Print City's annexation effort stalls
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 11:47

The city of Cottonwood is taking a cautious approach with its hopes to annex eight square miles of Forest Service land on its northern border, now that a potential lack of taxable land in the area may have brought the city’s plans to a halt.

The land was recently the subject of a now defunct agreement between Cottonwood and the town of Clarkdale that had been drawn up in hopes of preserving the land as open space.

As Cottonwood proceeded with efforts to move forward with annexation, Clarkdale canceled the agreement, which was predicated on the idea no one would try to annex the land.

The Clarkdale Town Council also thinks that the agreement might be unnecessary in any case. Under its interpretation of state annexation law, Clarkdale feels Cottonwood’s annexation attempt will not succeed.

According to advice from legal counsel and their own past experiences, Clarkdale leaders believe there is no landowner in the proposed annexation area that can legally sign the land over to Cottonwood.

This theory is based on a reading of state law that requires that landowners who pay the majority of property taxes in a given area agree to any annexation. Previously, Cottonwood was counting on a signature from Qwest Communications, which had filed documents with the Arizona Department of Revenue showing that they were the only landowners in the proposed area besides the U.S. Forest Service.

The company has since rescinded that claim, according to Clarkdale Town Manager Gayle Mabery, stating that the paperwork was a mistake and the company actually owns no land in the area.

If that’s the case, it leaves only the Forest Service as a landowner; Clarkdale believes the Forest Service can’t agree to an annexation because its land isn’t taxable and therefore doesn’t meet the letter of the law.

That’s also the opinion of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, an organization that works in the interest of the state’s municipalities; the Arizona attorney general’s office has not weighed in with an opinion.

These revelations have left Cottonwood unsure of where it stands with the annexation effort, said Cottonwood Town Manager Doug Bartosh; town leaders were counting on a signature from Qwest, although there could be some gray area about what role the Forest Service could play in any annexation attempt.

“We’re just not really sure at this point,” Bartosh said. “We’re trying to do some research to find exactly what the law does allow.”

Bartosh said once the town’s lawyers finish looking into the matter, the town should have more solid information about which direction to go from
here.