Vote on Deep Well Ranch project set for Sept. 28

Prescott P&Z Commission weighs concerns about scope, density, airport

Air traffic would fly over property where as many as 600 apartments could be built as part of the Deep Well Ranch development. During the Prescott Planning and Zoning Commission’s public review of the project this week talk centered on the development’s potential impacts on the airport. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

Air traffic would fly over property where as many as 600 apartments could be built as part of the Deep Well Ranch development. During the Prescott Planning and Zoning Commission’s public review of the project this week talk centered on the development’s potential impacts on the airport. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

In the midst of a host of suggestions from Prescott Planning and Zoning Commissioners this week, a recommendation on the Deep Well Ranch project has been pushed off until at least the end of September.

The commission conducted its fifth review of the 1,800-acre project Thursday, Sept. 14, and opted to wait until its next meeting on Sept. 28 to consider a vote on the project.

Developers are proposing the mixed-use project on land at the northwest corner of the Highway 89 and 89A intersection in northeast Prescott.

Over the past several weeks, each of the commissioners has submitted written concerns and suggestions for the project, and this week’s meeting included a discussion of those points.

Commissioner Joe Gardner, who asked to read his concerns at the meeting, voiced worries about the scope and density of the project, which is planned to include as many as 10,500 homes.

“The plan before us does not reflect the spirit of Prescott,” Gardner said, maintaining that the planners are aiming for a project that would be more appropriate in Scottsdale or Austin, Texas.

Noting that the 10,500 dwelling units could bring about 26,250 new residents to Prescott, Gardner said, “This single project would increase Prescott’s current population by 62 percent.” He added that the requested commercial area of 2.9 million square feet is “even more staggering than the residential,” and would equal the size of about “5.6 Gateway Malls.”

Commission Chairman Tom Menser, who emphasized that he was serving as “devil’s advocate” on the commissioners’ suggestions, countered, however that the market would determine the number of homes and businesses that actually are built.

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Master Plan vision of the Deep Well Ranch development near the Prescott Airport. (Courtesy illustration)

Using Prescott’s past history of moderate growth, Menser said, “It’s not practical, Joe. This thing is going to grow like a snail.”

Indeed, the project’s planners have estimated that the development’s eventual build-out could be 40 to 50 years in the future.

Still, Gardner said, “To me, the whole plan is over-reach.”

Commissioner Phil Goode also voiced concerns with the number of homes planned on the allotted acreage. “I think the densities are excessive,” he said.

Gardner agreed, maintaining that the project’s homes-per-acre is “six to eight times more dense than Prescott today.” He stressed that Prescott regularly is included on lists of favorable places to live and visit. “Prescott’s patterns are nationally recognized as being good,” Gardner said. “I don’t know why we’re even wasting our time on this.”

Local resident Leslie Hoy, a local water advocate, said she and others who have brought up concerns are sometimes called “anti-growth.” But, she said, “People move here because things were ruined where they were before. They would like to see Prescott not make those same mistakes. Those people are not anti-growth.”

And, pointing out that the Arizona Eco Development project – another large development that is planned nearby – is beginning its own review process with the city, Hoy suggested, “We need to look at this whole area. This is the only area for Prescott to grow in, and we have a chance to take control. We should take control of as much as we can.”

Airport accidents

The commission also heard from Ted Wickstrom, president of the Prescott Airport Users Association, about the proximity of the project to the airport. He pointed out that 86 aircraft accidents have occurred on or near the Prescott Airport in the past 25 years, involving 20 fatalities.

“Of the 86 reported accidents, three were within the proposed Deep Well Ranch planned community development area including seven deaths and two resulting in fires,” Wickstrom’s presentation stated.

He added: “Statistically, over the next 50 years, there is a high probability there will be at least 172 accidents on or near the Prescott Airport, six within the development, including four fires.”

After the meeting, Prescott Planning Manager George Worley said city staffers would work to vet the commissioners’ suggestions in the coming weeks to come up with a number of proposed conditions on the Deep Well Ranch project.

Airport safety, dark-sky requirements, and parking standards are expected to be among the topics of conditions recommended for the project.

Trevor Barger, a design consultant for the developer, told the commission that a number of the conditions suggested during the meeting are already included in the plans, or could be included through revisions.

Worley said such conditions are expected within the Specially Planned Community (SPC) zoning that the developers are seeking for the project.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will make a recommendation to the Prescott City Council, which is responsible for the final decision. If the commission makes a recommendation on Sept. 28, Worley said the matter likely would go to the City Council in October.