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2:31 AM Mon, Nov. 19th

Developer seeks inclusion of 2,500 acres into Prescott general plan; would be mostly high-density residential, open space

PRESCOTT - A proposal for adding nearly 2,500 acres of undeveloped ranchland into Prescott city limits was the latest entry into the City of Prescott's General Plan update discussion.

Local developer Jason Gisii took the preliminary details for the annexation and rezoning to the Prescott City Council this past week, seeking inclusion in the general plan's land-use map.

Gisi emphasizes that the general plan step is just the first of many that would be necessary before the annexation into Prescott city limits - and ultimately, development - could take place. The development firm, Arizona Eco Development, has yet to submit its annexation application to the city, he said, and water-rights acquisitions are also still underway.

Numerous public meetings and City Council discussions would have to occur in coming years before the project could get final approval, Gisi said. He estimates that the review process could take 18 months or more.

If successful, the annexation could dramatically change the face of the largely open ranchland northeast of Prescott.

The proposed annexation consists of 2,471 acres of land formerly known as the Cavan tract. Arizona Eco Development acquired it in recent bankruptcy/foreclosure proceedings, Gisi said. In all, the transaction included about 15,000 acres. Along with the acreage slated for annexation into Prescott, other portions are in the Prescott Valley and Chino Valley areas.

Gisi said the development would bring homes to an area near Prescott's popular Peavine Trail, not far from the prominent Point of Rocks. One portion of the annexation includes former Granite Dells Ranch land that is south of the Highway 89A/Side Road-area Centerpointe East development.

Another section of the annexation is north of the Granite Dells Parkway/Highway 89A interchange.

Gisi is seeking high-density residential zoning for a portion of the land - a move that he says is needed in the Prescott housing market. "We're trying to bring affordable housing to the Prescott zip code," he said. "We think it's a product that Prescott needs."

Gisi said he does not yet have estimates on the number of homes, or projected population of the project. But, he said, the company is looking at residential zoning that would allow densities of four to eight homes per acre.

That would not pertain to the entire 2,471 acres, however. Along with the higher density, Gisi said the development would include a significant percentage of open space. The project is slated to be a Planned Area Development (PAD), which comes with a requirement for at least 25 percent open space, Gisi said, adding that his early estimates have the open space in the 30-percent range.

In addition, Gisi noted that roads and other infrastructure would take up some of the land. Another tract - anywhere between 80 and 140 acres - could be sold to the City of Prescott for protection of the runway at the Prescott Airport, and the plans call for a mix of residential, industrial, and commercial.

Gisi said the company bought the note for the land for $31.3 million, and has since spent millions more on legal fees and water rights. That includes the purchase of 375 acre-feet of surface water rights that previously went to the Granite Dells Ranch, and another 100 acre feet of extinguished irrigation rights.

Prescott Utilities Manager Joel Berman said the city currently is releasing water from Watson Lake to satisfy the Granite Dells Ranch's ongoing annual water rights. The water "is available to them upon request," Berman said, because of previous water-right claims.

Gisi said developers have been working for months on the related "sever and transfer" process through the Arizona Department of Water Resources. Ultimately, he said, the company plans to transfer the water rights to the City of Prescott for use in its water portfolio.

During a Prescott City Council workshop on Tuesday, April 7, local resident Leslie Hoy voiced concerns about Gisi's "last-minute" entry into the general-plan discussion. "Sometimes I feel like David and Goliath," she told the council.

A long-time water advocate, Hoy added that water for the project ultimately would come out of the already over-taxed Little Chino aquifer, and she urged the council to "take into consideration the impact on the water."

Prescott City Manager Craig McConnell noted on Friday, April 10, that the general plan can be amended at any time. With the City Council poised to put the plan on the ballot for voter ratification soon, he said this was "an opportune time" to consider adding the Arizona Eco Development plans.

At its 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, meeting, the council will consider setting the general plan ratification vote for either the Aug. 25 primary or the Nov. 3 general election.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks