Although residents of unincorporated areas in the Verde Valley are not governed by a local municipal operation, they still have a voice, said Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Randy Garrison.
“They may not have a direct voice, but they still have a voice,” he said. “If I have a constituent in an outside area who has a concern about their relationship with the city, we can get into the conversation and lobby for that citizen based on our partnerships and cooperative arrangement we have with the governmental entities [in the county].”
The county board has final approval for all zoning and use permits in unincorporated areas. Garrison represents Bridgeport, Village of Oak Creek, Verde Santa Fe and Verde Village. Yavapai County District 2 Supervisor Thomas Thurman represents Beaver Creek, Cornville, Lake Montezuma, Page Springs and Rimrock.
Unincorporated areas may not have their own municipal government, but many of them do have their own appointed representatives.
Cornville, for example, has the Cornville Community Association, and the Beaver Creek Community Association represents the unincorporated communities of Lake Montezuma and Rimrock.These organizations generally meet monthly and address community issues like neighborhood watch or planning and zoning.
Garrison describes the Village of Oak Creek’s Big Park Regional Coordinating Council as having strong representation.
“They are representative of the needs and wants of that community,” he said. “They have invested interest. They see a path to getting it done, so they participate.”
Assistant County Administrator Jack Fields said the culture in the VOC is the reason for active community engagement.“
Right or wrongly, they feel that they live in a unique environment and place in terms of scenery and development,” Fields said. “They are driven together in that common belief.”
For Verde Village near Cottonwood, that common belief is not quite there, making a unified voice difficult to cultivate, Fields said. Garrison said it’s an issue of participation.
“At the Verde Villages, you really have this underlying belief amongst the residents who live there that they are part of Cottonwood and have to go along with whatever happens and don’t have a voice in making it different,” he said. “If you don’t see a pathway of having a positive impact, then you don’t participate. Just like we can’t get people to vote.”
Garrison said a lot of people also have a hard time differentiating between Verde Village and Cottonwood.
“The only time some of these people even come to realize there’s a difference is when they look at their tax bill or they try to sign up at the [Cottonwood] Recreation Center or get a water bill.”
One of the issues that often comes up in Verde Village is talk of annexation into Cottonwood. Recently, rumors of a “city takeover” has caused a stir within the community, and Garrison hopes to address these concerns at a public meeting with the Verde Village Property Association on Thursday, Feb. 8 at 6:00 p.m.
Garrison said annexation is something that a city can't do on its own and members of the unincorporated area have to be on board.
“Annexation can’t sneak up,” he said. “It has to be fostered by the city or the area.”
Garrison said for citizens of unincorporated communities, participation and taking an invested role in the community is the key to having a voice.
“It’s easy to speak up when you’re mad, but the time to do it is as it’s happening,” he said. “Don’t wait until it’s a problem."
Kelcie Grega can be reached at 634-8551, or email firstname.lastname@example.org