Monday, August 15, 2016

Advantages of Incorporation

On November 5, 2013, Vail residents voted on Proposition 403 to create the Town of Vail.  The measure was soundly defeated.

In another post, I explain why I believe voters didn't support the town.  But in that post, I didn't explain how I believed that Incorporate Vail didn't articulate all of the good reasons why The Town of Vail is needed.

Incorporate Vail did explain a few reasons:
  1. A minimal government is possible with the state-share revenue.  Incorporate Vail calculated that the state-share of revenue would be approximately $3.5 million.  The basic functions of government are: Police protection, Road Maintenance, and Administration. They were confident that a minimum government would be fiscally sustainable.
  2. With a new Town of Vail, more of the state-share of roadway improvements would be at the town's disposal.
  3. Vail could chart its own course.
But Incorporate Vail left out quite a few other advantages. This article will try to articulate them.

Vail would have a seat at the table for all regional decision-making.  

Without a town, all of Vail's decisions are made by the Pima County Board of Supervisors, and more specifically the Supervisor of Region 4.  Region 4 includes Rita Ranch, Coronado National Forest, Saguaro National Park, Colossal Cave Park, Vail, Corona de Tucson, Pima County Fairgrounds, and Green Valley.  All of these areas want Pima County services.  And all of Region 4 competes with the remainder of Pima County.  And Pima County competes with the City of Tucson, Sahuarita, Oro Valley, Marana, Why, Ajo, Lukeville and Tohono O'Odom.  It's easy to see how Vail might get lost in the crowd.

That is why it was so very difficult to fight for the Colossal Cave Road improvements.  Vail residents saw this road as a huge safety issue, but our voice was being drowned out by all of the other voices.

Under a Town of Vail, our voice would not be so diluted.  We would have the same regional clout as Tucson or Pima County.  We would be able to place Vail advocates on all boards and commissions to compete for funds in our town and support projects that directly benefit our residents.  

One might assume that the Region 4 Supervisor would be our advocate, but by definition, even his voice is greatly diluted.

Pima County does not provide City-type services

The only services that Pima County is required to provide are police protection, courts, administration, and streets and roads.  Now Pima County does more than these basic services, but this is because County residents demand more.  So the county undertakes bond elections to receive the funding to create these projects.  And because they do, residents don't necessarily see the need to form a town to get basic town-like services.

Bonding is very difficult.  The last two bond attempts have failed.  The simple fact is that Pima County has more projects than funding.  The bond doesn't go just to the future projects, but provides an income stream so that the County can continue with basic services.  This is unsustainable.  And at some point, the County will leave some areas completely unserviced - even when these areas have large populations.  Vail fits this category.

One great need in the Vail area is adequate parks and recreation.  Other than Colossal Cave Park and Cienega Creek Preserve (which requires a permit), there are no places for Vail residents to play.  Vail has no football fields, soccer fields or even hiking trails.  In fact, there are no plans in place to provide them in the future.  Without a simple plan, they can't even get considered for funding.

Incidentally, there might be one way to solve this issue without creating a town.  Vail could create a Parks and Recreation Overlay District to Vail residents and collect a property tax.  This tax would then provide for construction and maintenance of parks in our area. But I digress.

This shows how strong a pull the Vail School District really is.  People move to Vail for the schools even though there are no parks.  But if the Vail School District ever stopped being a strong performer, then it would be Game Over for Vail.

Vail has no Master Plan

All planning and zoning in Vail has been performed by Pima County planning staff.  It is amazing to me the lack of motivation that county staff has in planning Vail.  They correctly assume that most of the state lands will remain vacant for the foreseeable future.  Why bother with Vail?

But Vail is seriously flawed.  There are very few acres set aside for commercial property. This make existing commercial property so valuable that it is priced out of the market.  There is no comprehensive plan to bring any employment to Vail. (And why would Pima County or Tucson even care about employment in Vail?  That's not their job.)  There is no comprehensive plan for bikes, pedestrians, commercial, employment, or anything.  

But at some point the vacant land of Vail will be developed.  And without a Master Plan, all of this land will become housing.  There will be no land reserved for open space, no land reserved for parks, no land for commercial.  Just housing.  This is because Vail residents will have no input into the future development of the vacant land. Vail will become what most people believe it to already be, a bedroom community of Tucson.

There is another path.  A Town of Vail could create a comprehensive plan that shows what types of developments it desires.  It could plan for areas of commercial, employment, recreation, open space and residential.  And the great thing is that once Vail become a Town, there are state funds and consultants ready and waiting to make this plan happen.

Additional Funding Streams

People look at other towns and notice that their annual budgets are in the tens of millions of dollars.  How do they do that?  How does a Town like Benson have a 20 million dollar budget with fewer people than Vail?

The answer is that there are additional funding sources.  Once Vail becomes a town, it becomes eligible to tap into them.

For example, the Federal Government has a program to provide funding for bridges.  If there is a need, say to get pedestrians from Wingview to Cienega by walking (it is less than a mile) and a bridge is needed to make that happen, they have money for it.

Wouldn't it be great if Vail could start tapping into these funding sources and start using those funds for construction projects in Vail?  And there are hundreds of them.  Maybe even thousands.

I-10 Corridor Income Stream

If the Town of Vail included the I-10 corridor, this could create an income stream for Vail that would be unsurpassed.

If Vail created hotels, restaurants and gas stations along I-10, and had a reasonable tax rate, then it could probably fund the entire town on the I-10 tax alone.

Vail is a destination

For me, this is the greatest reason to incorporate.  Vail isn't just some town that just came together recently.  Vail has been around since before the railroad. 

With a little creativity and thought, Vail could become a destination.  Put on your dream hat and think of what would happen if the Town of Vail incorporated and did a Town Plan.  And what if that Town Plan promoted some of the vacant land as a resort?  Think of what would be nearby:

Saguaro National park
Colossal Cave Park
World class Golfing
Proximity to Tombstone and Kartchner Caverns
Proximity to Downtown Tucson
Proximity to Old Presidio, Tubac, San Xavier
And most importantly of all, the nights in Vail are spectacular.

And let's also agree that part of the allure of Vail is the open feel. So the Town of Vail made a commitment to leave vast swaths of the vacant land as open space.

Is that a future worth dreaming about?


All of these are some of the reasons that were not shared with the voters.  But I talked to one person who was against the town and they said that Vail wasn't ready yet. Perhaps one day we will be.

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