ScrambleWatch Q&A: Republican Joe Higgins on Growth and Conservation (And More On Property Taxes)

Republican Joe Higgins is challenging Republican District 1 Supervisor Ann Day in the Sept. 2 Republican primary.

Critics have said that you may say you favor the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, but that doesn’t mean you really believe in it. What are your thoughts on development issues facing Pima County?

Let me break a story for you today. SAHBA (Southern Arizona Home Builders Association) is endorsing Ann and they are not going to endorse me. The development community—although I respect them and understand them, I think it’s important to point out that Ann is certainly a part of that.

The conservation plan—the business community was in support of it. An editorial had said the reason people come to our community is because of the beauty behind it. So, that’s a very big factor.

Is there a need for it? I think it would be a great idea to create an overlay that can go with property tax bills to show property owners how they are paying for it. I think it’s good to show the business community how much we pay for open space, instead of making it into a bonding process. Other communities have done it like Albuquerque.

Each resident, property owner sees it reflected on their property tax bill, instead of it being through a bond, let’s just be up front about it. Let’s see bonding go for more capital projects.

You’ve been pretty vocal that Pima County should stay out of the planning process for the Arroyo Grande development in Oro Valley. Why?

What I’ve said is it should be managed and babysat in Oro Valley; it should be part of their planning. They are very conscious of environmental issues, both Oro Valley and the county called for more than 60 percent open space. If you look closely and you get the vote down to the people the better the development will be. I’d rather have Oro Valley in control of one master plan instead of having it separated out to different developers.

I think the county’s job is to hold them accountable to 60 percent open space, which is what they all agreed to, and look at infrastructure, water, roads, work with the state to make sure we’re ready for it, but it needs to be managed by Oro valley.

Many supervisors want to see more cooperation with the county and its towns and municipalities. There’s a call for regionalism. Do you want to work in the same direction?

I can only speak to District 1. I’ve gone to elected officials that work with Marana and Oro Valley. I asked them if they have dialogue with the county, they said very little if any at all. It’s turf-based and protectionism. We need to have autonomy.

How do you see impact fees helping to pay for growth?

Impact fees have increased to the point that it could get too out of wack. If they get too high and prices of homes increase, too, young families won’t be able to keep up. There’s that sweet spot that will work for the builder. That’s what we should be looking for, rather than putting affordable housing out of the hands of young families.

Ann Day did make a strong case alongside Ray Carroll to decrease the budget this year.

If you look back Ray seems to be a constant voice and champion for change, but Ann, and I hate to say it, but it is an election year and she is being challenged. You start seeing editorials, she starts showing up at events, and you start seeing her at Republican events to help candidates. Maybe the election process should happen every year, and maybe we’d finally see the budget drop and drop and drop.

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