How the City of Apache Junction, AZ, Used Data to Assuage Resident Concerns After a $245 Million State Land Sale
Apache Junction, AZ, is a city of 40,000 at the foot of the Superstition Mountains, in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan area – one of the fastest growing areas in the country. In the beginning of November, just under 3,000 acres of State Trust Land adjacent to Apache Junction sold for $245.5 million to the highest bidder – homebuilder D.R. Horton.
Announcement of the sale immediately created an uproar in Apache Junction. Although the land being sold wasn’t in the City nor was the City responsible for the sale, Apache Junction was near enough to the sold acreage to create negative backlash from residents. City leadership wanted to help assuage concerns in the community and change the narrative around the sale by helping residents better understand the sale’s details.
Using Zencity to Hone in On Resident Concerns and Track the Impact of City Messaging
In anticipation of the land sale, the City of Apache Junction began tracking resident sentiment on the topic in the weeks prior. When news of the bid went live, Zencity’s data showed that response was overwhelmingly in opposition to the sale with almost 80% of discourse about the topic registering as negative. To put its community at ease, the City needed a nuanced understanding of this response.
Zencity provided a breakdown of the community’s main concerns. These included how the land sale would change Apache Junction’s character, affecting access to nature and the wilderness; fear of over-development and the misuse of vacant lots; and a feeling that the community’s interests were being marginalized in favor of other groups – primarily “snowbirds” and developers.
The City Manager took to social media to help assuage resident concerns, creating a video that clarified information about the sale and specifically addressed the top concerns raised by community members.
The City then measured the video’s impact on community dialogue using Zencity data. In fact, not only did the video itself receive good feedback, overall there was a drop in discourse about the land sale and a major shift in sentiment.
By tracking residents’ reactions to the land sale and using data to analyze those reactions – the City of Apache Junction was able to respond effectively to a divisive and upsetting topic with a focused and clear social media video, directly targeting resident concerns as identified by Zencity. The impact was to transform a highly-discussed, contentious issue into a much lower profile topic evidenced, again, by the data. By continuing to track resident sentiment in the community, the City saw that after releasing the explanatory video, discourse about the land sale went from 80% negative to 80% positive – a dramatic and reassuring shift.
Zencity has been invaluable in helping us hear and respond to our community during an important state trust land sale. Zencity’s data and analysis allowed us to respond quickly and succinctly to resident pushback, and measure the effectiveness of our response. The land sale will cause a lot of change and growth in our community over the next 10-20 years - and we see Zencity as an integral part of helping how our community adjusts to these changes.