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3:42 PM Tue, Jan. 22nd

Growing pains: Another developer faces public opposition over project size, traffic concerns

Courtesy illustration<br>The site plan for the Touchmark at the Ranch project shows the proposed layout of the buildings on the 44-acre parcel near Highway 69 and Lee Boulevard.

Courtesy illustration<br>The site plan for the Touchmark at the Ranch project shows the proposed layout of the buildings on the 44-acre parcel near Highway 69 and Lee Boulevard.

PRESCOTT, Arizona - On the heels of complaints against a recently approved 160-unit apartment complex on Willow Creek Road come apprehensions about a proposed development on North Lee Boulevard.

A 379-unit senior-housing project that would be situated between the Highway 69 Walmart store and Yavapai Hills is raising concerns about traffic and building height.

Developers are planning the Touchmark at the Ranch project on about 44 acres of business-zoned land - the same parcel that had been slated for a hotel/conference center in 2007. That project, the Resort at the Ranch, fell through during the economic downturn in about 2009. Lee Ltd. owns the property.

An area meeting on the Touchmark project this past week attracted more than 80 people. Planning Manager George Worley said the meeting generated a mix of comments - both for and against the project.

One of the main concerns for those in opposition centers on the developer's request for a building height of as much as 80 feet.

While the city's business-regional zoning limits a building height to 50 feet by right, it allows for a height of up to 100 feet with a special use permit.

By comparison, Worley said the city's downtown parking garage is 65 feet high, and also required a special use permit.

The project plans and the special use permit request will go to the Prescott Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday, after which Worley expects the commission to continue the discussion at its March 13 meeting.

If the commission makes a decision at that time, Worley said the matter could go to the Prescott City Council for a workshop on April 1.

The Planning and Zoning Commission packet includes two letters from residents opposing the project.

Gene Weiner maintained in his letter that the project should not receive special treatment from the city. "It needs to conform to the rules that have been set and not changed," Weiner wrote. "This is Prescott, not Phoenix."

Yavapai Hills homeowners Enrique and Pamela Melendez outlined a number of concerns, including traffic safety, fire hazards, and water.

On Friday, Enrique Melendez said he was worried about how the project would affect the already dangerous intersection of Highway 69 and Lee Boulevard. "I have seen so many near accidents," Melendez said of the intersection, which he drives through daily.

Fire is a concern, Melendez added, because of access. "The risk of having only one entry point could become a life threatening issue if a fire started deep into the Yavapai Hills community," he wrote.

A city memo notes that the Prescott Fire Department would require the project to have fire-suppression sprinkler systems because of the single access road, building size and occupancy.

Along with the opposition, the memo stated that the city also has heard from supporters, who cite increased tax revenue for the city and "desirability of downsizing as the population ages."

The Touchmark at the Ranch project would feature multi-family and single-family senior housing units and would consist of a combination of independent-living, assisted-living, and memory-care units.

The plans include 15.25 acres of open space - about 34 percent of the project area. As a Planned Area Development (PAD), the city requires at least 25 percent open space.

The city memo notes that the parcel is bordered on the south and west by commercial uses - The Ranch at Prescott Commercial Center, and the Walmart store. On the north and east, open space and single-family housing border the parcel.

The city memo states that a traffic study "indicates Lee Boulevard does not have any known traffic safety issues that would make it unsuitable to handle the increased traffic from the proposed development. Impacts are expected to be minimal on the existing roadway network."

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks