Sedona AZ (November 7, 2014) – The final Regular City Council Meeting, prior to the seating of the newly elected, is on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, where a last ditch effort to purchase creek side property will again be discussed.
The three properties for consideration at this time as taken from the Council Agenda are:
Chavez Crossing – Current USFS Campground Site
Chavez Crossing is located off State Highway 179 at Oak Creek Cliffs Drive, across from the Poco Diablo Resort. It is owned by the USFS and currently operated as a reservation-only overnight campground, not open to daytime recreation or for general public use. The total parcel is approximately 37 acres and is bisected by Highway 179.
The western portion of the site (west of Highway 179) is approximately 27 acres and the other approximately 10 acres – of the same parcel located across Highway 179 (east of 179) – consists of a very steep hillside, unusable for any type of development. Of the 27 acres on the west side, approximately six of those make up the current campground site.
To the south, the parcel quickly turns into a steep hill, rendering the top of the site inaccessible from the campground below. At the top of that hill there is a flat several acres accessible off Highway 179, and a small unofficial parking lot trail head used by hikers who traverse the steep hill to a portion of the creek south of the campground.
Although this is all one large parcel of USFS land, the City has only discussed use of the campground portion of the site. There have not been discussions regarding acquiring the entire parcel, although that may be further studied should the USFS support it. The smaller campground portion of the site has direct creek access and already has basic infrastructure in place, including a small parking area, vault restrooms, picnic tables, drinking water and cooking grills.
In addition to the attractive location of the site just off a major highway, and the fact that it is partially developed and has relatively few development challenges, staff has also identified this site as being suitable for possible conversion to a Day Use public park, due to the fact that the campsites within this property are located within a flood way.
USFS staff is willing to continue to work with the City to evaluate this site and the possibility of converting its use to create a creek side public park and to consider the City’s acquisition and operation of that park. It has recommended, that should the City of Sedona wish to pursue this property, we begin by conducting public scoping in 2015.
Should the City Council wish to continue to pursue this property, the City would need to fund the scoping at a cost of $15,000. The USFS does not have these funds available.
Schnebly Hill Road Community Focus Area
Several creek side properties exist along Schnebly Hill Road just north of the Schnebly Hill roundabout. Most of the ten or so key properties in this area are residential, with the exception of an RV Park located at the northernmost portion. There are several undeveloped parcels many of which are entirely or almost entirely in the flood way. The majority of the area is flat with good access off Schnebly Hill Road.
This entire area has not met its full development potential and, as such, has been identified in the Sedona Community Plan as a Community Focus Area (CFA). As a result of that designation, the City and the neighborhood anticipate conducting specific area planning activities to identify and plan for the most suitable land uses in anticipation of and prior to future development.
While there are no current sellers of property who have been identified, as generally outlined in the community plan, the neighbors have worked together to develop preliminary concepts for re-development that will be the basis for CFA planning. These preliminary plans include the possible addition of small retail, bed and breakfast type lodging, age-in-place housing and or other potential non-residential uses. These changes will require some re-zoning. Because the neighborhood/property owners are so far along with their planning efforts, staff is recommending this be the next active CFA planning area, which could begin as soon as the beginning of 2015.
As the specific area planning is done and eventually the property owners seek new zoning, it is possible that creek-side open space/park space and or a “creek-walk” pathway may be able to be programmed into that focus area planning and, ultimately, acquired through a combination of property purchase by the City and or acquisition of property through the community benefit contributions which must be met when obtaining city entitlements such as zoning.
The neighborhood/property owners have made it clear through discussions with staff that they favor pedestrian only access, should some type of creek-walk or small creek-side park be developed here. The neighbors are very unlikely to support anything that is developed as a large park or a destination that requires vehicular access.
The Preserve at Oak Creek – Uptown
The Preserve at Oak Creek, located at SR 89A and Art Barn Road totals 21.5 acres and is made up of 13 separate parcels. There are several small vacant mobile homes and an office building with a graded parking area associated with the previous Hawkeye trailer park. There is also a large single family home currently occupied by the property caretaker. The property has approximately 2,130 feet of creek frontage. The property is undeveloped but had prior approvals for a large mixed use development that never materialized. That zoning has since expired. For any development to occur on the property a rezoning application would need to be approved or the property reverted back to its original zoning classification through legislative action by the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council
The latest unofficial purchase price estimate for this property was $8.5 million but the property is not currently listed for sale. Staff has not inquired further regarding owner interest in selling. This property is included in this report not for consideration for purchase, but due to its potential for working with a future developer to incorporate a creek park or other creek access into a future development, as part of the required rezoning process. At 21.5 acres, the property is larger than is necessary for a creek access park, and given its high price tag, waiting and partnering with a future developer may make more sense than an attempted City acquisition and seeking of a private partner to develop the unneeded portion.
This property is located at the upper end of Uptown, in one of the highest if not the highest traffic area in the City particularly on busy weekends. Traffic in this location can back up for many miles in each direction and for the City to develop a recreational amenity that will put additional vehicles in this location, traveling in and out of the property, would exacerbate an already difficult situation for our merchants, residents and guests. Staff would recommend pursuing the other two options prior to actively pursuing this property for a creek park.
Financial Ability to Purchase Property
Currently, the City has approximately $1,600,000 in Park Development Impact Fees available for land acquisition that could be used to acquire any of the above-listed parcels. Any purchases in excess of the available impact fees would require utilization of the City’s reserves or re-prioritization of projects already included in the CIP and funded through reserves, such as streets and drainage improvements.
The City does have additional debt capacity to finance land acquisitions, however, it would be necessary to identify a revenue stream in the budget to retire the additional debt service. Interest rates are still very favorable for borrowing.