Eloy, asked the board to hold off on the purchase, saying the Eloy City Council had a “difference of opinion” on where it believed the alignment of the north-south corridor should go.
The Arizona Department of Transportation will ultimately decide on the alignment and the county was looking to purchase the right of way in anticipation of the future road. The idea is to purchase the needed land now and explain to ADOT the county’s preferred alignment of the highway.
Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, took umbrage with Vlaming’s request, noting that the plan for the highway has been in the works for some time and noting, “this hasn’t been done in a vacuum.”
He added he was surprised by the 11th-hour request, as he sits on committees with Eloy Mayor Joel Belloc and “people in Eloy know how to get in touch with Steve Miller.”
Supervisor Todd House, R-Apache Junction, said the agreement was vital to approve because the county didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to buy the land at a fair price.
But Vlaming countered that the purchase was premature considering the highway, which is supposed to be supported by taxes collected as part of the Regional Transportation Authority, is still years out.
Ultimately the board decided to approve the purchase, with Supervisor Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville, casting a “no” vote, saying it would be best to delay the purchase a week in order to allow Eloy to feel secure with the process.
The rest of the board noted that while it appreciated Eloy’s concerns, it was prudent to act now.
Miller, who was in the construction and contracting business prior to becoming an elected official, said there was “all kinds of times” when people or governments had wished they’d acted 20 years before needing land acquisitions.
The Regional Transportation Authority was approved by voters in November 2017. Since then, however, the associated tax that is needed to actually implement the plan has been tied up in court battles. The Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based think tank, sued the county over inconsistent ballot language. A judge sided with Goldwater in 2018, and Pinal County has appealed that decision. The county is allowed to continue collecting the half-cent sales tax but not spend it during the litigation.