Next to the putting green on the fifth hole of Continental Country Club's public course is a textbook example of infill development in Flagstaff.
The 1.8-acre lot has changed hands several times, in part because the only buildable land is along a narrow strip — not to mention the hazard posed by a really bad golfer's slice winding up in a living room.
Local builder Jeff Knorr saw something else when he first toured the property: an opportunity to build 11 luxury townhomes right next to the golf course, a project he calls the Tam O'Shanter Villas.
With 18 years of experience in building homes in northern Arizona, Knorr concedes the most difficult aspect of the project is a matter of geometry: physically fitting 11 units onto the narrow lots. He estimated the multistory homes will only be 25 feet wide when finished.
"The challenge is getting in everything you need within that 25 feet," Knorr said.
He spent slightly more than $1 million for the parcel in 2006 after it had passed through six different owners since 1993, including the NAU Foundation and Continental Country Club.
With the property came some preliminary concept designs from the last owner, but Knorr admits he has "fine-tuned" those designs to better fit his vision for Tam O'Shanter Villas.
With an estimated budget of about $4.7 million to build the townhomes, Knorr said he is taking a financial risk on building the three- to four-bedroom units.
"Lending on townhomes is more difficult than for single-family homes," he said. "Once you start building, you basically can't stop like you can with single-family homes."
By doing an infill development, Knorr said he has likely saved $40,000 in infrastructure costs, as the main sewer line is directly beneath a private road that divides his project.
But he said that although the utility costs are lower because existing lines are nearby, there are still costs in tapping the main lines as well as a buy-in cost to the city. The homes are priced between $389,000 and $469,000.
The costs of an infill project are relatively hard to calculate because each one is different. The city does not have special criteria for infill developments. It requires them to meet the same standards as projects built on undeveloped land, often called "green fields."
However, an infill project inside a built-out neighborhood like Continental is unlikely to require the builder to pay for parks, roads and other infrastructure already built as part of the original neighborhood. Other costs, such as tree protection, would be still be in place.
Although Knorr has a development agreement with the city and therefore would not pay impact fees (if passed by the city council), he notes this particular development was not part of a map the city recently released of areas that would be considered for infill incentives.
The city has suggested waiving impact fees for infill developments. But as Tam O'Shanter Villas in not on the map, it means the fees could add as much as $7,100 per home for Knorr.
City officials said the infill incentive map is incomplete, outdated and needs to be updated.
As a lone golfer walks down the fairway, Knorr nods and smiles.
Himself a golfer, Knorr mentions another amenity his tiny development will have: golf netting for the occasional rogue golf ball.
J. Ferguson can be reached at 556-2253 or email@example.com.