Casa Grande filed a petition to annex territory, accompanied by a 1997 approval from the state for annexation of some state trust lands included in the petition. Cornman filed a special action, seeking a declaratory judgment that the annexation petition exceeded the size restrictions of A.R.S. § 9-471(H)(3) and that the petition was void because Casa Grande failed to secure current approval from the state for annexation of the trust lands. Case Grande filed a special action, asking the court to declare invalid a competing petition filed by Eloy for some of the same territory that Casa Grande sought to annex. After consolidating the two actions, the court found for Casa Grande. This appeal followed.
The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court affirmed the trial court’s interpretation of § 9-471(H)(3), finding that the dimensions of the territory comported with the statutory requirements. The court held, however, that Casa Grande’s petition failed to comply with the statutory requirement of § 9-471(A)(1) that the city acquire valid approval from the state to include state trust lands within its proposed annexation territory. The court held that state approval of one annexation plan cannot replace the need for securing separate approval of a different annexation plan even when the same municipality seeks annexation of the same state land under both plans. Finally, the court concluded that Eloy’s competing petition violated the statutory requirement in § 9-471(A)(6) that each petition include a sworn affidavit verifying that no part of the territory is already subject to an earlier filing for annexation. Eloy had tried to qualify its affidavit by indicating that there was no “valid earlier filing,” but the court rejected this as an illegal effort to file a contingent petition. The court concluded that neither Casa Grande nor Eloy had filed a petition giving either the authority to annex the overlapping territory in question.
Judge Eckerstrom authored the opinion; Judge Espinosa concurred.
Judge Brammer concurred specially, joining the opinion regarding the validity of the state approval and the legality of Eloy’s petition, but he noted the complexity of A.R.S. § 9-471(H) and stated he did not believe that the court needed to address the statute to resolve the case.