Referendum petitions to stop three neighborhoods from annexing into Gilbert have been rejected by the town based on lack of adequate descriptions on the petitions.
Town Clerk Cathy Templeton sent letters to three citizen committees late Tuesday, rejecting three referendum attempts that opposed “forced annexations,” but did not outline the specific annexation being opposed.
With the referendums stopped, the neighborhoods targeted by the petitions immediately became part of the town, since their annexations would have been completed in mid-May.
The referendums had sought to ask town voters in November whether to approve the annexations, which the petitioners argued would have been too expensive for the town to accept.
The neighborhoods were seeking annexation so as not to lose fire services when Rural/Metro Fire Department quits serving the area on Sept. 30. An election would have stalled annexation until at least November.
“It is a relief we aren’t going to bypass any deadline that would take emergency coverage away from us,” said Bobbi Smith, a resident of the White Fence Farms II neighborhood at Warner and Cooper roads, which was the first annexation targeted by a referendum.
The other two neighborhoods targeted were Ranchitas Verdes II near Guadalupe and Higley roads, and a neighborhood at Germann and Higley roads.
Attorney Tom Irvine, who represents county island residents seeking an alternative to annexation for fire service, released a statement Wednesday challenging the reasons given for rejecting the petitions. Irvine said he successfully challenged a similar decision Mesa made in 2005.
“My clients have directed that a lawsuit be promptly filed to force the Town of Gilbert to stop acting in an unconstitutional and antipeople’s rights fashion,” Irvine said in a statement. “There is no reason to believe that the Gilbert case will come out differently than the Mesa case, the people will be allowed to exercise their constitutional right to vote.”
County island residents who want to establish an alternative fire district late last week filed a related lawsuit seeking to stop all annexations, based on several accusations of illegal collection of annexation signatures. Also, an appeal is still pending on Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Colin Campbell’s ruling that a law requiring Gilbert to provide fire service to unincorporated areas is unconstitutional.