As the City of Nogales moves forward with a push to annex land, elected officials have said that one motivation for the move is to provide the city room to grow, capturing land where people want to build new residences.
“In Nogales, Monte Carlo’s full, Vista del Cielo is full, Nogales West is full, Meadow Hills is full, Valle Verde is full,” Mayor Arturo Garino said during a public hearing on the annexation plan last week. “There is no area for residential building or homes in Nogales.”
The city has actually issued 17 new residential building permits so far in 2019 – the highest figure in at least a decade.
But that’s still a far cry from the 103 permits issued in the Rio Rico area since Jan. 1.
“Everybody’s going to Rio Rico, and now we have to annex to get more of a head count,” Councilman Marcelino Varona, Jr. said at the council’s regular meeting on Dec. 4, during a discussion about the city’s water connection fees.
“So there’s something that’s wrong with our policy here.”
Tiburcio Bazua, whose firm Bazua Builders is working on several new homes in Rio Rico, said that a lack of lots, combined with a slow permitting process and higher fees, is driving people away from Nogales.
Across the county, 159 new home permits had been issued as of early December, according to data provided by the Santa Cruz County Community Development Department, the Nogales Planning and Zoning Department and the Town of Patagonia.
That number has grown steadily in recent years, more than tripling since 2014, when a total of 45 permits were issued in the county.
And the 103 permits issued this year for Rio Rico represents a quadrupling of the 25 issued there in 2014.
Bazua said that many of the new homebuyers in the area are retirees moving from out of state, or employees in the produce and maquila industries relocating from Mexico.
What’s unclear is whether the area included in the city’s annexation petition – from the northern edge of the city limits up to Ruby Road – will prove attractive to new home builders.
At the Dec. 4 meeting, Garino said he thinks so, pointing to land near the existing Peña Blanca Highlands neighborhood west of Interstate 19 that he said could hold thousands of new homes.
“There’s very scarce lots there, so there won’t be that much building,” he said. “Plus, if those added fees are carried out to that area, people are not going to build there.”