BISBEE — Music fans filled Old City Park in Bisbee on Saturday for the “Blues in Bisbee” festival, an event featuring a lineup of internationally known bands, along with local artists.
Couples, children and families danced in front of an outdoor stage, lounged in lawn chairs and stretched out on blankets while they enjoyed cool weather and overcast skies as they listened to the bands perform.
Saturday marked the first blues festival for Juan and Betty Villegas of Tucson, who were in Bisbee for Juan’s birthday.
“We’re really enjoying the music, the beautiful weather and just the whole atmosphere here,” Betty Villegas said. “I used to come here in the ‘70s, back when this was still a booming mining town. I love the way Bisbee has transformed itself into this fun, quirky tourist town.”
Organized by the Easterseals Blake Foundation, some 2,500 people were expected to attend the festival, said Foundation member Barbara Franklin.
Bisbee’s hotels, bars and restaurants were filled with visitors, while food vendors lining Brewery Avenue were kept busy.
“We’re having awesome weather for this,” Franklin said as she glanced at the crowd. “The cloud cover is keeping everyone cool and we’re seeing great people from all over the country. They love Bisbee, the entertainment, restaurants and vendors. Everyone is really happy.”
Brian and Melinda Shamas were visiting Bisbee from Columbus, Ohio while on vacation.
“We had no idea we were going to be here for a music festival,” Brian Shamas said. “This is such a cool little town, and this event is so much fun. We’re planning to stay for a couple of days, so today we’re enjoying the music and vendors, and we’ll be hitting the shops and doing the sight-seeing thing during the rest of our stay.”
Kadie Luther and Cathy Chavez said they left Tucson’s 103 degree weather to attend a “perfect event with perfect weather.”
“We’re having a lot of fun,” Chavez said. “We love Bisbee and always have fun when we come here.”
This is the second year the Blake Foundation organized the event, which featured such names as Melissa Reaves, a “blues-inspired rock ‘n’ roll musician” who has toured across the country and internationally.
“All of our artists are really talented, but as we move into the evening headliners, Cat Daddy, Melissa Reaves and Bad News Blues Band are the big draws,” Franklin said.
All money raised through the event stays in Southern Arizona, Franklin said.
TOMBSTONE — With an eye on the future, the Tombstone Planning and Zoning Commission is proposing an annexation that commissioners hope will bring new businesses and growth to the City of Tombstone.
“If tourism and gun fights continue as the only egg in our only basket, we’re doomed,” Commission Chairman Russell Jennings said Tuesday evening during a public hearing where he presented information about the annexation. “We have a tourist-based town, and the population of Tombstone is decreasing.”
Jennings said that attracting more businesses to help increase the town’s population would boost Tombstone’s tax base and secure more state and federal money for badly needed infrastructure improvements.
About 15 county residents attended the hearing at Schieffelin Hall to learn the commissioners’ reasons for wanting to annex a chunk of state trust land northeast of Tombstone, as well as a smaller piece of land south of town along Charleston Road.
While none of the people who attended the hearing own property in the affected areas, most have land adjacent to and in the vicinity of the northeast section.
Several objected to the annexation because of concerns about property tax increases as well as setting a precedent for further annexations that could encroach on their properties.
“If the area northeast of Tombstone is annexed, how will this benefit landowners in the area,” John Kousky asked. “How will it affect our property taxes?”
In his response, Jennings said that, because the people at the hearing do not live in the area to be annexed, nothing is going to change for them.
“Am I making this clear?” he asked. “If you’re not in the annexation area, you’re not getting any benefits in any way, and you’re not going to be affected by taxes. Your properties are not involved in the annexation.”
Jennings did, however, offer the following hypothetical assurances.
“Hypothetically, if there were residents living in the area to be annexed, their taxes would not go up anymore than what they’re currently paying. Their taxes would not go up because they’re already paying a county-district fire tax, which is exactly the same as what the city tax is. So, you’re going to trade one for the other, with no increases.”
Jenings also pointed to advantages of owning property within Tombstone city limits.
“One advantage is that property owners who live within the City of Tombstone are able to vote on city-related issues,” he said. “It allows you to be an involved citizen by participating in the city’s decision making process,” Jennings said.
Another concerned property owner, Elyse Politi, said people are not worried about the annexation that is happening now, but are concerned about the potential of future annexations.
“I forsee the future where the city will come in and annex our properties, not for our benefit, but for the town’s benefit,” she said. “The commissions’ long-term goal is to expand Tombstone city limits for the purpose of attracting more business here.
“And they have a short-term goal of attracting people to the city because Tombstone needs to bring in more money through a bigger tax base. We chose to live in a rural area, out of the city limits, and that’s how we prefer to live.”
The next step in the annexation process is to hold a second public hearing in approximately 30 days. Property owners within the proposed annexed area will receive a notice apprising them of the hearing, along with a ballot to vote for or against the plan.
“After that hearing, the commission will make a recommendation to city council based on responses from the returned ballots that were sent out,” Jennings said. “Those ballots will come from about 30 property owners along Charleston Road. We need 51 percent of property owners supporting the annexation to move forward with the proposal.”
The next step is to take the proposal before city council. If council passes an ordinance to annex the area, the ordinance is sent to the county, notifying county officials of the ordinance.
“The county then redraws the new city limits with the annexed areas in place,” Jennings explained. “This process does not happen overnight. It takes about four or five months. All four members of the commission understand that this decision is up to the people involved. We serve the people, not the other way around.”