Council tables Robinson Dr. apartment plans<BR><I>Lack of traffic study makes decision impossible</I>

PRESCOTT – Last year's 12-month delay in consideration of a proposed apartment complex on Robinson Drive did not allow enough time to get answers on traffic.

When the Cedarwoods project went back to the Prescott City Council this week, the anticipated Regional Transportation Study was still about a year away from completion.

And without a plan for traffic, the council decided to put an end to the discussion about the apartments – at least for now.

In August 2003, the council postponed discussion for a year on whether to allow for a 40-unit apartment complex on Robinson Drive. At that time, council members agreed that they should await the results of the regional transportation plan, which will include a focused look at traffic on the south side of Prescott.

Although officials thought at the time that the transportation study would be ready within about a year, city officials say it now appears that the study will not be complete until about June 2005.

That brought developer Vince Fornara back before the council this month to ask for an extension on the year timeframe.

"We thought the progress of this study would be much further along," Fornara told the council on Tuesday. In the meantime, he said, developers are uncertain about what to do with the property.

But Robinson Drive residents urged the council not to postpone the matter again – a move they said would keep the home owners in limbo.

And city officials cautioned that the outcome of the transportation study might not be good news for the apartment complex.

"As I understand it, there is no real viable way of enlarging Robinson Drive," said Mayor Rowle Simmons. "My concern is we can easily sit here and authorize an extension, but I don't know if that's fair. If Robinson Drive isn't going to change, why should we leave the door open?"

Added Simmons: "I hate to drag Mr. Fornara and everyone through a lot of time."

Public Works Director Craig McConnell agreed that the narrow, winding Robinson Drive might be difficult to improve, regardless of what the transportation study recommends.

"The bottom line is it is a very difficult nut to crack because of the terrain," McConnell said of Robinson. "We cannot realistically guarantee that there is going to be a solution that will be palatable."

Ultimately, the council unanimously voted to deny the request for an extension, but agreed that Fornara would not have to repay city fees if he re-applies within the next two years.

In the meantime, the 4.5-acre Robinson Drive site continues to have the zoning that would allow for 19 residential hillside lots – a designation that the city approved in 1994.

When Fornara approached the council last year, he asked the city to lift the stipulation that restricted the use to single-family homes. Residents opposed the change, because they said Robinson Drive could not handle the additional traffic.