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Water allocation should not be an issue for US VETS project
Housing for more than homeless veterans

Homeless veterans and other people in need of low-income housing could have a new option soon, if a Whipple Street redevelopment project gets the go-ahead.

And, while a vote is still to come on the proposal by U.S. VETS, it appeared this week that a water allocation from the City of Prescott would not be an issue.

During its study session on Aug. 29, the Prescott City Council considered U.S. VETS’ request for an allocation of 12.35 acre-feet of alternative water for a project that would consist of 88 studio apartments and a 56-bed dormitory-style facility at 1040 Whipple St.

The allocation would be in addition to the two acre-feet of groundwater that the property already has — for a total need of 14.35 acre-feet.

Carole Benedict of U.S. Vets appeared before the council, along with local Realtor Raymond Zogob, and development representative Dane Beck, to explain the scope of the project.

Benedict told the council that the Whipple Street project would replace the organization’s existing housing facility on Gurley Street, which, she said has no capacity for growth.

At the larger site on Whipple, U.S. Vets would have the use of the 56 dormitory-style beds, as well as one-quarter of the 88 studio units, say the organizers. Benedict said the site also would allow for more on-site services.

Benedict said funding is already in place for the veterans’ portion of the project, and the group is working on funding for the other housing.

After an Arizona Department of Housing grant fell through, Beck said, “We looked at this pretty hard and realized that this was a need, and a viable business as well.”

He added that the project is s collaboration between his development group, Zogob, and U.S. Vets.

Zogob explained that the Whipple property, which is west of the former Miller Valley Elementary School, contains buildings that served as a medical complex in the past. But as medical offices moved to the north to the Crossings complex, he said the Whipple property transitioned to alternative office uses, and now is in another transition phase.

The housing project proposes that the interior of the Whipple Street buildings be renovated to accommodate the housing units, according to a city memo.

Council members had mostly positive comments on the project.

“Prescott, I think, is blessed with having one of two VA hospitals in the state,” said Councilwoman Jean Wilcox. ”That also makes it our community’s responsibility to care for the veterans who come here for care at the VA. I think this project is needed.”

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Lamerson pointed out that housing for homeless veterans has been a longtime concern for the community.

Councilman Steve Blair, one of three council members on the city’s Water Allocation Committee, said that while the project is “a great use,” he had questions about the timeline for the completion.

“With the limited amount of water we have, we as a water committee don’t want to tie up water on something that may never come to fruition,” Blair said.

Beck told the council that he hopes to have plans submitted to the city’s building department by late 2017 or early 2018. “We need to move fairly quickly,” he said. “We have leases … and we need to let people know what’s going to happen with this project.”

City Water Resources Manager Leslie Graser said projects typically have a year to get to the building-permit phase, three years to get to the point of certificate of occupancy, and the possibility for a one-time one-year extension. Still, she said the U.S. VETS project is somewhat unique because it involves a renovation project. “With most projects, we sit down and work with them,” she said.

At the conclusion of the discussion, Mayor Harry Oberg said, “I think it’s an important project, and I hope to see it come forward for a vote.”

Graser said the project would be on a future City Council agenda for a vote.

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