What we have to work with is not exactly what we have hoped for. A lot of our problems were inherited from the county. I think there is great opportunity. The General Plan and the land use map are a good start on that. The fact that the growth area follows the Arizona 260/Interstate 17 corridor is extremely fortunate geographically. Most of our projected growth areas are away from our existing residential areas. That is a luxury we are lucky to have.
Of the two major highways, I-17 does 11 million vehicle trips a year and 260 does 2.6 million vehicle trips per year. Those are good numbers to draw from.
It’s also our challenge to expand our infrastructure. The town needs to accept the reins of management for both the sanitary district and the water company. To adequately manage our growth into the next decade, the town will need to have control of planning and zoning, which we already have, but we also need to have management of the infrastructure—the water and the sewer. When we have that we will have all the right pieces to deal with development.
You can direct growth where you want it to go and you can make the best deals possible with developers — deals where they are funding the expansion of the infrastructure, not the town or the existing residents. That’s what works best for overall management and water conservation. If everybody is on the same system we can work to recharge the aquifer and reuse effluent. This kind of growth control beats having everybody doing whatever they want, wherever they want.
It all fits together. The spokes in the wheel must come together in order for the town to have the economy, lifestyle, quality of life and job opportunities we want.
The sanitary district is a nonprofit, so we don’t really have to buy it. We just need to get to a point where we can manage its services and its expansion. The sanitary district is financially self-sufficient. The assessments they place on properties and the septage fees they collect pay the bills. The challenge for the district, as well as the town itself, is to expand the infrastructure. That is what we have been wrestling with. It is what’s holding us back a little bit. We have obligations to several businesses out by the freeway that need to be fulfilled. We are still willing to help the district get that done.
Acquisition of the water company is in its beginning stages. We are currently in preliminary talks with them about a lease. We can’t afford to purchase it outright, so we are exploring the possibility of leasing and managing the system until we are in a position to purchase it. It’s an unusual concept, but it would lessen the capital gains tax burden to the current owners, and in the end, lessen the costs to the town. In a small town like Camp Verde with limited financial resources, we have to think outside of the box in order make things happen. The good part is both parties are interested in making it happen.
Attracting New Businesses
As far as bringing in the right businesses, we are trying to address the needs of some companies interested in coming to Camp Verde. We have been keeping constant pressure with every contact we have, to bring new businesses into the town. One of our obstacles is the lack of available land zoned for commercial industrial manufacturing. Less than 2 percent of the land in town has that zoning and most of it is already occupied. That makes the costs high—too high compared to our competitors. We need to find affordable land for those companies seeking to relocate. We also need to work with Yavapai College to produce a workforce that is appropriately trained and capable of supporting good businesses. Yavapai College has expressed a desire to assist us with training.
The General Plan
The new general plan comes real close to the towns needs. It is a good compromise and demonstrates what good government is all about. We have all shown that we are able to come to the table and passionately debate our differences and come to an agreement. Good government is about making compromises and moving forward. My real concern is that we still lack enough industrial and manufacturing zoning for job development. However, for now I think it is a good base to work from. It addresses the town’s desires for better jobs, more shopping, reasonably priced homes and the maintenance of our western rural lifestyle.
The state’s water adjudication needs to be resolved. We need to sit down with SRP and talk about our future and theirs. A request to do just that has recently been granted, thanks to Sen. Jon Kyl. I know of no example where a town mayor has sat down with the SRP decision makers, not just their lawyers, and tried to work things out. Lawsuits are a part of life, and the way they get settled is you sit down and work out a compromise that everybody can live with. I think the potential for an agreement exists, and I look forward to meeting with SRP in the next month or two. I think that is where we start. I think if we can begin communicating with SRP and explain our water needs, based on the water budgets prepared by the Yavapai County Water Committee, then we might be able to come to some terms acceptable to all.
In the meantime it is difficult to plan a water strategy. Having lived here all of my life, I realize that water needs to be seriously considered. Every decision the town makes and every developer who comes here realizes that water is of primary importance. We have all invested our time and it is on everybody’s radar screen. I would judge our situation as serious, but not desperate. We need to keep a composed perspective without all of the emotion.
We are looking at gray water, reuse of effluent and various methods of conservation. We need to keep an even keel and continue to use water wisely. It has been used all too much as a tool to stop all growth, by a faction who have no kids, don’t need a job and have a comfortable retirement. As a public official, it is my responsibility to speak for the entire community, and to stop all growth as the result of a perceived lack of water is irresponsible. I’m for a balance.