Opinion: 'Save the Dells' Responds to AED Annexation Applications

08 August 2018
  Amber Fields
"Save the Dells" takes a look at the Annexation applications.

On Friday, August 3, the City of Prescott Planning Department received two annexation applications from Arizona Eco Development (AED), one for the north development near the Prescott Municipal Airport referred to as "AED North" (1,621 acres) and the other application for the Granite Dells area referred to as "AED South" (866 acres). Here are 8 things you need to know about these Annexation Applications. 

1) Storm Ranch has been spared…for now 100+ acres of the Storm Ranch are no longer included in AED’s development proposal for their “South Annexation” development project which encompasses 500 acres of the Granite Dells. The public’s voices have been heard loud and clear by the owners of the historic Storm Ranch, who are not interested in selling out to a development that the public clearly does not support. 

2) Total acres of proposed open space does not meet City minimum requirements From the get-go, AED comes up short in meeting the minimum requirement for dedicated open space. According to AED’s own maps and figures, their proposed annexation area of 2,487 acres includes 604 acres of open space. This calculates out to 24.2% of their total acreage, just short of the City Land Development Code required minimum of 25% dedicated open space. AED’s CEO, Jason Gisi, recently claimed in a The Daily Courier Talk of the Town that AED would include “generous open space” that would “exceed the City code requirement of 25 percent by a wide margin.” It looks like AED still has some work to do on this detail. 

3) Nearly 600 dwelling units in Save the Dells’ priority open space conservation area AED wants to build more than 350 single family units--plus a 200-unit resort complex--within the majestic 500-acre portion of the Granite Dells that Save the Dells has advocated for protecting as public open space. This includes more than 8 miles of new roads that cross the Peavine Trail three times and the Iron King Trail twice. At this point in the application process, we aren't certain whether some or all of the proposals for trail crossings are for under- or overpasses, or the more dangerous at-grade type crossings. 

4) A 200 room resort complex consumes the Iron King Trail and destroys 50 acres of iconic Dells The 200-unit resort complex--including 42 duplexes--requires two miles of new roads, parking lots, facilities, and infrastructure that would line both sides of the Iron King Trail and threaten nesting golden eagles, which live on the nearby cliffs. 

5) Peavine and Iron King Trails consumed by sprawl Fully two-thirds of the length of the Peavine and Iron King Trails through AED’s proposed development would be lined with homes, roads, drainage ditches, and cul-de-sacs, permanently destroying the trails aesthetic beauty--and the sense of wonder inspired by using them.

6) No-Name Creek is paved over; dare we call it “No-More Creek”? Despite being a highly flood-prone seasonal creek and the most important 150 acres of wildlife habitat in the project area, AED has proposed more than 3 miles of new roads serving over 200 new homes in the beautiful wooded valley where No-Name Creek flows. Where will the wildlife go? 

7) North Annexation adds 1,500 manufactured homes to Prescott’s fringe AED’s North Annexation consists of 1,500 manufactured home units on 670 acres of rolling grassland, as well as 100 acres of industrial and municipal development and nearly 40 acres of RV Storage. Of the 1,621 total acres, 338 are dedicated to open space, consisting of predominantly unbuildable flood prone Granite Creek Wash. 

8) 513 acres devoted to Airport expansion with no details provided Despite consisting of almost one-third of the North Annexation, the application does not specify the type of use planned for these 513 acres. As Save the Dells has previously stated, trading this land for the benefits of annexation is a bad deal for the taxpayer as Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funds typically cover 95% of the cost of the City purchasing it. 

Save the Dells’ goal is to permanently preserve the remaining undeveloped portions of the Granite Dells as part of a publicly accessible Granite Dells Regional Park. Our initial objective is to achieve a fair annexation deal with Arizona Eco Development that benefits the public, where AED would dedicate just 500 acres of its 15,000+ acres of land as public open space, thereby completely protecting the iconic Point of Rocks, the Peavine and Iron King Trails, an ecologically important riparian area, and the peaks and valleys of our beloved Dells, all of which would interconnect with existing City open space. 

AED owns over 15,000 acres in our area and wants to annex about 2,500 acres into the City. The 500 acres we are advocating for dedication as public parkland is a mere 3% of their total landholdings. The City currently requires developers to dedicate 25% of their development as open space, so AED would be required to dedicate a minimum of approximately 625 open space acres. We are asking that 500 of the 625 acres be where the public wants it, not where it is most convenient for the developer! 

Since annexation into the City would provide the developer with benefits like City water, sewer, roads, and other amenities, annexation will increase the developer’s property value by more than $100 million overnight, even after their dedication of the 500 acres as part of a Dells park. 

More information and a full version of our position paper on this subject can be found online at www.savethedells.org