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Fri, April 19

City delays development in hopes for enough water later

PRESCOTT – Water – or a lack of it – has temporarily stalled a proposed housing development in Prescott.

With its long-term water policy currently under review, and with questions hovering over its water budget, the Prescott City Council chose not to allocate water to the Prescott Highlands Estates this week.

Instead, the council tabled the project for seven months – after which the city expects to have more alternative water available in its budget.

The action followed the direction that the council was heading at last week's study session, when several members supported a postponement of the request for water – at least until the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) decides on Prescott's request for an increase in its assured water supply.

That discussion prompted developers of the Prescott Highlands Estates, this past week, to formally request a postponement of the matter for seven months, or until the city has an answer from ADWR on the alternative water request.

At issue is the city's Sept. 1 application to ADWR for an increase in its assured water supply by about 3,300 acre-feet. City officials have said that they expect to receive at least 1,500 acre-feet of water, and that they should have an answer back from ADWR by spring 2005.

In the meantime, however, the state of the city's alternative water account has generated concerns.

City officials say the water budget, which includes alternative water that is available for new projects, currently has a balance of about 256 acre-feet.

But others in the community have disputed that, maintaining that the city should have debited a number of water commitments from the account, such as the 612 acre-feet of water that the city promised for the future development of land at the Granite Dells and Point of Rocks ranches.

City Councilman Jim Lamerson also has voiced concerns about the amount in the city's water budget, and whether the city should be allocating new projects more water than they originally requested.

The Prescott Highland Estates came under special scrutiny, because the developers asked for a zoning change that would nearly double the number of homes in the 23-acre project off Delano Avenue.

The project – originally named Granite Draw – earlier had a water allocation, but lost it when the preliminary plat expired. Developers then came back with plans for a new project with 37 homes, which would require 13 acre-feet of water per year – about double the amount that the earlier project would have required.

Councilman Steve Blair noted, however, that the city has no policy that would support the postponement of the project. "I don't think this council has agreed on any policy," he said, adding that the developer of Prescott Highlands Estates has gone through the city's review process with no idea of the council's concerns.

"We've allowed this gentleman to proceed to get to this level," Blair said. He noted that the project received a positive recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission and a 2-to-1 vote of approval from the council water allocation committee. "We need a policy that tells people who come forward, 'don't bother,'" Blair added.

But Lamerson countered that his concerns centered on the Prescott Highlands Estates' request for an increase in water allocation.

City Manager Steve Norwood said city staff members would come up with a draft short-term water policy that would cover the months until the city hears back from ADWR on its request for more alternative water.

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com

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