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Tue, Feb. 18

Granite Dells annexation begins community review

PRESCOTT - In the first test of 2005's Reasonable Growth Initiative, the Prescott City Council got a preliminary look this week at an annexation request for 1,142 acres of ranchland northeast of Prescott.

And by early accounts, the initiative's goal of expanding public involvement for large annexations is working.

A number of audience members, several of whom served on the steering committee for the Reasonable Growth Initiative, noted that developers had invited them to comment on the plans for the annexation prior to Tuesday's presentation.

In addition, developers plan an area meeting to explain the project further at 5:30 p.m. June 25 at Prescott City Hall. Then, on June 28, Planning and Zoning commissioners will consider the plans at their regular 9 a.m. meeting, also at City Hall, 201 S. Cortez St.

Jason Gisi, agent for Granite Dells Estates, kicked off the discussion at Tuesday's council study session by noting that property owner Mike Fann hopes to make the 1,142-acre parcel a part of Prescott.

"He feels this is a uniquely Prescott piece of property," Gisi told the council.

Even so, Gisi said an earlier action had split the property into thirty, 36-acre parcels, allowing for a possible "exit strategy," should the annexation fail.

Gisi and city officials emphasized that the annexation of the Granite Dells Estates land is the first to fall under the requirements of the Reasonable Growth initiative (Proposition 400), which voters approved in November 2005.

The initiative requires a more "transparent" process for review of annexations that exceed 250 acres. For instance, it requires a 60-day period for public comment, along with a three-quarters vote (six of the seven members) of the City Council to approve large-scale annexations.

In addition, the initiative requires that all effluent (treated wastewater) from the annexed areas must go to permanent recharge of the groundwater aquifer.

Gisi told the council that developers are planning 550 residential units, along with 165.5 acres of industrially zoned land.

Even though Gisi said developers "don't exactly understand Prop. 400 and where it will take us," he added that "as guinea pigs" for the proposition, developers believe it is their responsibility to do what they can to disclose information about the project.

And several of the audience members offered positive comments about the developers' efforts so far.

For instance, local resident George Seaman, a supporter of Prop. 400, noted that Fann approached him early on for comments about the project, and developers conducted an informal meeting with Prop. 400 supporters this week.

"I want to give real serious props to the Granite Dells group for reaching out and doing this," Seaman said.

Leslie Hoy, another Prop. 400 supporter, noted that the Granite Dells Estates annexation would be "an important test for all the hard work we did."

But she and others voiced concerns about the remaining acreage of the original Granite Dells/Point of Rocks ranches, of which Granite Dells Estates is only a part.

With the prospect of future annexations on the remainder of the ranchland, Hoy said, the city should be careful that the current residents of Prescott "don't end up getting stuck with" the cost for future development.

City Manager Steve Norwood noted that he expects businesses to occupy some of the annexed land, through which the city could recoup some of the costs.

Local resident Jack Wilson, a candidate for mayor and a former member of the Prop. 400 steering committee, also brought up future costs to the city.

While noting, "I like what I see (in the Granite Dells Estates plans)," Wilson maintained that the "biggest issue here is the cost of the infrastructure." He suggested an analysis of the total costs of infrastructure needs.

In response, Councilman Bob Roecker said the city also should analyze the impact to the community if the city does not annex the land and it develops outside Prescott city limits.

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