Tara Walter

EDITOR’S NOTE: With the town experiencing its biggest growth spurt in years, Mayor Tara Walter discussed the ways the town is preparing to meet the accompanying challenges in a year-end interview.

In the Phoenix region (and including Pinal County), Florence has seen the third largest percent growth of any community in single-family home permits over the last year. This includes some infill development downtown but is mainly concentrated in the Anthem area, with DR Horton and Pulte continuing to invest in our community. We are on pace to issue more new single-family home permits this year (nearly 400 in 2019) than any year since 2008. These new rooftops could open greater possibilities for retail development. We will continue to pursue these opportunities to broaden Florence’s economic tax base.

To appropriately build our future, our growth in homes, businesses and events that draw people to our town must be paired with improvements to our infrastructure. Putting new sewer pipes in the ground may not be something that is talked about on a regular basis, but it is vital to prepare for what is coming by getting that type of infrastructure in the ground. Florence is replacing and expanding infrastructure across town, with new fiber installation for faster and redundant data communication.

New work at the sewer treatment plants is modernizing these facilities, and (the town has also begun) a water-recharge facility, which is proof that Florence is investing in the future of water in the region. New water lines being installed throughout the downtown are to provide looped systems that reduce downtimes when aged water lines crumble. Drainage has been improved in Florence Gardens, and downtown has stormwater projects scheduled, all of which will minimize the impact that large storms can have on our residents.

Not to be overlooked is Florence’s massive investment in transportation infrastructure. As a percentage, the population of Florence grows by nearly 30% during the day. It is important to get these people to their destinations as easily as possible. As such, Hunt Highway has been improved over the past few years, with new traffic signals, enhanced surface treatments and increased capacity. Engineering is underway to make the intersection of Hunt Highway and Attaway Road operate more efficiently. Additional surface treatments are planned to continue to ensure this vital route is in good shape for those that travel on our roads to get to work, play and food destinations in Florence. First Street was repaved and completed, also with drainage improvements that will help this area of downtown.

In the coming year, we will begin to see more work on the Gila River bridge, and roundabouts are planned for the southern portion of town at the convergence of state routes 79 and 287. In a very real sense, we are literally building our future through these strategic investments in infrastructure.

Perhaps more so than at any other time in the history of Florence, we are being strategic and planning for future success. Again, our Town Council is working on updating our strategic plan to ensure the community’s vision for the future is reflected in how the town operates. The General Plan, which sets the guidelines for all development within the greater Florence area, is set to be updated starting later this year.

Here are a few of the outstanding rankings our town has earned over the past year:

#1 Best Suburbs to Buy a House in Phoenix Area and #1 Best Places for Young Professionals in Pinal County, Niche; #3 Safest City to Live in Arizona, BackgroundChecks.org; #3 Best Place to Retire, AZBigMedia; #10 Best AZ Retirement Communities, Anthem at Merrill Ranch, Golf At 55; #1 Best Places to Retire in Arizona, HomeSnacks; and #6 Best Place to Retire in Arizona, Movoto.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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