Talk of the Town: Addressing concerns over Deep Well Ranch

As I finish my tenure as mayor of the City of Prescott, I am encouraged by the projects and programs underway that will move our great city forward. One example is Deep Well Ranch development, put forth by the James family and Sun State Builders. I am aware that there are several misgivings about the project. Citizens have had the opportunity to express their concerns at recent Planning and Zoning Committee meetings. At these meetings we have heard concerns about proximity to the airport, home water usage, density and traffic management, to name a few.

Some may ask why the city does not take a harder stance against large developments. First and foremost it is important to remember that the property owner has the right to improve his or her property, provided he or she follows the current guidelines for environment, traffic and water, to name a few. The city’s duty to its citizens is to make sure new developments meet these guidelines, including applicable zoning laws.

You may have heard that this project has a potential for 10,000 rooftops. While this is true, it’s important to remember that Deep Well is anticipated to be a 30- to 50-year build-out plan.

Many folks have expressed their concern about the water required for development of the Deep Well Ranch covered by the master plan. In this particular case: 1. The owner has water rights provided by the city, for just over 3,000 homes. This is “alternative water,” a renewable resource coming from our reservoirs, not groundwater. This stems primarily from a 1967 agreement that is binding; and 2. After the 3,000 homes are built, Deep Well Ranch will need to wait until the Big Chino pipeline is installed. This will entail a lengthy process by the city, giving the public more chances to speak up about their concerns.

Others have expressed concerns about increased traffic in the area. The city will consult with its traffic engineers to find affordable ways to manage traffic more effectively. One example would be changing traffic light cycles to create a better flow. Building new connector roads at this time does not appear likely, however additional road infrastructure may be needed in the future. The city will do what we can with dollars and resources available, to address current and future concerns.

During recent meetings, citizens have come forward to express concerns about Deep Well’s proximity to the airport. The city is currently about three-quarters of the way through an Airport Master Plan. This will need to be considered in future discussions about the Deep Well Ranch. Safety has been cited as a concern. The proposed project around the airport meets or exceeds the Federal Aviation Administration guidelines for building setbacks and safety clearances around airports. We are confident that this proposed development will work within established guidelines to ensure the safety of all.

One thing I have learned during my term as mayor, is that progress is important for a city to keep growing, but it is sometimes controversial. The city will continue to monitor and invite public discourse whenever we can, through public hearings. I have every confidence that our council will be diligent about balancing the rights of the property owners with the applicable zoning laws and water regulations to ensure a reasonable, safe level of growth for the City of Prescott for years to come.

Harry Oberg is the mayor of Prescott.