Thu, Nov. 14

Hear it straight from the developer tonight

Two very important players in the growth of our region will be presenting at tonight's Cornville Page Springs Community meeting 7 p.m. at Oak Creek School's music room.

Jay Stuckey from Republic Companies will be apprising the community about his plans for Verde Santa Fe North. This project was approved years ago by the county and includes several thousand homes, a golf course as well as commercial development north of Cornville Road along 89A.

Mr. Stuckey and Verde Santa Fe North are now finding themselves at the center of many different issues.

Currently, Verde Santa Fe North is included in the proposed Cottonwood annexation, which due to the efforts of Citizens for Public Participation, will be presented as a referendum to the citizens of Cottonwood in the near future. The citizens will now get to vote on whether they support this kind of expansion or not as a way for Cottonwood to increase its tax base and land holdings. The contention that is being bandied about by supporters of the annexation is that Verde Santa Fe North will be built anyway so it is better to put the City of Cottonwood at the helm to make sure it is done "properly."

This suggests that the County cannot adequately oversee a project of this magnitude. It also assumes that Cottonwood knows what a proper development looks like. In meeting after meeting from the Cottonwood and county general plan to the three-day Verde Valley Open Space Forum, which I was privileged to attend, participants continually underscore the need for "sustainable" communities that employ appropriate renewable energy and building technologies, incorporate trails and pedestrian friendly design features and support local businesses not big boxes. Cottonwood has not demonstrated that it recognizes the importance of this type of development concept especially in light of the Bashas' controversy where an alternate Bashas' plan emphasizing some of these concepts was presented by local residents and was swiftly dismissed (also now a referendum thanks to Citizens for Public Participation).

Cottonwood has further shown its inability to look at "sustainable issues" by attempting to find water elsewhere for its current and future growth.

If annexation occurs, this puts Verde Santa Fe North directly contiguous to the 10 square miles of state trust land making it more vulnerable to potential development. State trust has made it clear that until there is infrastructure (water, sewer, roads, electric — city services being preferable to County services) to support selling off its land for "the best and highest use" that it has no interest in promoting such a sale.

This annexation also potentially could jeopardize Forest Service property between Cornville and Verde Santa Fe south creating an island of Forest Service land when and if state trust is developed. Forest Service has indicated it does not prefer to keep landlocked holdings.

Furtherm, annexation and development of Verde Santa Fe North presupposes that there is water to support this growth. With the current Gila River adjudication issue looming over our community, and the basic unanswered question of how much water do we really have anyway, perhaps we need not assume that all of this is a "done deal" because it was approved years ago.

This is not years ago, and very different circumstances exist today. In addition, annexation is a very complex issue that can't be approved with just the stroke of a pen and the approval of the few land owners involved especially when one of those land owners is responsible for the development of thousands of acres and homes.

Also addressing the Cornville/Page Springs Community Association will be Stardust, the development company for Verde Santa Fe South who will present their latest plans for review. Are we to assume that they too, will have an adequate water supply for their current build out plans?

At a previous Cornville/Page Springs Community meeting, Stardust proposed using walls for privacy and noise abatement around their various subdivisions. Several people in attendance suggested that perhaps they would consider utilizing more natural constructs such as berms in conjunction with these proposed walls. The feeling expressed is that a project that looks like one of many Scottsdale developments doesn't belong in the Verde Valley.

Please try to attend tonight's Cornville/Page Springs Community meeting at 7 p.m. at Cornville's Oak Creek School. Remember that our community's future is in your hands not the hands of politicians and developers.

Belle Starr is a resident of Cornville

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