Why is Gilbert a Town Rather Than a City?

Downtown Gilbert Arizona

Gilbert proudly proclaims its status as the biggest town in America but why have other communities chosen to become an official city?

Towns and cities have similar authority, governed by Title 9 of Arizona Revised Statutes, to put up public facilities, appropriate and budget to pay their bills and create local ordinances. But charter cities get more autonomy regarding elections, salaries, zoning, and municipal contracts – although neither can be in conflict with the Arizona Constitution.

The legal difference between a city and town in Arizona is not vast. But cities that go to their voters to earn “charter city” status do have rights and abilities that other municipalities often lack. Tucson, for example, has a city council election system unlike any other Arizona burg, with council members who run for geographic district seats but who are voted in by the entire city, regardless of where voters live. Buckeye, which has been the fastest-growing city in the country recently, changed from town to city when the growth spurt renewed after the housing crash.

Charming, small-town feel

Available research indicates that the reason is mostly marketing: “Town” evokes the image of small-town America, like Bedford Falls in “It’s a Wonderful Life” or Mayberry in “The Andy Griffin Show.” City, on the other hand, feels more like “The Naked City” or a big city crime drama.

Gilbert revels in its small townish, its status as the Biggest Town in America, and those features of small-town life you wouldn’t think of finding in a municipality of more than a quarter million people. Cities of that large of population don’t have the same reputation as Gilbert. Think Buffalo, Toledo, or North Las Vegas – all with similar populations. “Friendly” and “safe” are not modifiers that spring to mind there.

The marketing, the town “feel” is felt by residents.

In 2021, 97% of the people of Gilbert surveyed rated the town quality as excellent or good, with folks mentioning a strong economy, a safe community, and a vibrant downtown. Safety has been a strong theme for attracting newcomers, including businesses, and indeed, Gilbert has been ranked the second-safest city in the U.S. In the survey, 90% of respondents said they feel secure there.

“That’s what families who are looking to move to Gilbert tell me – that its small-town flavor is what they’re after,” said Gilbert Realtor Gary Colin of The Real Brokerage. “Gilbert isn’t as upscale as Scottsdale, as fun for young adults as Tempe, or as big as Phoenix.

But it surely is a nice place to raise your family.”

Also see:

How did the ‘Hay Shipping Capital of the World’ become the largest town in the country?

Gilbert turns 100, tries to retain small town feel as it tops 250,000 residents

Gilbert Ranked 2nd Safest Big City in America


The post Why is Gilbert a Town Rather Than a City? appeared first on Arizona Realty Network.

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