Column: Housing developments, your role
There’s been a lot of criticism of the recent Deep Well Ranch development approval. What can concerned citizens do? Be involved much earlier, vote, and there is one very long shot.
It’s a recurring pattern that people start paying attention to an imminent council decision, or an item on the ballot that they think should be supported or opposed, when the deal is all but done and it’s long past time for any effective action. The approximate results of the Deep Well Ranch development plan have been known for a very long time.
An effective way to see these things coming would be for a group of citizens to create an organized system of monitoring what discussions the city is having with potential developments from the start. Once developments get far enough along to hit the news or have initial city decisions, the nature of the development has already taken much of the form it will likely end up with.
Keep an eye on water. Help an organization such as CWAG, and push for water allocations that reflect our continuing overdraft. While 10,000 homes have been approved for Deep Well Ranch, if the Big Chino pipeline never happens, they may only have the water to build a fraction of those. That creates a lot of incentive to find legalistic fudging of water allocations.
The Deep Well Ranch development is only a small portion of the total Deep Well property. The rest of that property, and others that could be annexed into the city, and others that could be developed adjacent to the city, are the same case. If you want to see development done in particular ways, it would take involvement in the early stages, and holding water use to more realistic allocations.
There is one option citizens have. A referendum. Decisions by the council can be overturned by the citizens if they gather a couple thousand signatures, by a formal process, within a month after a decision. That forces council to hold the decision until a city-wide election on the matter can be held.
Gathering those signatures in time to affect Deep Well would be quite a feat, but even delivering them late would make council aware that future development-decisions had better be popular enough to withstand a general election, because they’ll likely be challenged to one.
That does beg a question though. If a city-wide vote were to uphold the council’s decision, then it would say most voters prefer the decision that the council they’ve elected has made. If the vote failed, it would say there are a heck of a lot of eligible voters in the city who didn’t vote in past council elections, who could have voted-in different council members.
A referendum is an awkward way for the city to work out its future. Generally these decisions are in the hands of council. If your life is very connected to Prescott but you live outside city limits, like me, then we have no formal vote in it, though we can express our “friend of the city” view. If you live in the city and don’t like the council’s decisions, did you vote in past council elections?
Tom Cantlon is a local business owner and writer and can be reached at comments at tomcantlon.com.
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