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Verde Valley School expanded permit request returns to county P&Z

The plans for Verde Valley School are back on the agenda for the Yavapai County Planning & Zoning Commission after residents of the Village of Oak Creek were able to get a postponement of the discussion earlier this fall.

Concerned that the proposal by the school for a use permit was not only a surprise to many in the area but also scheduled to be discussed in Prescott rather than the Verde Valley, P&Z Chair David Gill reset the item for the Dec. 22 meeting in Cottonwood.

The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. in the county annex at 10 S. Sixth St.

The letter of intent for the conditional use permit was submitted to the county in January. The administration of the private boarding school would like to build out its 150 acres at 3511 Verde Valley School Road. The intent is to use facilities started by the now-bankrupt Camp Soaring Eagle, construction that was abandoned in 2011.

Verde Valley School previously had conditional use permits for the school and for the summer camp. The organizers of Camp Soaring Eagle, working under an agreement with Verde Valley School, had built shells for three cabins on the eastern side of the VVS property.

According to paperwork submitted by Director Paul Amadio, “VVS has potential funding to finish these buildings, and would like to use them for needed multi-purpose classrooms and meeting/studio spaces.”

COVID-19 interrupted the planning stages for the property, but the plans are now mostly intact, with the exception of selling off more than six acres of the land. The proposed conditional use permit combines the campus and camp properties.

The plans include tent-site rentals, activities for up to 200 people and a secondary access to the property, as requested by the fire district. The permit would apply to nearly 248,000 square feet of structures on 141 acres. The property already has school buildings, staff housing, an equestrian facility and farm buildings, a trail system, bungalows and botanical gardens.

Verde Valley School expects its student population to be 150 with a staff of 16, with 11 residing on campus with the boarding students.

When the Big Park Council successfully approached the county P&Z about delaying and moving the October hearing, Gill also requested more information from the county Development Department and more outreach to the community.

Nov. 10, Verde Valley School hosted a community meeting to further explain its permit request, which for both continued use and expanded use. Attending neighbors, numbering around 100, expressed concerns about increased traffic, infrastructure, noise and possible fire-safety issues.

The county has also been gathering public feedback on its online survey.

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