How a typo changed the course of history

Former Chandler Mayor Jerry Brooks in a photo from the city's collection of memorabilia.
Former Chandler Mayor Jerry Brooks in a photo from the city’s collection of memorabilia.

By Jonathan Coronel

Ever wonder why Chandler has such a jagged, irregular border with Tempe? In this age of autocorrect and spell-check, it seems that history could have benefitted from some latter-day proofreading.

The year was 1976 and the city of Chandler was licking its chops at the prospect of adding land to its rapidly expanding town borders.

With eyes set on the area south of Elliot Road, between Price Road and the I-10, Chandler speedily passed an annexation application.

Its neighbor to the north, however—dismayed at the prospect of losing this coveted land to another suitor— scrutinized the application and happily found a glaring error.

Rather than stating Chandler wished to annex the land south of Elliot from Price all the way west to the I-10, the application mistakenly said that Chandler wanted to annex the land going east to the freeway. A simple error was about to cause big problems for the city’s hopes of annexation.

Jerry Brooks served on the Chandler City Council and later as mayor shortly after this annexation snafu, but he recalls the incident well.

“It still amazes me that the annexation application went through the planning manager, the council and several other officials, all of whom failed to pick up on the mistake. It was a big disappointment.”

Tempe took Chandler to court that same year in hopes that the judge would void the annexation attempt. However, not wanting to get involved in a heated battle between the two cities, the judge instead told them to settle the dispute themselves.

In retrospect, a silly error truly did change the course of Chandler’s history.

Millions of dollars in tax revenues from large businesses like Honeywell or Costco in the would-be Chandler land could have been a real boon to the city.

“At the time, that was basically all farm land,” said Brooks. “Nobody could foresee the development and tax revenue Chandler could have had from all the businesses that would start there. In the end it’s worked out for Chandler; I am very happy with the city,” Brooks says jovially.

In the end, a fiat that should have changed Chandler’s history through millions of dollars in economic development and tax revenue turned out to instead be a fat mistake.

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