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11:47 PM Wed, Dec. 12th

Prescott Council reviews plans for 160-unit apartment complex on Willow Creek Road

PRESCOTT - Over the past five years or so, the City of Prescott has considered a number of apartment proposals for a five-acre parcel of undeveloped land along Willow Creek Road.

While earlier versions failed to come to fruition, the latest rendering received a relatively positive review from the Prescott City Council this week.

"In the last five years, this is the third apartment project that has been proposed in this location," Community Development Director Tom Guice said of the plans for the 160-unit Willow Creek Apartment complex.

The five-acre parcel - located at 3149 Willow Creek Road, east of Willow Creek and southeast of Montaña Drive - has a high-density multi-family zoning designation.

Previous plans have gone through the city's pre-application conference process, Guice said, but did not get to the City Council.

Although questions arose Tuesday on issues such as traffic flow and building density, several council members voiced support for the location of the complex.

"I think it's a great use of the property, and it's certainly something we need," Councilman Steve Blair said.

Councilman Jim Lamerson noted that the council has often discussed how to get more affordable or workforce housing to locate in the community. "You can't keep pushing it out," he said. "Otherwise you'll have the service community (living) as far away as Mayer."

No vote took place during the study session, and the council will discuss the plans again at its Jan. 14 voting session.

Much of this week's discussion focused on the traffic impact that the complex's 200 or more vehicles would have on the already busy stretch of Willow Creek Road.

Even as Blair voiced support for the location, he questioned the single access off of Willow Creek Road. "...With those numbers of units, would it not at least warrant a secondary access or emergency access?" he asked.

Guice explained that the project plans do include a gated emergency access off of Amherst Drive, a cul-de-sac in the nearby neighborhood in the College Heights area.

That led Blair to ask whether the secondary access should be made permanent, allowing apartment dwellers to get to the signalized Crossings Drive/Willow Creek intersection.

City Manager Craig McConnell pointed out, however, that previous discussions with the neighborhood on the topic were not favorable. "Frankly, to try to reopen that with the existing neighborhood is not going to be effective," he said of the possibility of creating permanent access through the College Heights neighborhood.

Councilman Chris Kuknyo said he had received a number of inquiries from residents about how the additional traffic would fit in with the three traffic signals that already exist on a fairly short stretch of Willow Creek Road.

Guice said the entrance to the apartment complex - located on the northwest corner of the parcel - would not have a traffic signal.

The project elicited comments from one audience member, who voiced concerns about the building density, the traffic, and the number of parking spaces.

"It looks like five acres of paving and roofs. I think it's way too dense," local resident Judith Merrell told the council. On the issue of traffic, she added, "I see a major problem. I personally wouldn't move in there, because I can't imagine getting out and going to work."

If all goes as planned, a spokesman for the developer said, the project construction could be ready to get under way by July or August.

"This is a HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) project," Tim Emberlin, the project manager for developer Parlay LLC, said after the meeting. He explained that the developers were seeking financing through the federal government, and planned to proceed after getting approval for the financing.

Emberlin was uncertain Tuesday about the apartment rental rates, but he said, "They will be entry-level apartments. We have to compete in the market."

Even so, Emberlin said the units would not be low-income or subsidized housing. "This is not a Section 8 project," he said.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks