Wed, April 08

Commentary: Wave of new developments could change face of Verde Valley

Yavapai County Development Services Director Dave Williams wasn’t kidding when he recently said the county is experiencing its largest growth in recorded history based on the number of residential single-family and manufactured home permits being issued.

It’s too early to say if the overall county growth figures are equally split between the Verde Valley and Prescott areas. While the Verde Valley is certainly in the midst of a significant growth spurt, it’s still not likely on par with the growth the Verde Valley saw in the late 1980s and early ‘90s.

That period was a monstrous growth boom for the entire state. During the span, Arizona bailed on its famous “Four C’s” marketing plan and instead opted for a consistent message of the availability of expansive developable land, abundant sunshine and warm weather, plenty of water and the greenest of golf courses.

It worked, and Arizona’s population swelled at unprecedented levels. The Verde Valley got its fair share of that growth. It was during this period that Verde Village largely became populated and Cottonwood missed out on annexing the area at a time when infrastructure could have been developed in a cohesive manner as one community. It was also during this period that longtime realty broker Dan Mabery observed that every time there was an earthquake in Southern California, home sales in the Verde Valley surged.

Fast forward to the present and there are development plans on the table that, if realized, could see Verde Valley population grow at the levels seen during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

Across the way directly north of the Verde Santa Fe community is the proposed 89 & Vine project. The planning for this project calls for a wine-themed blend of commercial development with 2,000-plus homes. Should this ultimately happen, it would be in the city limits of Cottonwood and no doubt would spur talk of annexing the Verde Santa Fe community on the other side of Cornville Road.

Across the Valley in Beaver Creek, the Primrose project calls for the addition of more than 300 new residential units in Rimrock, with everything from single-family homes to an apartment complex.

And just last week, we learned of two more major developments planned off SR 89A between Cottonwood and Sedona in the Oak Creek Valley area. Like Primrose, this one has yet to make its way to the Yavapai County Planning and Zoning Commission or board of supervisors. Its first public airing will be Nov. 12 in a community meeting hosted by the Cornville Community Association.

Yavapai County Development Services Planner Leah Brock explained that one of the two proposed projects near Oak Creek Valley, if ultimately approved, would be known as Spring Creek Ranch. It proposes 282 acres for a development that includes residential housing, recreational vehicle spaces and assisted living, and has direct access to State Route 89A via Spring Creek Ranch Road. The Spring Valley Ranch proposal includes 1,850 manufactured home lots, 550 RV pads, 400 rental units and a 200-unit assisted living facility.

The second plan, known as Villa Bellagio, proposes both residential and a wide variety of commercial development on 132 acres at the end of Waddell Road — a location currently only accessed off of Oak Creek Valley Road. Brock said this plan proposes both single-family and multifamily housing, a lake, more than 100 apartments of various types, a waiver of a two-story height limitation to allow for three stories, plus a 200-room hotel, another 200-unit assisted living facility, a 50-room “boutique” hotel, 24 studio hotel suites, an art gallery, split-level shops (sections of the parcel are rugged, steep land), a condominium concourse of 500 or more units, three wineries, a vineyard, 113 patio homes, a school site, 39 high-end lots, 39 custom lots, a camping area for the mentally and physically disabled and custom offices.

Collectively, all four of these projects would dramatically change the face of the Verde Valley as we know it today. With the Primrose, Spring Creek Ranch and Villa Bellagio, careful consideration will need to be given to current and future traffic corridors as each is basically one way in and one way out.

With Spring Creek Ranch and Villa Bellagio, developers and county officials also should consider the donation of land for a future substation of the Verde Valley Fire District. As is the case with Oak Creek Valley, both of these projects would be in close proximity to Cornville and its fire station on Page Springs Road, but there is not a road with a bridge crossing over Oak Creek for quick access to the area. That means emergency responders coming from Cornville have to route along Cornville Road and then SR 89A. One fireman at the Cornville Station said they recently made the trek to Oak Creek Valley for an EMS call in 18 minutes. That’s impressive considering the distance. Having a centralized fire station for Spring Creek Ranch, Villa Bellagio and Oak Creek Valley would be better.

As is always the case with development projects such as these, there is a lengthy and often arduous public hearing process that can delay the projects for months on end. Think back to the Rojo Grande project. It eventually was shelved because of major community opposition. Likewise, the Patel hotel project in the Village of Oak Creek has been scrutinized to death by residents and county officials alike. The current claim is that we will finally have a decision on this project Nov. 20. We’ll see.

Development projects often bring out the worst in people. No-growthers can be a volatile bunch. Politicians and government bureaucrats can be knee-jerk reactionary when the hope is they would be thoughtful and deliberate.

With all of the above projects, we certainly can expect a wild roller coaster ride.

Hold on to your seats.

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