Originally Published: October 14, 2017 6:02 a.m.
The number of homes that will be allowed in the Deep Well Ranch development could drop from 10,500 to about 5,250 if the Prescott City Council follows the advice of its planning board.
In a last-minute move Friday, Oct. 13, the Prescott Planning and Zoning Commission included a condition in its approval of the Deep Well master plan that asks the City Council to negotiate with developers to reduce the number of homes to about 50 percent of the proposed 10,500 dwelling units.
The condition failed to convince all of the commissioners, however. Three of the seven members voted against the rezoning and master plan, voicing continued concerns about the scale of the northeast-Prescott project, as well as the lack of detailed information on expected traffic impacts.
The 4-3 vote came after more than three hours of discussion, and after the commission had heard from about a dozen local residents, most of whom voiced concerns about the project.
Residents, who applauded enthusiastically for one another despite cautions by Commission Chairman Tom Menser to refrain, brought up a host of issues, including the city’s dwindling water supply, the impacts to traffic, encroachment on the airport, and the proposed housing density, which they said would bring with it more crime.
Ultimately, Menser and Commissioners George Sheats, Ken Mabarak, and Terry Marshall voted for the master plan and related rezoning — with 22 conditions of approval — while Commissioners Joe Gardner, Phil Goode, and Bill Sim voted against them.
The commission’s recommendation now goes to the Prescott City Council for a final decision. After this week’s meeting, Planning Manager George Worley said the date of the council consideration has yet to be scheduled.
Meanwhile, project design consultant Trevor Barger said he disagrees with the commission’s condition on density.
“I think it’s disingenuous,” Barger said afterward of the suggested reduction.
He maintains that the landowners have the right under the current zoning to build about 15,800 homes on the 1,800 acres. (The city’s Community Development Department puts the number at about 13,500.)
Barger says the developers were “self-restricting,” when they proposed the 10,500 housing units — a number that he says is below the city’s average units-per-acre.
Prescott’s growth trends indicate that the housing will be needed in future years to accommodate new residents, Barger said. By reducing the density of the 1,800-acre project, he said, the city would, in effect, be spreading development out onto more land.
“Where do these people go, because we’re running out of land?” Barger asked after the meeting. “I think Prescott Valley has proven that they’re coming regardless. The growth in the region is proving that it’s coming.”
The Deep Well master plan calls for a more compact development that developers say would be more livable and walkable.
Too intense, say commissioners
But throughout the past 12 weeks of review, the commissioners have repeatedly voiced objections to the Deep Well’s proposed density.
At Friday’s meeting, Commission Chairman Tom Menser said he could not support the master plan and rezoning without a significant reduction in residential density and commercial square footage. Near the end of the meeting, he proposed the condition asking the City Council to push for fewer homes and less commercial space — “all of which we feel to be excessive,” the condition stated.
Noting that he was “in favor of the master plan” concept, Menser said the density has been a stumbling block, not just for the commission, but for the public as well.
“It keeps getting distilled down to one thing: the project is too intense, and out of context with the Prescott area,” Menser said. “It far exceeds the historical norm of Prescott. That seems to be what I’m hearing over and over and over again.”
Gardner, who has been a vocal opponent of the project, noted that while most development plans tend to involve give-and-take, he maintains that Deep Well has “far too much take, and very little give.”
Gardner also questioned Barger’s earlier comparison of the project’s density to the feel of downtown Prescott, maintaining that Deep Well’s residential density would be much more intense.
Goode described the Deep Well’s plans as “more of an urban-core, modern development,” adding that Prescott “is not an urban-core community.”
The commission’s review of the Deep Well project began in August, and this week’s meeting was its seventh discussion on the project.
Along the way, commissioners have suggested a number of changes in the master plan, and developers have complied with many of the suggestions.
Sheats pointed out that he agrees with the list of stipulations, which, along with the new condition on density, also included: that the master plan comply with the City Land Development Code within Specially Planned Community zoning, with any major variations spelled out in the pending development agreement; all city rules, regulations and codes apply to the master plan unless specifically waived; the Public Works Department will provide a comprehensive report, including traffic and circulation; and the Airport Authority will provide a comprehensive report on the potential impact of the master plan on the airport.
“We’re doing a much better job by taking the master-plan approach,” Sheats said. He referred to a list that the city compiled that shows benefits under a master plan, versus zoned parcels. For instance: more compacted use of land; shared mixed-use infrastructure; master area draining plan; access to services, jobs, and recreation; placement of parks and amenities
The 1,800 acres is located at the northwest corner of the Highway 89 and 89A interchange.
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