SAN TAN VALLEY — When the news hit that Shea Homes sent a letter that denied permission for its community to be included in the incorporation of San Tan Valley, there was an outcry from pro-incorporation residents and the steering committee behind the incorporation effort that the right of residents to choose their future had been taken away.
Shea Homes has a different perspective. While Levi Shill, who signed the letter that put a stop to the incorporation effort, declined an in-person interview, Shea Homes responded to written questions and said that their decision was made to preserve options for Encanterra residents.
“The San Tan Valley Incorporation Committee chose to include Encanterra in its map without Shea’s approval and without input from all the Encanterra residents,” the company wrote. “By doing this, the Committee attempted to remove potential choices for Encanterra. If the Committee’s actions would have been left unchecked, voters from outside of Encanterra would have had the ability to influence the fate of Encanterra.”
The company also criticized the lack of a detailed plan to run and finance the city, as other groups had in the run-up to the incorporation process.
“Shea’s intention is to preserve all options for Encanterra until all of the information needed is available to make an informed decision,” read the statement. “There are still many unanswered questions surrounding the incorporation plans. We have yet to receive a comprehensive, long-term plan on how the newly incorporated city will be financed.”
This highlights an important problem with any incorporation effort — they will all involve a certain level of uncertainty. A group like the steering committee working on an incorporation will not necessarily be elected or appointed to govern the new city and thus cannot provide long-term budget and government projections.
Since the statement says preserving choice, by what mechanism will Encanterra residents now still be able to choose between incorporation and …
Encanterra resident Gayle Peters, who worked to get signatures signed for the incorporation, was disappointed in Shea Homes’ decision and has a different definition of “choice.”
“We’ve been waiting for this opportunity. There was a lot of excitement and energy about it,” Peters said. When she would approach people to collect signatures, “they literally grabbed the thing out of my hand to be able to sign.
“They decided to take this unilateral, arbitrary decision that does not add to anyone’s choices here because it stops the incorporation cold. Nobody here and nobody outside our gates either is going to be able to vote because of the decision that Shea took. That is removing 110,000 people’s option of voting yes or no on a ballot this fall. I’m offended, I’m hurt that Shea used me and my fellow residents here to remove that right from 110,000 people here who have been waiting for the right to vote for 14 years.”
According to Queen Creek spokeswoman Constance Wilson, the town was approached by Shea about annexing into Queen Creek in January. While no paperwork has been filed, Encanterra is in discussions with Queen Creek and Shea has set up a web page and held meetings to inform residents about the option versus incorporation, which no longer has any clear future.
Peters is working with other residents to get signatures on a resolution to present to Shea Homes to show opposition to annexation — at least right now.
“We want a real choice,” Peters said. “I’d like to tell them, ‘you told us you wanted us to have what we wanted, this petition reveals what we want, we want both choices, you took one away, let’s wait until they are both back on the table and then discuss annexation and incorporation.’”
How, when and if incorporation gets put back on the table remains to be seen.