Ruskin also is seeking an extra three years to submit a final site plan for the largest wind farm in Arizona. He goes before the planning commission at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Audience members at Monday's meeting also expressed concerns about the wind farm's huge lighted towers, the new power lines and roads that would have to cross the national forest, and the impacts on local roads of hauling in the huge towers. Those impacts weren't addressed in previous county stipulations.
PRESCOTT – The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors approved a proposal Monday for 12,500 homes and 96 acres of commercial development on the remote 50,100-acre Yavapai Ranch about 35 miles north of Prescott.
Like the county planning commission, the supervisors narrowly split their vote with a 2-1 approval. Supervisor Chip Davis of the Verde Valley voted against it.
“This is the biggest county giveaway I’ve ever seen,” Davis said. “If it doesn’t just jump out at you that this is crazy, I don’t know what to tell you.”
Twelve people in the packed meeting room spoke against the proposal, while one spoke for it and two people sent proxies to read letters of support during the 2.5-hour hearing.
Opponents cited negative impacts to prime pronghorn habitat, vague plans, lack of road improvements, lack of information about water impacts, loss of dark skies, lack of compatibility with the new Prescott National Forest draft management plan, and loss of access to 50,000 acres of the Prescott Forest that will be locked into a checkerboard pattern by the development.
“The wildlife habitat…will be greatly deteriorated,” said audience member Bruce Lamb, long-time former recreation and lands staff officer on the Prescott Forest. “It would sure be a loss of a lot of national forest.”
Supporters said extra building permit fees would help cover road improvements.
And the ranch could end up with twice as many homes through lot splits under the current two-acre zoning, stated supporters including Supervisor Carol Springer, who said she can’t understand the opposition.
Supervisor Tom Thurman said he was voting yes because he doesn’t like the alternative: lot splits.
“I don’t see what the difference is from lot splits,” Davis countered.
Thurman did add five requirements to the huge development proposal before voting in favor, however.
“It’s like approving a town out in the middle of nowhere,” Thurman said. “That’s why I have concerns.”
Prescott Forest Supervisor Betty Mathews reiterated her previous written requests for improvements to the primitive roads, but the Yavapai Ranch got its request for an exemption from all county road standards. The supervisors added one stipulation that internal roads accessing at least 10 homes must have chemical dust suppressant applied and maintained.
Other new stipulations say Yavapai Ranch fencing must be pronghorn friendly, and homes on lots that are four acres or smaller must have gray water systems if they want to water outdoor landscaping.
One stipulation says the owners can’t prohibit public access to public lands, since development of the homes would landlock 50,000 acres of the Prescott National Forest into a checkerboard pattern of 640-acre sections.
And ranch owner Fred Ruskin must work with Prescott Forest, Arizona Game and Fish Department and county officials to create a recreation access plan by the time development occurs.
Thurman originally said he wanted to give more authority to future boards to deny the ranch’s commercial development, but he didn’t seek any stipulations about that.
Ruskin will have seven years to come in with a more detailed plat application for the first phase of development. The standard time is four years.
Ruskin also is seeking an extra three years to submit a final site plan for the largest wind farm in Arizona. He goes before the planning commission at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Audience members at Monday’s meeting also expressed concerns about the wind farm’s huge lighted towers, the new power lines and roads that would have to cross the national forest, and the impacts on local roads of hauling in the huge towers. Those impacts weren’t addressed in previous county stipulations.
Davis wondered out loud why requests from other government agencies weren’t in the housing development stipulations forwarded by the staff and planning commission.
Expressing concerns about emergency and homeowner access on the primitive roads during poor weather, Davis also wondered when the county has ever approved commercial development accessed by dirt roads.
“We never had an application like this before,” senior planner Tammy DeWitt responded.
Davis accused Ruskin of using the county to just increase the value of his property.
“I think we’re being used as pawns in the land trade process,” he added.
After the U.S. Forest Service refused to let him control the land appraisal process, Ruskin recently cancelled a land exchange that would have consolidated his lands and the Prescott National Forest to larger blocks of land, after gaining congressional approval.
“This checkerboarding in my opinion is disgusting,” Thurman said, especially next to a wilderness area. “I think it’s a travesty to the public.”
He asked Ruskin and the Forest Service to consider a meeting with a third-party appraiser.
“It has been withdrawn by the regional forester,” Ruskin attorney Michael Withey replied.
Forest Supervisor Mathews noted that Ruskin originally withdrew from the land exchange, not the Forest Service.
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