by Dr. Billie Orr, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Prescott
Last year Prescott Living published an article in its Early Summer 2019 edition where I had the opportunity to share the history of Prescott’s preservation of magnificent public open space throughout our city, especially in the Granite Dells.
Today our community has a tremendous opportunity to add to the 1,350 acres of open space in the Granite Dells through a possible annexation agreement with Arizona Eco Development.
After two-plus years of negotiation with the company, the City recently announced a letter of intent prepared by the City that outlines the parameters of the annexation and provides a guideline for future negotiations and public meetings. Although the letter of intent is a nonbinding document, the City and Arizona Eco Development wanted to implement this extra step in annexation discussions to bring greater transparency to the process. Since this is a proposed annexation, Proposition 400 (City Charter Article 1, Section 4) will come into play. All the rules still apply, including a 60-day comment period and a positive vote of at least six out of seven council members.
The City is very excited about the opportunity we have in this potential annexation. Arizona Eco Development has agreed to convey 745 acres of its private property to the City in exchange for a net of 378 Acre-Feet. Now that is a great deal for the City of Prescott and surrounding communities! First let’s take a look at the private property being conveyed to the City of Prescott.
Within the 745 acres of Arizona Eco Development private property to be exchanged to the City are 475 of the most beautiful acres within the Granite Dells. We have spoken so often for the last two years about the magnificent landmarks along the Peavine and Iron King trails, such as the Point of Rocks, No Name Creek and its pristine riparian forest. All of these landmarks and more would be preserved through this letter of intent.
The original Arizona Eco Development annexation proposal listed the potential of five crossings over the Peavine Trail. This letter of intent stipulates only one at-grade crossing, and the City will work with Arizona Eco Development to ensure hikers, cyclists and horseback riders will be separated from vehicles. This crossing will allow vehicles to access an eco-friendly, high-end 200-unit resort, which will be a worldwide destination for visitors to our City. Sections A-H, shown in yellow on the map, will be the Arizona Eco Development residential areas, with a maximum of 850 homes in the southern annexation.
As important as the 475 acres in the Granite Dells are to many of us for open space preservation and protection of the Peavine and Iron King trails, the 270 acres conveyed by Arizona Eco Development in the northern annexation are extremely critical for protecting the future of our airport expansion and economic development. Using a 90% FAA grant, an additional 131 acres adjacent to the runway will be purchased by the City from Arizona Eco Development. The northern annexation will allow approximately 1,550 residential units.
Land for Water
In exchange for the conveyance of these 745 acres of private land from Arizona Eco Development (475 in the south and 270 in the north), the City will provide the company potable water for development. It is important to note that the company came to the table with significant water rights, 375-plus acre feet of surface water at Watson Lake. Arizona Eco Development will relinquish its rights to this water over to the City for purposes of recreation and recharge. This amount is equal to 2 vertical feet of water in Watson Lake.
Water provided by the City will allow for development in the north and south annexation plus commercial development along 89A, which is already annexed into the City. Section 33 belongs to Arizona Eco Development, is currently in the county and will not likely be annexed into Prescott, but could possibly be annexed into the Town of Prescott Valley or remain in the county. One hundred and seventy-acre feet are designated for Section 33, which will allow for 1,000 residential units.
All Arizona Eco Development lands provided with potable water by the City will be connected to City water and sanitary sewer systems. This is advantageous to the Prescott Active Management Area (PrAMA) because every one of the residences/businesses built in these developments will not be on wells and septic systems, which will contribute to reaching safe yield and protect our environment and lakes. Arizona Eco Development will pay the costs for all infrastructure, impact fees and the additional 30% surcharge for maintenance of Prescott’s water and sewer systems. Approximately 90% of the water from these developments will be recharged, and all properties will be built to City standards, including xeriscaped lots, drought-tolerant plants and high efficiency fixtures. It is important to note that recent City water policy changes studied by the City for almost a year impacted this process and have allowed for this deal to proceed.
Win-Win-Win For All
As Mayor Greg Mengarelli stated, “This LOI (letter of intent) is a win-win-win for our City, AED (Arizona Eco Development) and all citizens.”
We appreciate the stakeholders who have contributed to help us get where we are today, especially Save the Dells, Highlands Center, Prescott Creeks, and most notably Prescott Parks & Recreation Director Joe Baynes. Two individuals who stayed in the arena and brought this letter of intent home are Prescott City Manager Michael Lamar and Arizona Eco Development’s Jason Gisi. Kudos to Michael and Jason! We appreciate your hard work and tenacity.
Although we feel we have a great deal for the City, we still have a process to go through. If you have any questions or would like for me to sit down and go over these details or make a presentation to any group, give me a call at 928-227-7477. The coffee is on me.
Photo: Walt Anderson