Originally Published: July 22, 2011 10:04 p.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - The prospective buyer of the vacant lots in the StoneRidge subdivision expects escrow to close Aug. 15 and to begin building homes within three to six months.
"We think there is new-home demand now," Bill Brownlee, a partner with Phoenix-based M3 Cos., told the Town Council and an audience of StoneRidge residents Thursday. He said he sees the housing market improving in a few years, and described Prescott Valley as a "blossoming" community.
"We are going to try to bring in builders as soon as we can," Brownlee said during an interview after his half-hour talk at the council meeting. M3 also has created StoneRidge Partners LLC to finish the development of StoneRidge, a 3,050-lot subdivision located in the foothills south of Highway 69.
Town officials invited Brownlee as well as two of his associates -Thomas Warley and Michael Johnson - to the work/study meeting to talk about taking over the development from SunCor.
Neither Brownlee or SunCor General Manager Brad Swisher would disclose the sale price, which does not include the golf course. Brownlee also declined to answer financial questions from Councilman Henry Schmitt, a StoneRidge homeowner, on the grounds that M3 is privately held.
The pending sale to M3 came as relief to StoneRidge homeowners who feared financial burdens if SunCor were to file for bankruptcy.
"It's music to our ears if we can get any kind of answers," homeowner Mike Parra said after the discussion and talking to Brownlee. "Everybody has been hanging, waiting."
Parra and the owners of more than 900 other homes faced potentially much higher secondary property taxes if SunCor were to file for bankruptcy and bow out of paying nearly $700,000 a year in annual bond payments, which town officials feared.
Town Manager Larry Tarkowski and Management Services Director Bill Kauppi met with homeowner groups in January to go over the financial ramifications of their payments into a community facilities district possibly doubling from a current annual range of $800 to $1,000.
SunCor and town officials established the CFD in 2001 to finance a bridge across Stoneridge Drive and other public improvements. The town floated a $14.8 million bond measure, and homeowners currently are paying $3.90 per $100 in secondary assessed valuation, up from $3.30 for the fiscal year ending June 30.
SunCor made a $300,000 bond payment in May, Swisher said.
If SunCor's deal with M3 goes through, SunCor will follow through in a previous commitment to turn over the StoneRidge community center to the CFD. The CFD would rent the building to the homeowners association for $168,609 a year through 2026 or sooner, depending on when the bond is paid off.
SunCor has worked "diligently" to find a buyer over the past two years, Swisher told the council. A previous sale announced in January 2010 fell through.
M3 in turn has had a long working relationship with SunCor, said Brownlee, who founded his company in 1983. M3 projects include American Ranch in Williamson Valley, the Prescott Lakes subdivision in Prescott and Victorian Estates in Prescott Valley.
"We have been following the StoneRidge property for some time," Brownlee told the council. "It does not come without its challenges."
He said M3 seeks to "maximize value," adding, "Our goal and our intentions are to create the highest land values and the highest property values."
Brownlee said he wants the council to assign the development agreement to M3 and extend it from June 2014 to 2030.
The documents will be ready for the council meeting this coming Thursday, Town Attorney Ivan Legler said.