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4:54 AM Sun, Nov. 18th

•City council

PRESCOTT ­ Even as plans for an affordable housing project on Robinson Drive continue to get positive reviews from city officials, the related traffic situation remains a sticking point.

At Tuesday's study session, the Prescott City Council considered the preliminary plat for Cedar Woods on Robinson Drive, an 18-unit townhouse project that developer Vince Fornara plans on 4.5 acres.

While council members appeared poised to approve the project at next week's voting session, they spent nearly an hour this week discussing the problematic traffic situation on the narrow street in south Prescott.

Robinson Drive resident Barry Slatten reiterated his concerns to the council about traffic conditions on the street, which he said is "so narrow in front of this project that there is not even a stripe in the middle of the road."

Slatten also maintained that the council earlier had declared a moratorium on development on Robinson Drive until after the completion of a long-planned traffic circulation study in the area.

He was referring to discussions that took place in 2003 and 2004, when Fornara was requesting a zoning change to accommodate a controversial 40-unit apartment complex on the property. In 2003, the City Council postponed a decision on the rezoning for a year and then, in 2004, denied the change in zoning.

This time, however, Fornara is proposing a project that would comply with the existing zoning.

Councilman Jim Lamerson emphasized that point, maintaining, "I don't think we have a legal leg to stand on to say, 'No, you can't build.'"

Rather, Lamerson said, the decision for the council is whether the city should require Fornara to set aside a designated amount of money for future street improvements or require him to do immediate improvements to the section of Robinson that fronts his property.

Other council members pointed out that their decision deals more specifically with the proposed plat, not with future plans for the street. With that understanding, they placed the Cedar Woods plat on their consent agenda for next week ­ a move that usually indicates that all members plan to vote in favor of an action.

Meanwhile, the city also apparently will move ahead soon with the south-side traffic circulation study.

Public Works Director Craig McConnell told the council that the city has been awaiting the completion of the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization's 2030 Regional Transportation Study. The study, which is nearly complete, will provide a "broad-brush" look at traffic in the entire tri-city area.

The south-side study specifically would look at the Prescott neighborhoods. McConnell said the city currently has about $90,000 in its budget for the study. Plans are in the works to solicit consultants within the next 30 to 45 days, he added. The study, which should take about six to nine months to complete, should identify some possible traffic improvements for the area.

Some council members pushed for a speedy resolution of the traffic problems on Robinson. "I think it's time to step up to the plate," Councilman Robert Luzius said. "I'm not against the project; what I'm against is stringing the neighborhood along."

Fornara said he would prefer to do his portion of the required street improvements now, rather than contributing toward a larger future project.

However, McConnell cautioned that doing the project in pieces could create its own issues. "When we try to do projects in increments, it doesn't always turn out the best," he said.

Fornara is planning Cedar Woods as an affordable housing project in cooperation with Affordable Housing Resources, Inc. He noted that the project would offer bridged financing that "will allow 18 families to buy homes when they wouldn't have been able to buy before."

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com