Isn’t It Time To Incorporate Catalina Foothills?

By Bill Sellers and Craig Cantoni

Tucson’s Metro has a large, wealthy, premier address still remaining in Pima County. It’s unincorporated, at the mercy of Pima’s courthouse political machine, and soon enough, will be booted into a post-Chuck Huckelberry world. Boss Huck will be 71 in November.

We’re speaking of Catalina Foothills, the CDP (“Census Designated Place”) that comprises nearly 42 sq. miles, with more than 50,000+ permanent residents. This population figure swells in the winter months as the snowbirds and other trophy house collectors descend.
In terms of income, it is the single wealthiest demographic in the entire Tucson Metro of some 1.1 million. A fact not lost on the City of Tucson, which deeply lusts after these demographic superlatives to offset Tucson’s abysmal stats. Catalina-Foothills would have been annexed long ago, had it not been for Arizona’s stringent annexation laws, which Tucson politicos all vow to abolish as soon as they can.

Catalina Foothills is also side-by-side to another similar unincorporated CDP, Tanque Verde, of some 33 sq. miles and estimated 20,000+ people.

Both share a love of this elevated desert part of Tucson’s natural terrain, with its broad pleasurable vistas, although Catalina Foothills’ decaying road infrastructure and neighborhood security has suffered. It’s the stealth policy of benign neglect from PimaCo. Plus, being in the County eliminates those mandatory state HURF monies for streets & roads, and other mandated municipal funds.

The County’s unspoken point-of-view is basically, “let those rich peoples’ HOAs take care of it, just shut-up & pay your taxes.” Planning & zoning for both areas remains a “trust-us” deal with PimaCo, that is–until it’s not. Get ready, there are some juicy higher elevation sites for 5G wireless.

Driving around in parts of Catalina Foothills, you would think you’ve entered a tacky, trash-strewn copy of the faux Santa Fe-style landscaping motif, sans any TLC. Yet, everyone loves the laid-back, urban-sky-desert-mountain ambiance. Still the encroaching shabbiness of PimaCo’s lack of stewardship is there for all to see. Maybe the residents just don’t know any better?

Realistically, a ~9200 sq. mile County, that’s both rural and urban is never going to be as responsive as a City Hall. This jumps right out at you, whether you call-in something, or when querying the County vs. say, an Oro Valley or Marana website. The latter ones are set up to facilitate communications & action, the former, to obfuscate & delay.

Politically, both Catalina-Foothills and Tanque Verde are mainly represented by only one Pima County Board Supervisor; roughly half of Tanque Verde is a small part of another large district. Indication of the subtle political war conducted against both. If they were truly smart, they’d combine as 1 municipality.

And then there’s the lingering fear …if we don’t have this seedy, rural-urban character, we’ll become another Phoenix. As if that was the only binary choice, chiseled in stone, i.e. “become Phoenix or stay blighted.” Fact is, incorporating gives way more control over the CDP’s fate. This last aspect totally ignores Catalina Foothills’ vast purchasing power relative to the Tucson Metro as a whole.

Some thoughtful and well-crafted, commercial planning options would supply the area with a nearly inexhaustible tax base. They could probably dissolve the myriad of separate costs residents now have to pay. Another victim of the Metro’s hysterical anti-Phoenix thinking.
In summary, the Catalina Foothills, which should be an asset to the greater Tucson Metro, is deteriorating badly. Annexation by a feckless Tucson would only speed-up and worsen things; incorporation is the way to go. The place is rich, smart, accomplished, and should know better, and start acting in its own best interest before it’s too late.

Sellers’ background is technology commercialization; Cantoni is an author, activist, and retired business executive