The City of Nogales, whose current limits are outlined on this Google Maps image in red, is interested in expanding its boundaries north along Interstate 19.

After reviving the idea this summer, Nogales officials say they are taking steps toward annexing land that includes several neighborhoods north of city limits.

The city government hopes the expansion will boost revenues by increasing population and bringing some retailers into the city’s boundaries.

Interim City Manager John Kissinger said during a study session last week that he would hire The Planning Center, a Tucson-based architecture and planning firm, to do a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed move.

Mayor Arturo Garino said that the proposed area includes the Pete Kitchen, Chula Vista, Firestone Gardens and Peña Blanca Highlands neighborhoods. It was not clear from the council’s discussion if the area would include the Pilot Travel Center just north of Ruby Road, which has come up in past discussions about expanding the city limits.

Annexation proposals have been floated by the city council for years, but next year’s census is giving the issue new urgency at City Hall.

In order for the plan to increase the city’s revenue from sources like state sales tax distributions and Community Development Block Grants, the annexed areas need to be included in a census count.

“We have to work on this now,” Garino said.

A census official did not immediately respond to an email asking when the annexation would need to be finalized in order for new areas to be included in the next census, which will begin in spring 2020.

“I don’t want to go into January talking about annexation. What I want to be in January, I want to be in the (annexation) process,” Garino said.

Kissinger said that he would ask The Planning Center to prepare the study “immediately.”

He added that the center did a similar analysis of an annexation plan in 2014 – following a proposal drawn up during Garino’s first mayoral term – and ultimately recommended that the city move ahead.

But that plan was eventually scrapped after residents opposed it at a public hearing and some councilmembers withdrew their support.

The Rio Rico Fire District also voiced opposition to the plan at that time, saying that it would cut revenue and force layoffs at the fire district.

Annexation was discussed again in summer 2018 under former Mayor John Doyle, but plans stalled, once again, until Garino brought the issue to a July 2019 council meeting.

If the city decides to move forward with the effort this time, City Attorney Mike Massee explained, officials will start by filing a petition with the County Recorder’s Office.

Then, after holding a public hearing, they’ll collect signatures from property owners in the annexation area.

For the plan to be approved, the city will need to meet two separate thresholds: signatures from more than half of all affected landowners and signatures from landowners representing more than half of the total assessed value in the annexation area.

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