No matter how it happens, the population of the Tucson metropolitan area is going to grow.

That's the assumption behind a regional planning effort called Imagine Greater Tucson, which is working on a vision for growth before the next population boom is underway.

As participants in Imagine Greater Tucson look to the future, so are residents of the unincorporated area of Vail, who may be considering incorporation.

The Imagine Greater Tucson planning process is modeled on the experience of other communities who have created long-term growth plans, says Beth Walkup, the IGT interim executive director.

“Our whole process has been to draw from the community what they think this community should be like over the next 40 years or so," Walkup says.

"We started with a series of surveys to help us find out what the values of the bulk of the community, and then we moved them into a mapping process, and now we’ve done this online survey," she says.

The planning process is based on the assumption that the metro area will grow, so it's time to plan how to add another 1 million people, and 500,000 jobs.

According to the IGT recent survey of the metro area community, the most popular model for growth involved infill and urban development, as opposed to growing out, and creating a larger footprint in the desert.

“Additionally, one of the things that really drove that choice, we found in the survey, was a concern for environmental areas. They wanted clean air, access to sustainable and clean water resources and to conserve some of our land some of our ecosystems in the area," says Patrick Hartley, IGT program director.

But people who took the survey say, in addition to housing, they want more transportation options and communities where they can walk around instead of driving.

What happens next, Walkup says, is up to the local governments.

“We’ll be working with jurisdictions, which we already are, and in fact some of them are using the information that’s coming up and putting together their own plans," she says.

Meanwhile, another planning effort is underway in the southeast Pima County community of Vail. Residents there also took a survey, answering whether the area should stay the same, incorporate into a new town, or annex into the city of Tucson.

Incorporation was the popular answer, says Rob Samuelsen, who is part of a group working on the details of asking the area to incorporate.

"We put a committee together and we looked at a lot of different factors, including liabilities of certain neighborhoods, liabilities meaning cost of maintaining the streets those types of things," he says.

Creating a new town can come from an election or a petition process, but either way the majority of the people who live in the proposed incorporated area must be on board. Municipal services, such as law enforcement, must also be planned.

Samuelson says a future town could consider contracting with the Pima County Sheriff's Department and other agencies for some services.

The proposed town of Vail could include about 11,500 residents, Samuelsen says, which would make it the 40th largest in Arizona, among 90 incorporated areas. That's about the same size as the Cottonwood or Coolidge.

Map of Proposed Vail Town Boundaries: View at Google Docs | Download File