January 31, 2019
Attn: Planning Dept – Tammy Dewitt Re: El Rojo Grande Ranch
Yavapai County Development Services 10 South 6th St.
Cottonwood, AZ 86326
Dear Mrs. Dewitt,
Please accept this letter on behalf of the 60,000+ members and 1.4 million activist- supporters of the Center for Biological Diversity (“The Center”), a Tucson-based wildlife, environment, public lands, and public health advocacy organization. At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive. El Rojo Grande is just such a place.
I am the southwest advocate for the Center, and I live in Prescott. In the past I lived in Flagstaff, where I became acquainted with El Rojo Grande (“The Ranch”) while studying ecological restoration at Northern Arizona University. I was part of a research team that the Ranch hired in 2005 to document the flora, fauna, and ecology of the property. I spent several days onsite photographing the area and documenting the field work of my colleagues. It seemed that the management direction then was aimed towards an appreciation of the diversity of wildlife and plants there and using the ranch as a venue for educating the public on that wild beauty. One great memory is climbing into the colorful rocky spires rising above Dry Creek and finding an owl nesting in the weathered coves; a once in a lifetime experience.
For years since, I have passed the property in my personal and work travels, and always appreciated that the site has remained in its current state, knowing well the degree to which the surrounding area is developing, including the neighboring property which sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise spectacularly scenic natural area. So it came as a great surprise to learn recently about the proposed RV/Manufactured Home development which requires county re-zoning. This decision by the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors (“The Board”) should not be taken lightly and knowing as I do two of the Supervisors (I have worked with Mr. Thurman on regional trail development issues and discussed Save the Dells with Mr. Brown) I am optimistic that the decision will acknowledge the tremendous outpouring of public concern and resistance to the idea of developing this site in a manner that is so inconsistent with the character of the area.
Aside from the numerous concerns for scenery, traffic, tasteful development, and other socio-cultural concerns, the Ranch provides a crucial wildlife habitat linkage between public lands on the Mogollon Rim and the Verde River by way of Dry Creek and Oak Creek. This is the Center’s primary concern. As Sedona is nearing full build-out of private lands, and the Rio Santa Fe and other development in Cornville continues to push east, wildlife passage is being squeezed from both sides. It’s crucial that the Board recognizes that choking a section of Dry Creek with high density homes and consequent vehicles, maintenance, noise, lights, runoff and pollution will only further isolate wildlife from travelling along this corridor and accessing the Lower Oak Creek Important Bird Area and other critical Verde River habitats.
As it stands today, the current development on the Ranch is a minor impediment to wildlife movement, so I ask that the Board not choose in favor of furthering this fragmentation of one of the last riparian movement corridors in the west Sedona landscape. Numerous compatible uses for the property exist that do not require expanding the developed area beyond the current ranch footprint. These include: an environmental education center, therapeutic horse riding facility, a County park, or continued use as a residence. All of these provide economic activity without compromising the natural assets which define our regions splendor.
As Yavapai County continues to urbanize, the Board will increasingly face tough land use decisions. Certainly, the Board is familiar with the call for a Regional Park by Save the Dells (for clarity sake, Save the Dells is not affiliated with the Center for Biological Diversity). El Rojo Grande is similar in that it is a property, albeit much smaller than the Granite Dells, that demands close scrutiny as land use decisions are made — especially when they affect wildlife that rely on interconnected riparian habitats on our public lands. In fifty years, when most of our private lands are developed, future planners will remember bold leadership that chose to make tough decisions to save places that the public held especially dear, and capitalize on public concern to achieve sensible objectives that minimize harm to our natural environment. Today, this Board faces those decisions, and I hope that this causes the County to consider what role it has in natural areas conservation moving into a decidedly more urban future.
I appreciate the opportunity to express the Center’s perspectives on this decision, and would gladly discuss potential partnerships in alternative land uses for this property at your discretion.
Joe Trudeau, Southwest Advocate Center for Biological Diversity
PO Box 1013
Prescott, AZ 86302
(603) 562-6226 email@example.com
Jan. 31, 2019
TO: Tammy Dewitt, Yavapai Co. Planning Dept.
I join the many others who object to the proposed development of 600 manufactured homes and 50 RV sites on the former El Rojo Grande property. My husband and I have lived and worked in Sedona for 42 years and raised a family; my grandparents retired to Sedona in 1956 when the population was 500.
Please include this letter in the packet for the Board of Supervisors’ meeting of Feb. 20th. My objections to the proposed project follow.
1). The density of development is too high and would create the equivalent of a small village immediately outside the City of Sedona’s western corporate limits.
2). The construction of 600 manufactured homes stacked one upon the other with the additional 50 behemoth RVs in no way meets the needs of the Verde Valley, Sedona or Cottonwood and would result in a tragic scar on the land.
3). There would be a negative impact on the immediately adjacent small residential areas that now enjoy a rural lifestyle.
4). The average daily traffic using established planning standards at full buildout would be 4300 ADT.
5). The total population at buildout and with all RV spaces rented would be approximately 1300 people. That kind of impact in that location is not sustainable from the perspective of traffic impact and need for services.
6). Fire and emergency medical services would need to be extended and provided by Sedona Fire Department. SFD would need to expand its personnel, resources and perhaps add a fire station.
7). The business model takes advantage of people by escalating monthly rental rates every year and controlling what homes can be purchased and installed.
8). The estimated combined rental rate + collateral mortgage on the housing unit are not affordable by the proposed 30% workforce that it is claimed would reside there.
9). The regional viewpoint shared by Verde Valley planners and their respective jurisdictions is to maintain 89A as a scenic corridor, not for intense development, and not create sprawl between Cottonwood and Sedona.
10). This 170 acre site is especially beautiful and has a history of rural use, horseback riding and lessons, and small events. (My own daughter took western riding lessons at El Rojo more than 20 years ago).
The property deserves to be developed in the future with the greatest of care for its aesthetic values, natural vegetation, sweeping views, and potential to capitalize on its sense of place. That may mean that it remain as a preserve, be developed at very low residential density, or capture some aspect of the western lifestyle that will be worthy of its beauty and location in the Verde Valley. Such a decision would benefit from collaborative research, widespread community involvement, and the time to envision the very best use for the property.
Therefore, for all the reasons stated above, a rezoning from low density residential to the proposed intensity and use as a planned area development cannot be justified. This is simply the wrong project in the wrong location.
I urge the Board of Supervisors to uphold the unanimous recommendation of denial by the Yavapai Co. Planning and Zoning Commission when it considers the merits of this proposal on Feb. 20, 2019.
Awaiting permission from author for signage
20 Jan 2019
We live in Calgary Alberta Canada and Sedona. We had a very similar situation on the outskirts of Calgary that turned out very well for the province and city of Calgary. Glenbow Ranch was a private ranch along the Bow River with great historic as well as environmental significance. The ranch went up for sale in 2006. The province of Alberta ended up purchasing it in exchange for cash and a very significant charitable tax receipt. The Ranch became a Provincial Park, protected from development, and now has hiking trails, a bike path, a visitors and education center and large portions of undeveloped land. The open lands are still used for cattle grazing (it’s historical use) and this activity was woven into the educational component of the ranch. The city of Calgary is working on connection the ranch to the city via our bike path system. A very big win for everyone involved.
Could the city of Sedona or State of Arizona purchase the land and do something similar? At $14mm (or less with a charitable portion) this seems quite feasible. In the case of Glenbow Ranch the city paid only 40-50% of market value after the charitable tax receipt. Even if the town of Sedona had to pay for the ranch I would think that it would not entail a very large property tax increase. I can’t speak for others, but I would happily pay the extra to protect this special place.
I’ve included a Wikipedia link below and some notes from the website.
History Of Glenbow Ranch Alberta Canada: Plans to establish Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park began in 2006 when the children of Alberta rancher Neil Harvie sold 3,246 acres (1,314 ha) of land to the Government of Alberta for less than market value to conserve the land and protect it from development. Appraised at $67 million in 2005 and with an estimated value of $80 million in 2006, the land was sold to the province for $40 million and a $27 million charitable tax receipt. Under the deal, the Harvie family also established a $6 million foundation to promote and develop the park and Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park near Edmonton.. Glenbow Ranch was officially designated as a provincial park by an order in council on April 17, 2008. The designation involved an additional 51 acres (21 ha) of land for a total of 3,297 acres (1,334 ha). The park officially opened to visitors on August 9, 2011.
This is a good letter. The writer adds….The overall tone of opposition is based on “nature conservation” and environmental issues. I do not think this will sway politicians. I think we need to focus on wasting a precious asset on a sub-optimal development project. We need to harp on more jobs and tax revenue flowing from alternatives Incidentally – why does Sedona not annex the property and make it part of our town?
January 6, 2019 A letter from a Sedona Resident.
Ms. Tammy DeWitt Yavapai County Planning Department/Development Services 10 S. 6th St. Cottonwood, AZ 86326
Re: El Rojo Grande Ranch
Dear Ms. DeWitt and Members of the Planning Board,
I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed Planned Area Development (PAD) rezoning for El Rojo Grande Ranch as submitted to Yavapai County by Equity Lifestyles (ELS).
Your challenge is to find the balance between growth and preservation. I am opposed to a zoning change that will specifically benefit the corporate needs of the developer (ELS) at the expense of the surrounding community when there are more appropriate locations in the Verde Valley for a manufactured housing complex of this scale with less negative environmental and social impacts.
Additionally, and importantly, there are more suitable uses for El Rojo Grand Ranch than a high- density manufactured home park that will forever change the landscape of Dry Creek, US 89A, and the Verde Valley.
We can build a showcase housing community with passive solar architecture, energy-efficient and low water use building designs. It could be a walking community with shared parking lots for all cars and members encouraged to walk around the community. Shared greenhouses and a permaculture food forest would emphasize sustainable living as a community feature. Such a community would be synergistic with neighboring Sedona and would become a tourist destination — showcasing the best 21st century housing and living ideas in practice. I suspect Yavapai county tax revenue from such a community would easily exceed that of the proposed ELS plan.
Most importantly, such a community would generate significant jobs locally not only during its construction but to support its infrastructure in perpetuity. The ELS plan, featuring manufactured homes, basically exports these jobs out of Yavapai county & Arizona!
If the rezoning is allowed, the only winner will be the developer. Yavapai County will lose jobs and harvest lower tax revenue than would be produced by alternative development strategies. Immediate neighbors, Sedona residents, Verde Valley visitors, would all be negatively impacted. They would be left with the inevitable challenges and congestion created by this high density, environmentally damaging development.
Please say no to a change of zoning for El Rojo Grande Ranch.
Sincerely, A resident of Sedona
Yavapai Land Use and Planning Division: January 4, 2019
As a successful (now retired) business owner with more than 200 employees, I am very much in favor of thoughtful and sustainable development and business growth. In Lincoln, Nebraska, I served as a co-chair of a committee appointed by the Mayor several years ago to make recommendations as to how best to promote development and growth. I belonged to the Chamber of Commerce and sat on numerous task forces related to business growth. I continue to take leadership roles in healthcare governance, serving as the vice-chair of a healthcare system with five thousand employees. I also have a leadership position with a committee of the American Hospital Association. You can see I am not afraid of growth, business success and development.
In Sedona we have a special situation with respect to development in that we are entrusted with a magnificent natural resource and the infrastructure to attract and serve a great many tourists. We have a sacred duty to be extremely smart, forward-thinking and focused on the long-term in order to preserve both our natural resources and a high quality of life for both visitors and residents. Once these things are gone it’s nearly impossible to recover them.
The Ranch is an incredibly special piece of property with significant historic and environmental importance. The proposed use is simply not a good fit and it’s not of a compatible character or design for the property. It is neither consistent with Sedona’s best interests nor good regional planning. Additionally, it’s unsound environmentally, will worsen existing traffic problems and will degrade the beauty of an important corridor in the Red Rocks.
There aren’t many people here in Sedona who want this development. It won’t enhance Sedona or the area or its economy. It will simply be of financial benefit to the developers—who have not demonstrated sufficient sensitivity to Sedona, the Red Rocks or sustainable development. It’s not anti-business to pay attention to these things; it’s downright foolish not to do so.
January 2, 2019 Planning Department, Yavapai CountyI am writing to express my opposition to the proposed Planned Area Development (PAD) rezoning for El Rojo Grande Ranch as submitted to Yavapai County by Equity Lifestyles (ELS).
I am opposed to ELS’s request for rezoning of El Rojo Grande Ranch for the following reasons:
ELS is proposing to radically increase the housing density to eight times what the current zoning allows, attempting to cram as many units as possible in a small as space as possible. This is an inappropriate housing density for this area and contradictory to the goals of the Yavapai County Comprehensive Plan (YCCP) as adopted by the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors Sept. 17, 2012.
Dry Creek is a sensitive riparian corridor and part of the Oak Creek Watershed. As a downstream property owner in Echo Canyon, well owner, and water user from Oak Creek, I am extremely concerned about the ramifications from the proposed PAD by ELS. Run-off, erosion and associated steam flow debris into Dry Creek during monsoonal rains and other seasonal flood events will be greatly amplified by soil disturbance from the removal of trees and other soil anchors.
Existing natural water drainages will be distorted by excavation and grading activities, as well as the development of the infrastructures, paving, and placement of home pads. All of these activities from the development of the manufactured home park will negatively impact the Dry Creek drainage as well as the water quality of Oak Creek. Additionally, the stress to the aquifer by the added water requirements from the 600 plus homes will add to the already depleting ground water in Verde Valley.
The bio-diversity of El Rojo Grande Ranch is well documented: “Plants of Rojo Grande Ranch”, NAU Ecological Institute, “Birds of El Rojo Grande”, Kristen Pearson, 2014, “A Guide to Common Butterflies at El Rojo Grande Ranch”, Fields, Fuller and Huffman. To name a few. These publications highlight the natural beauty of this area as well as the uniqueness and importance of the desert bio-diversity to both native and migratory species. Again, to refer to the YCCP, a clearly stated goal is the “. . . discouragement of development in environmentally sensitive locations such as floodplains, view sheds and wildlife corridors.”
Traffic congestion in Sedona is currently a major concern. Commuter traffic between Sedona and Cottonwood along US89A will be adversely impacted by the addition of 600 plus housing units 3 miles from Sedona. Adding even more traffic to an already congested traffic corridor does not make sense. Additionally, as a designated Scenic Corridor, US 89A would be negatively impacted by the visual impact of a high-density manufactured home park.
Change is inevitable; Growth will occur in Verde Valley. The challenge is to find the balance between growth and preservation. I am not opposed to the manufactured housing industry. These serve a housing need for many who otherwise afford could not it. I am not opposed to Equity Lifestyles corporate mission to develop manufactured housing complexes. However, I am opposed to a zoning change that will specifically benefit financial corporate needs of ELS at the expense of the surrounding community (natural and man-made) when there are more appropriate locations in Verde Valley besides El Rojo Grande for a manufactured housing complex of this scale with less negative environmental and social impacts. There are more suitable uses for El Rojo Grande Ranch than a high-density manufactured home park that will forever change the landscape of Dry Creek, US 89 A, and Verde Valley.
As Planners for Yavapai County, you now have the opportunity to protect a fragile, unique desert environment to leave as your legacy for future generations or give ELS permission to proceed with their Planned Area Development and all the ramifications of the development. Changing the zoning for the financial benefit of Equity Lifestyles will be a large success for ELS and a large loss for Verde Valley.
I am voicing my opposition to the proposed zoning changes to El Rojo Grande Ranch by Equity Lifestyles and I am asking for your vote of no on this issue.
Thank you, TBD, name and address
A letter to the P & Z: 12/23/18. Dear Members of the Planning Board, Name with held on request.
I thought about that comment. So, are neighbors, community and the general good irrelevant? Is this not why a Planning Board exists, to maintain checks and balances and to enforce what is fair? Should one be able to recruit and store nuclear waste on his or her land simply because they own it? Should a company be able to assemble scores of homes onto a parcel much like sardines in a tin can whilst providing their “sardinized” occupants one escape exit? What if they don’t even own the land? Should they be given a pass to do this since they have deep pockets and there will be some degree of revenue generated for the county?
A zoning variance is an exception and it must make sense for a community and a county. It must provide more benefit than detriment. I would ask that you not allow deviation from the current zoning ordinances established for the El Rojo Grande parcel to allow for the proposed ELS development. The numerous nightmarish downsides inherent with this project do not justify granting such a favor. A better proposal will surely surface, one which will be embraced by the county.
Thank you for your consideration of this critical issue.
Sincerely, A resident of Sedona’s Sunset Hills Subdivision
Subject: Attn: Planning Board re: El Rojo GrandeDear Members of the Planning Board,After attending yesterdays Planning Board meeting, I would like to thank you for your patience, dedication and volunteerism.Upon listening to the various presentations, I have some comments and observations pertaining to the El Rojo Grande proposal. Here goes:1- Yavapi County’s comprehensive plan identifies the areas around and including the Rojo Grande parcel as “rural”. In such areas growth is anticipated to be “slow” and not exponential. Infrastructure should support such growth. The projected human and motor vehicle density for this small area will increase dramatically.2- Despite ELS claims that the majority of us seniors commandeer a golf cart as a second vehicle and, that we don’t drive during peak hours, that assertion is simply not true. There are actually very few golf carts roaming about Sedona Pines, Sedona Shadows and Sunset Hills. The reality is that this proposal will bring conservatively 1300 more motor vehicles into a small area. These 1300 additional vehicles will be exiting and entering Rt 89A via a small swath of pavement. The installation of a traffic light does not provide a solution for this high density growth. Disgruntled moans of commuters, visitors and locals will be heard from Cottonwood to Sedona. This is a clear example of an infrastructure not supporting such a development.3- You can’t have it both ways…. ELS asserts that: this development will provide affordable worker housing; that many in this community will be employed locally and that traffic will be minimally impacted. Additionally, as extolled by ELS, most of the occupants buy their own homes with cash ( over $100k). The average worker in Sedona does not have $100k to drop down on a home and then incur more than a $1000/month fee to put that house on a postage stamp piece of land which he or she does not own. I’m also thinking it will be very difficult for this workforce to commute via their golf carts during off hours.4- The area I live in, Sunset Hills is quiet and we treasure our dark sky. Neither will exist with the addition of so many homes. I was struck by the Pine Hill home discussion yesterday where a 30 foot barrier between homes was the zoning requirement. Why is it acceptable that we would consider a new development with the placement of homes 10 feet apart? Simply because that was the model for the Sedona Shadows parcel years ago does not make it acceptable today.5- ELS boasted of all the open land they are preserving. Let us be clear, ELS wants to squeeze another home into every build-able spot of that parcel. There are simply some areas they cannot put a home because of Dry Creek, rock features and topography. Additionally, ELS may consider all the existing structures as “open space” but, I have a hard time seeing them as “open space”. Those are simply areas where no more buildings are penciled to be placed.Thank you for your consideration!
A neighbor to the Ranch ( Name was included to the recipient)
THE HOUSING ISSUE – PRIOR TO THE DECEMBER 20TH MEETING, THIS EDITORIAL IS THE VOICE TO REMEMBER. THANK YOU TO RRN AND CHRISTOPHER FOX GRAHAM FOR THE RESEARCH. You must use this link to share below in green
Sierra Club, Sedona – Verde Valley Group Grand Canyon Chapter
2370 W SR 89A STE 11 – 217 SEDONA, AZ 86336
Ms. Tammy Dewitt, Yavapai County, Planning Department/Development Services, 10 South 6thStreet, Cottonwood, Arizona 86326
December 10, 2018
Re: El Rojo Grande Ranch Proposed Zoning Change
Dear Planning and Zoning Commission,
The Sierra Club is one of the oldest and most influential grassroots environmental organizations in the United States with over 3.5 million members. Our Mission is to explore, enjoy and protect the wild places of the Earth; to practice and promote the responsible use of the Earth’s ecosystems and resources; to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.
With over 600 members in the Verde Valley, the Sedona Verde Valley Group of the Grand Canyon Chapter has made it their priority to help preserve the natural beauty and viability of the watershed of Oak Creek and the Verde River, one of the last free-flowing rivers in Arizona, which provides crucial habitat for fish and wildlife and provides clean drinking water to over 2 million people in the greater Phoenix area. We also seek to curb real estate development that does not endeavor to put the protection of the Verde Valley natural environment first. The ELS project does not conform to the Yavapai County Comprehensive Plan 0f 2012 and the 2014 Vison Statement of Red Rock/Dry Creek Corridor guidelines which calls for preservation of scenic landscape and riparian zones. The open space and natural environment of the Verde Valley is what makes the Verde Valley unique to the state of Arizona. To allow unbridled development and overly-dense rezoning not only degrades and eventually destroys the Verde Valley ecosystem, that all of us enjoy, but, it also will impact the quality of life of all Verde Valley residents.
Our concerns, to name a few, are multiple:
- Depletion and contamination of the water aquifers.
- Considering that Dry Creek, a documented wildlife corridor, flows into the protected Unique Waterway of Oak Creek, there will be contamination by wastewater and runoff from roads & concrete mobile home pads. The protection of the Oak Creek waterway/corridor is paramount to the communities that lie downstream in the Verde Valley.
- Negative environmental impact on the US Forest Service land surrounding the project.
- The Forest Service intent for the 43.29 acre (Parcel #13-408-29-276-5) land exchange was not for commercial development.
- Devastation of the fragile riparian environment, wildlife habitat and native trees.
- Increased density means increased impact on the land. Adjacent developments did not get a zoning change but a Special Use Permit instead.
If, as Supervisor Garrison pointed out, that the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors do not have any rules or criteria that they have to follow, I would disagree. Considering the many hundreds of letters that have been received by the Planning Department opposing the rezoning, the adoption of the Yavapai County Comprehensive Plan and the negative environmental impact that the proposed ELS development will have on the El Rojo Grande Ranch and surrounding land, I would ask that the Yavapai Supervisors follow two self-evident Laws that any elected public official and Human Being needs to follow: The Will of the People and the Law of Nature.
The Sierra Club Sedona-Verde Valley Group opposes the rezoning of the El Rojo Grande Ranch to accommodate the ELS mobile Home Park and asks the Yavapai County Planning & Zoning Commission and Board of Supervisors to deny the ELS request for rezoning to a PAD designation.
Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,, Brian P. Myers, Chair, Sedona-Verde Valley Group, Grand Canyon Chapter, Sierra Club
Letter from Stephen R. Estes, Verde Valley Land Preservation
December 5, 2018
Ms. Tammi Dewitt, Yavapai County Planning Department. 10 South 6th Street, Cottonwood, AZ 86326. Re: El Rojo Grande Ranch
Dear Planning and Zoning Commissioners:
For over 15 years, Verde Valley Land Preservation has been a leader in preserving and enhancing natural open spaces in the Verde Valley. By caring for and preserving important open space areas, the entire spectrum of environmental stewardship is enhanced. We assert that quality of human life in the Verde Valley is inextricably bonded to the quality of the surroundings in which human life exists.
The proposed zoning change for the El Rojo Grande Ranch is antithetical to these values and in direct conflict with the quality of all life forms intersecting with this pristine 173 acre parcel.
Dozing, drilling, paving, building on and installing nearly 700 units of human habitation will forever and irreparably damage this important open space amenity, which is at present in critical and tender balance with humans, wildlife, and the Oak Creek-Verde River watershed.
Density alone dictates the denial of this zoning change. Approval based in the notion this project mimics nearby developments will serve to encourage such activity to occur time and time again, with the end result being the transformation of the Verde Valley from a rare haven of serene beauty to one of a primarily urban landscape.
Public safety is in particular jeopardy with the proposed development. Consider the example of Paradise, California, where urban interface with drought-impacted forested areas resulted in the Camp Fire spreading rapidly to a community ill-equipped with evacuation routes. The result was unprecedented human and property loss. A fire on the drought-impacted Coconino National Forest bordering this development on two sides will combine with severely inadequate evacuation routes for the thousands of residents in the neighborhood. The result would be an unthinkably deadly bottleneck of fleeing citizens and first responder resources.
The list of negatives far outstrips any positive outcome. These include the destruction of riparian areas, the negative effects on and from the surrounding national forest, and the inevitable human-caused pollution to an Arizona protected waterway.
Despite the Yavapai County General Plan being often interpreted as merely informative and visionary, we are reminded that the citizenry developed that plan and voted it into existence with this specific expectation:
“. . . discouragement of development in environmentally sensitive locations such as floodplains, view sheds and wildlife corridors.”
Approval of this zone change would be in direct conflict with the Yavapai County General Plan and therefore with the will of its citizens.
Verde Valley Land Preservation respectfully urges the Yavapai County Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Supervisors to vote “no” on this proposed zoning change.
Sincerely, Steven R. Estes, President
Verde Valley Land Preservation, P.O. Box 3356, Cottonwood, AZ 86326
December 6, 2018 Letter from Rob Adams Sedona Mayor 2008- 2014 .
Change is inevitable. We have a choice in the outcome of change
PROGNOSIS: IMMINENT HEART ATTACK
Imagine the Greater Sedona area as a giant body with the heart portion outlined by the Ranger Road, the “Y” and Schnebly Road roundabouts. Now imagine that the primary arteries of the heart are SR89a heading west, SR89a heading north and SR179 heading south. This area has been diagnosed with “congestive heart failure.” At many times during the day, at least one of these roundabouts is afflicted with major traffic congestion, either entering or leaving the Sedona area.
The “Sedona in Motion” Study has prescribed several “treatments” to mitigate the congestion. Arterial roadways, reduced marketing of Sedona at peak tourist times, transit expansion and additional parking opportunities are just a few of the “treatments” that have been prescribed. We all know that the “treatments” that have been recommended are not going to be a permanent cure. Traffic congestion is a complex problem, particularly in a small city that is surrounded by a spectacular national forest and attracts an increasing number of visitors every year. We are just delaying the imminent “heart attack.”
Exacerbating the congestion problem are the various “blood clots” that are accumulating in all three of the arteries. To the south in the Village of Oak Creek, the Element hotel project located on the factory outlet site will be adding approximately 125 rooms. Directly to the south, the Hilton Garden Inn project is proposing approximately 175 rooms. To the north, the area in Oak Creek Canyon is being overwhelmed by industrial scale tourism. To the west, the Marriott Courtyard has opened 121 rooms and an additional 90 rooms were recently approved for a Residence Inn project next door to the Courtyard.
Unquestionably, the most impactful threat is the ELS corporation’s proposal of a 650-space manufactured home park that would be located 2.5 miles west of Sedona on the former 177 acre El Rojo Grande Ranch site. This property is located adjacent to the Sedona Pines/Shadows neighborhood. The future traffic impacts to Sedona are mind-boggling. This development is projected to increase the population that will be utilizing Sedona services by approximately 13%!
So, what can we do? Obviously, there is no simple answer. We take one bite at a time, and the Sedona in Motion plan is a good start. We can also adamantly oppose some land trades/sales and developments that will have a detrimental impact on traffic congestion. In some cases, where zoning is already in place, developers have the right to build within the guidelines of the current zoning. In other cases, when a developer is seeking a zoning change that will increase density that will consequently make a significant contribution to traffic congestion, we can oppose the zone change.
Such is the case with the proposed El Rojo Grande development. Even though this property is not within the Sedona city limits, residents of Yavapai County have a voice in zoning and land development decisions. In my opinion, the proposed manufactured home development on the El Rojo Grande Ranch is a worst-case scenario for this pristine land, which is the western gateway to Sedona.
Shockingly, the County does not appear to take the traffic impacts of this development on the City of Sedona as part of the criteria that they consider when making a decision on granting a zone change! A county official has stated that the primary consideration for granting the zone change will be the support or opposition of the adjacent neighbors to the development.
This is your opportunity to get involved with preventing the “imminent heart attack” of traffic congestion. Go online and get educated about the issue at the ElRojoGrandeSedona.comwebsite. Use the information in the letters on the website to contact the County Planning and Zoning Commissioners and Supervisors and voice your opposition. Letters should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Show up at the meetings that are scheduled. Time is running out.
Rob Adams. Sedona Mayor 2008 – 2014
Change is inevitable. We have a choice in the outcome of change
Letter added from the Red Rock Rural Community regarding their work submitted to Yavapai County in December 2014, 4 years ago.
Oct. 23, 2018
Yavapai County Development Services Tammy DeWitt, Senior Planner. email@example.com
Re: planned Rojo Grande Ranch development
Dear Ms. DeWitt,
I am the president of the Red Rock Rural Community Association. In 2014 we conducted an extensive survey of the residents of the Loop Road, Dry Creek area and the residents of Sedona Shadows/Sunset Hills. We asked questions concerning their vision for future development in their neighborhoods.
We called the survey results our Vision Statement for the Red Rock/89A Corridor/Dry Creek area. This was submitted in December 2014 to Yavapai County as a supplement to the Yavapai Comprehensive Community Plan. You may read it in entirety here:http://www.rrrca.org/rural/images/VisionStatement2014.pdf
Our survey respondents showed specific concerns on increased traffic, loss of night sky and scenic beauty changes (page 8) when it comes to future development. Those surveyed prefer single family homes on lots over clustered single family homes with surrounding open space (page 12). There was strong opposition to multi- family development and timeshares. Bottom line: neighbors want to preserve the scenic beauty of the area and prefer small developments.
We are not anti-development, but the enormity of this proposed development of almost 700 homes at Rojo Grande is not what the majority of our neighbors would like to see.
Nanette Armstrong, President RRRCA
P.O. Box 3086 Sedona, AZ firstname.lastname@example.org rrrca.org
The mission of the Red Rock Rural Community is to maintain the rural lifestyle of the region and to protect the riparian area of Oak Creek, which the state has designated a unique and scenic waterway. We are advocates for responsible development that respects the water supply, the roadways and the scenic beauty of the area.
This is a letter I solicited about the engineering of traffic, water and sewer that Rojo Grande will have on the lands. Over the years, Tom has served in various contract capacities for the Colorado Department of Transportation on the Colorado Highway 82 corridor, including as public information officer for Glenwood’s Grand Avenue Paving Project in the mid-2000s and most recently the Grand Avenue Bridge Project. NPRI Sedona Impacts letter 12-6-18 Final
Jim Bishop & Karen Walker FOR VERDE NEWS.COM 12/4/18
Little by little, new gods, growth, convenience, and more growth assert themselves in the Verde Valley, and soon no sacrifice is unthinkable on their behalf. As for the Rojo Grande project should it go through what of the wild ones, the elk, the bear, the bobcat, not to mention the numerous bird species residing throughout this legendary landscape.
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise” stated Aldo Leopold, leading ecologist.
If this development succeeds, the wild creatures will move on, leaving only memories. So much more is at stake than just the future of Rojo Grande. This potential land sale to far distant Chicago developers represents the cross roads we are at with our values and the value of preservation of beautiful, wild places for future generations to come. What direction will the county choose?
James Bishop Jr and Karen Walker, Verde Valley citizens
December 4 , 2018 From a Fan – Enjoy this lovely thought
Thank you for making us aware of the issue surrounding this property and clearly outlining how we can get involved. I just moved to Sedona and the thought of this sacred land being destroyed and decimated makes me feel ill.
November 10, 2018 from Elaine Brown – an environmentalist
Here is a copy of my email: Sample what you like to help with your own letter. Anyone knowing people who might be interested in land preservation, please forward this letter and website.There has to be someone out there who would happily develop differently. Spread the word! Thanks.
Dear Tammy DeWitt: I am writing to oppose the Zone Change / Zoning Map Change request (from RCU-2A & R1L-70 to PAD)
On parcels408-29-001F, 001H, 001J & 276A . Here are several reasons that support my decision to oppose the zoning change that will enable the “scraping” of pristine land and destruction of wildlife habitat to cluster build a project that does not mesh with the area.
#1. The Geography: Coconino National Forest and within that the Red Rock Country, an ADOT designated Historic State Road (89a) and an ADOT designated Scenic Road(Dry Creek). Dry Creek Scenic Road is from MP 363.5 to MP 370.0 or Page Springs to the Dry Creek Road. Historic Highway 89a
Supervisors Thurman and Garrison share portions of the Dry Creek Scenic Road according to the District maps.
Dry Creek Scenic Road from MP 363.5 to MP 370.0
#2 Wildlife and environmental impact studies must be done before action.
Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. This supersedes just about everything.
Endangered Species Act of 1973
Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918
Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
This list names a few
Common Name, Scientific Name, Status
Arizona cliffrose Purshia subintegra ESA LE
Bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus ESA LT
California brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis californicus ESA LE
Chiricahua leopard Frog Rana chiricahuensis ESA LT
Colorado pikeminnow Ptychocheilus lucius ESA LE
Desert pupfish Cyprinodon macularius ESA LE
Gila chub Gila intermedia ESA LE
Gila topminnow Poeciliopsis occidentalis ESA LE
Mexican spotted owl Strix occidentalis lucida ESA LT
Razorback sucker Xyrauchen texanus ESA LE
Southwestern willow flycatcher Empidonax traillii extimus ESA LE
Spikedace Meda fulgida ESA LT
Headwater Chub Gila Nigra ESA C
Page springsnail Pyrgulopsis morrisoni ESA C
Yellow-billed cuckoo Coccyzus americanus ESA C
ESA=Endangered Species Act, LE=Listed Endangered, LT=Listed Threatened, PE=Proposed Endangered, C=Candidate.
#3 Historic trails and visual intrusion https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd490035.pdf
Check Historic Lime Kiln trail for example.
Please Yavapai County go back to the drawing board on this one. It will be worth it.
Become part of the reason why people chose to live here. I live here with likeminded people who value and coexist with nature, the environment and all that it includes. This includes the State and Federal Government. Thank you to the many neighbors who have cared and worked hard for all of us in the past so that we may continue the effort as present good stewards of the land.
There are many ways to combine nature with business opportunities.
25 November 2018
Attn: Planning Department – Tammy Dewitt
Re: El Rojo Grande Ranch
Yavapai County Development Services
10 South 6th St.
Cottonwood, AZ 86326
Dear Tammy Dewitt:
Now that we have taken the time to look into the plans for the rather monstrous development of El Rojo Grande Ranch, we would like to add our voices to the calls for NOT allowing rezoning of the property. Although we do not live adjacent to the property, we do reside in West Sedona, and it is evident to us that the impact of the conceived development is antithetical to just about every positive aspect of life in Red Rock Country.
We realize that the Sedona Council’s rejection of the planned expansion is not legally binding on Yavapai County, but it does send a huge signal of concern to county authorities. We have heard that some people are dismissing (a) traffic problems (saying that they are simply ADOT issues), (b) concerns about water (an extremely bizarre dismissal of reality), and (c) complications related to sewage (again, an amazing waving of hands, given the site-occupation data admitted by the developer). An onlooker might be tempted to wonder if some startling form of myopia had developed; or lack of concern was generated by distance from the problems; or — dare it be said — there was some brushing of problems under a rug when big money could be involved. As a geologist, I feel that off-handed dismissals of water and sewage issues are invitations to disaster in the near future. And claiming that traffic will not be a huge negative factor — with over one thousand people streaming in and out of 89A — is wishful thinking, a serious miscalculation, or purposeful misrepresentation.
The original architect of El Rojo Grande Ranch and a host of people familiar with the Red Rock area of Northern Arizona have raised other large-scale questions. Topics include key features that make the Sedona area alluring: scenery (even ADOT terms it a “Scenic Corridor”); natural fauna and flora in one of Arizona’s rare riparian zones; a variety of issues concerned with sustainability; and even questions of making it a viable area for ELS residents, with little attention paid to food and services. The developer’s inputs that we have seen do not even begin to respond to these real-world issues within Yavapai County. We hope that the Yavapai County Planning and Zoning Commission will recognize the potential pitfalls associated with ELS visions for the beautiful area of El Rojo Grande Ranch.
Another factor that many people in our part of Yavapai County see as problematical, albeit somewhat ‘delicate’ to state, is the nature of the invasion. The idea of planting 600 or so “double-wide homes,” plus 50 RV slips in a scenic high-desert area is an esthetic insult of major magnitude. Introducing that much traffic and the negative visual impact to the entry point of Sedona and “Red Rock Country” is quite hard to believe. And this is not a solution to low-income housing for local employees; rather it is likely designated for people in age bracket of 55+ years of age.
AND! Once this developmental nightmare is allowed to proceed, the negative impacts will be “forever”! Our fervent request, therefore, is for the Yavapai County Planning Department to disallow any rezoning that could lead to the destruction of one of Yavapai County’s existing treasures.
Sincerely, Dr. Kennard B. Bork
From: Max Licher Design Group Architects Sedona
November 27, 2018
Ms. Tammy Dewitt, Yavapai County, Planning DepartmentDevelopment Services, 10 S. 6th. Street, Cottonwood, AZ 86326
Re: El Rojo Grande Ranch Development Proposal
Dear Ms. Dewitt
I am writing as an architect who has been involved in Sedona area planning efforts over a number of decades. Most recently, I sat on the City of Sedona’s citizen planning committee for The Dells property to the west of town in this same general area. We were tasked with coming up with planning recommendations for the City property (acquired from USFS) on lands to the west of Sedona Shadows, as a significant portion of those 300 acres may no longer be needed for wastewater disposal once the City’s injection wells are fully implemented. During a year-long planning process, we considered many potential uses, and debated the significance and importance of this western gateway to Sedona and the Red Rocks area.
Scenic and environmental preservation were at the top of the guiding principles upon which we based our recommendations. Early on, we eliminated housing as a viable use for this property. This harkens back to earlier regional planning discussions in the Verde Valley where there was consensus that the Valley communities should not sprawl, and follow the typical pattern of suburban development divorced from viable dense pedestrian community centers, relying on the automobile for commuting.
Planning cannot be divorced from transportation implications, and it would not be responsible to place a dense residential development in a location this far from any commercial center. The same argument that we used in the Dells Land Use Group Report applies to the Rojo Grande property.
This is not to say that there are not viable uses for remote parcels; we have long noted the need for retreat centers, or special community/visitor facilities such as museums, arboretums, educational or research centers, or even performance venues that would be used sporadically and could take advantage of shuttle. But residential uses are not appropriate in these locations, except at an extremely low density.
One might argue that there is a need for affordable housing in the Sedona area, and it would seem like mobile homes might fit that bill. However, from a good planning perspective, density needs to be located in the hearts of town, not in the hinterlands. All affordable housing needs to be within walking or biking distance of commercial centers, where reliance on automobile use can be minimized. In addition, affordable housing needs to be provided most for working age people who are employed in the community. It does not appear that the current proposal would do this, on top of it being in the wrong location. Individual development proposals cannot be divorced from or considered separate from Regional Planning issues and longstanding community consensus. Even if Sedona Shadows and the Rojo Grande parcel were to be combined and re-envisioned, the resulting inholding would still not be large enough to form a viable self-contained community, and developed densely, would only contribute to sprawl and the erosion of the regional vision.
Zone changes absolutely must serve community interest; the developer’s bottom line is irrelevant to the process. If a developer can’t come up with a better use from the community perspective that makes money, then a development requiring re-zoning should not happen. I speak as an architect who has argued for zone changes in the past, and in all cases we chose to work for developers whose ideas were in line with the community planning visions for the City or County, and we had to demonstrate significant community benefit in order to justify any increased entitlement to the proposed properties. Otherwise, the property should retain the existing zoning. Tax revenue was never allowed to be the sole reason for such an increase.
I do not consider that having mobile homes on two of five sides of this property is any reason to say more mobiles would be appropriate on this piece. You could equally say that there is USFS open space on three sides, and it should all revert to open space. Obviously, it is private land, and this will not happen unless a benevolent preservationist buyer were to appear (not holding our breath). However, there is current zoning that has been acceptable from a community perspective, and so far, I see no good reason for even considering the current proposal. It should also be remembered that the community support for the original land trade that brought this parcel into the private sector from the USFS was predicated on a low-density ranching and equestrian land use, along with complete preservation of all visible highway corridor frontage as open space. It would be disingenuous to now “upzone” this parcel without equivalent support from the Sedona area community.
My firm did some planning work in the last few years for clients that wanted to do a mixed-use development including housing, commercial, and an educational center, and we recommended against their considering this particular parcel for such purposes. We couldn’t rationalize the density in this location, and told them that we did not think there would be a chance that the community would support such a zone change. In my opinion, the current mobile home proposal has so much greater of an impact that I am surprised that is has gotten as far as it has.
As we concluded in the Dells Planning Vision, there are a number of appropriate uses for remote parcels that are not strictly low-density residential, but they all have benefit from a larger regional planning perspective, and they respect the visual corridor at the western gateway to the scenic Red Rocks area. The original ranch development made sense from this perspective, and there may be others that do also, but this current proposal is not one of them. For all the above reasons, I urge you to recommend denial to this request for a zone change.
Sincerely, Max Licher
Design Group Architects, Box 1751 Sedona, AZ 86339
I visited Sedona with my family in late August and what we remember is the approach was built by excitement of trees and wide open land spaces after coming up the freeway from Phoenix airport and sitting in traffic after exiting. If it had been rows of commercial buildings and hotels and restaurants and mass residential developments of cheap housing, we wouldn’t have persevered and kept going.
We talked about turning around twice, once very seriously but then we saw the big Dome Rock. When we left (our timeshare was in the villages) we had the beautiful Bell Rock in our rearview mirror beckoning us back. You change that, you change what people like us remember. I overlooked your overpriced food, awful awful tourist shops, and liked the quiet beauty of the village nights and days to the hectic city.
Our jeep tour was wonderful memory. Our walk in the canyon was a wonderful memory but it was crowded and a local told us of a place in the village with water that’s a secret we won’t share. I’m writing a letter to keep those trailers out of Sedona. You have a nice mix of all incomes in west Sedona and don’t need a thousand more low income. Quality is more important than quantity!
A letter from Sedona EYE received from the Matt Sachs Family.
A letter from the Architect of El Rojo Grande, Douglas Fredrikson
November 18, 2018
Ms. Tammi Dewitt Yavapai County Planning Department/Development Services 10 S. 6th Street Cottonwood, Arizona 86326
Re: El Rojo Grande Ranch
Dear Ms. Dewitt:
As the original architect for El Rojo Grande Ranch, I would like to add a little perspective for consideration regarding the Rezoning application for the property. When we initially set out to design the Ranch there was a common goal and shared vision between the Owner and the County and Board of Supervisors…..tread lightly on the land and minimize visual disturbance. That along with normal concern for traffic, light pollution and water usage. I think the end result was a benchmark of how successful development can be when sensitivity is the hallmark of the process and result. El Rojo Grande Ranch has now stood over 25 years as a Landmark and icon of Red Rock Architecture and a fitting example minimal disruption to an already pristine natural environment.
I do not think much has changed these days; the concerns are still the same as they were 25 years ago. There should always be a sense of pride and ownership when acting as stewards for the land, especially one as unique and defining as this particular location. The Ranch serves in my opinion as the marker where development stops and the natural scenery takes over upon traveling the highway into Sedona. The value of Sedona is the natural setting so special in its makeup of the magnificent Red Rock formations and vast views, but it is also at the edges where we have disturbed to allow access to experience this magnificence. Along the edges you see and feel the unique landscape and minimalistic presence. It is not cluttered or distracting, but a calm base highlighting nature.
When I look at the proposed plan and knowing the land so well, I am not surprised that someone wants to develop it, we did with the Ranch. However, unlike our approach this proposed development and plan pay no attention to sensitivity regarding density, view preservation, water usage, massing and disturbance. This project does not sit gently on the land, it obliterates it. Mass grading to achieve building areas is excessive and destroys the very foundation of the natural beauty that is this land and a valuable asset in the county. Visual enhancement should be the goal of the county in preserving the jewel they manage, not visual pollution. Traffic, light, and noise levels will all increase and the real perception of the building type as transient or less quality than was expected or deserving.
El Rojo Grande Ranch and Yavapai County deserve a project that is sensitive and respectful of where they are and where they are going. Development is probably inevitable, but same rules should apply now as it did when we first built. It should set an example not create visual interruption and distraction. I do not feel it is an appropriate use for this land and I urge you to deny the approval.
Respectfully, Douglas Fredrikson Architects, Inc.
Douglas W. Fredrikson, AIA, NCARB President, 737 E. Bethany Home Boad, Suite D-123 Phoenix, Arizon 85014602.277.165 Office00 2.277.0 725 Fax, www.dfarchitects.com
Here is my first letter. KO Letter to Yavapai.
and here is my last letter. ERG K.Offield 1.4.19 letter to YC