A Mesa City Council subcommittee voted Monday to allow county island residents to buy into Mesa utilities but not annex into the city.
But moments later, the council declined an identical request from an area developer in an attempt to prevent five million-dollar houses he planned to build from being turned into a series of assisted living facilities.
Both of the subcommittee’s recommendations will be sent to the full council for approval. The change in policy would give city staff the ability to allow residents in unincorporated areas to pay for hooking up to and receiving sewer and water services.
It’s in response to the city being bombarded with several annexation requests that staff members say would require too many costly upgrades, including fire hydrants and improved roads.
City staff recommended the alternative as a way to provide some services for residents who are currently seeking annexation, but whose land is considered too far or not upgraded enough for proper fire and emergency services.
Of 22 annexation cases reviewed by the subcommittee, made up of Vice Mayor Kyle Jones and Councilmembers Alex Finter and Dave Richins, four of the cases reference a desire for utilities only.
Councilwoman Dina Higgins, who was in the audience and whose district surrounds many of the county islands being considered for annexation, said she supported allowing islands that were too distant to receive adequate and safe fire services from the city to instead just receive the utilities.
Council members on the subcommittee agreed to debate later whether there are also ways to allow residents who still want to annex to form some sort of district to share the costs of annexation in smaller installments over time.
“Let’s be as flexible as possible and as helpful as possible,” Richins said.
The subcommittee voted to require Joseph Rubanow, CEO of Structural Technology Custom Homes, to seek annexation of his land near Brown and Crismon roads into Mesa to receive water and sewer services.
Rubanow asked the subcommittee to allow him to buy in only for water and sewer services.
But Jones argued that city policy requires group homes to be 1,200 feet apart, and would prevent Rubanow from turning the five luxury, single-family houses he originally planned to build into assisted living facilities. Rubanow said that is his other plan if market conditions continue to make sale of the million-dollar houses unlikely.
One house is already being converted into an assisted living facility, and two additional houses that could be built on the land could become independent living facilities, but only if they remain on county land that allows the proximity of the facilities.
“The city of Mesa is trying to rule over what happens in Maricopa County,” Rubanow said.
He said he needs the city water and sewer utilities because he said the luxury houses won’t sell equipped only with well water and septic tanks.