Water conservation

Proposed 741-acre Cottonwood resort runs out of water

A developer is looking to build a resort-style community with large waterways and other entertainment amenities on a 741-acre plot in Cottonwood.

Cottonwood City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission heard a presentation of the proposed project in a special joint session on September 14, where they were invited to provide commentary and direction.

Bruce Barrett, a developer at Chromatic Resorts in Utah, examines an Arizona State Trust piece of land off State Route 260 near Camino Real, of which approximately 741 acres are within the city limits of Cottonwood .

“We are very interested in Sedona and Cottonwood,” Barrett said. “The area is beautiful, the Verde Valley tourism is exceptional, very charming, the historic downtown streets of Jerome and Cottonwood and others. What we think is that we have the ability to put something here that would be profitable for us, clearly, but also incredibly beneficial for the greater Verde Valley region. “

The proposal involves working with the Arizona State Land Department to divide the land into plots and auction them off over time. Instead of seeing the developed land as mere neighborhoods, Barrett would like to use the area to build a resort-style village of man-made water recreation areas and residences.

The 741 acres would contain approximately 3,700 units, of which one-third would be a resort, one-third would be primary residences, including homes, townhouses, and condos, and the other third would be second homes that could be used. used in the short term. rental accommodation or vacation homes. Barrett also said that, if approved, he intended to provide affordable housing for people with incomes between $ 60,000 and $ 170,000 as well as housing for employees.

All of the accommodations would back onto a footpath or the extensive canal-style waterways that Barrett intends to weave through the complex.

Other potential amenities include public parks and trails, public access water recreation and surf park, bike pumping trail, family entertainment center with movie theater, restaurants, retail stores and virtual reality and office experiences. And, if possible, it would like to include an Amphitheater, Top Golf or Big Shots Golf, a Culinary Institute and Desert Botanical Gardens.

He would also like to include intra-community shuttles and those providing trips to Cottonwood, Sedona, Jerome, Phoenix and the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Barrett plans to build the entire complex so that vehicles are not needed at all.

The whole project would cost around $ 2 billion and take between 10 and 20 years.

Barrett said he believed the project would compete with one of the best resorts in Sedona and have substantial benefits for the Cottonwood community by stimulating additional tourism, providing recreation and entertainment facilities for residents. , by providing essential accommodation as well as sales and temporary stays. tax revenue of the chamber.

“If we’re going to build a resort that says we’re not in Sedona but thinks we’re in a better place than Sedona that gives you more recreation, more amenities, more opportunities, and you can go to Sedona for a day or two while you’re here, that’s an economic message that makes sense, “he said.” We think we can be successful in this area, but to get that message across and the diffuse to market and make sense, this resort has to be better than any resort in Sedona …. But we don’t think it will work without something big like the waterway or the surf park.

Water is a central part of the resort project, and Barrett has made it known that if he wasn’t allowed to include the surf park and waterways, he wouldn’t be interested in construction at all.

“The problem for us is that we would love to be in this area, we would love to be on this property, but unless we were able to install these water features, we just wouldn’t,” a he declared.

Barrett said the water features are not designed to consume water and that the only water loss would come from evaporation and residential and commercial use.

He also expressed interest in purchasing water rights from Friends of the Verde River for evaporation and would like to either collect rainwater or use reclaimed water, which he said would be sufficient for water equipment.

“Overall, we are talking about making this development as water efficient as possible,” he said. “We don’t ignore the water issues and what’s going on, but people love water games. People in the community love the water games. Visitors love the water games. It seems that there is probably a way of life and an economic rationale for providing water features.

Several council members were unconvinced and expressed concerns about the project’s water use as well as doubts about the buy-in of their generally conservation-conscious constituents.

“We have water. It’s called the River Verde, ”said city councilor Debbie Wilden. “I think visually and mentally the heavy use of water, including evaporation, would be a horror for this community in more ways than one. I can’t imagine the public would want this.

Mayor Tim Elinski echoed his comments, expressing support for many of the amenities on offer and the addition of much-needed housing, but also fearing that the project would align with community values.

“There is so much about this project that I love and think this community needs. Of course, we all know we need housing, there is no doubt about that, ”he said. “We know that tourism is important to our economy, but really where I feel the friction with development is the use of water. I know you can prove time and time again that it’s not consumer, it’s definitely not as much as golf courses etc, but it seems to go against the culture of conservation that we have built here in the valley. “

Several council and commission members, however, fully supported the project, saying they were excited about the possibility of providing additional jobs, housing and tourism dollars that the city needs as long as they can reach a conservation deal. some water.

“We have quite a few service industries in this city, and we thrive on tourism, so that’s the bulk of our job base,” Planning and Zoning Commissioner Angela Romeo said. “I think this is the kind of project Cottonwood needs; we need more family activities… we need something that sets us apart from Sedona. And that’s the type of project I would be, as long as we had those kinds of water conservation techniques in place, I would absolutely support.

City Councilor Michael Mathews argued that because Barrett intends to prioritize water in his development, it would likely be better than any other alternative that will come as the land is likely to inevitably be developed for some other use. like neighborhoods.

“Think about the use of water that [neighbor­hoods] will do, ”he said. “I don’t see that [resort] densely populated with residences, so I think that with regard to the use of water, it is a compromise there…. I’m pretty proud of Cottonwood that you’re even considering bringing us something like this.

“Personally, I think it’s great,” he added. “This land is going to be used for something, and it probably won’t be a wilderness preserve in the future, so I think that’s good.”

The council also expressed a desire for Barrett to include additional low-income housing in his plans, which he said he would be prepared to do.

Overall, the board and commission gave Barrett their support to continue the project. After that, which will certainly be a long public process. If approved, Barrett will want to start by using local builders to build the surf park and residences.

To view a recording of the meeting, visit Verde Valley TV on YouTube. To ask questions or comment on the project, email Director of Tourism and Economic Development, Tricia Lewis, at [email protected]

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