The Flagstaff City Council took the first step to buying two acres of vacant land near Siler Homes to create affordable housing at its meeting Tuesday night.
The parcel, located at Lockett Road and Fanning Drive, will cost the city $550,000 plus closing costs and an additional $5,500 to $7,500 in fees, according to city documentation about the purchase.
It is zoned high density residential, and could accommodate between 21 and 46 units, city Real Estate Manager Charity Lee told the council.
The property has been used for storing materials related to road construction on Lockett Road and Fanning Drive, but has zoning and topography that would be agreeable to building residential units in the “near term,” City Manager Josh Copley said.
Former city councilman Rick Lopez advised that councilmembers and the city seek public input from those living in the area before moving ahead with the purchase, to potentially avoid the problems the city had with a three-acre parcel on Schultz Pass and Fort Valley roads. That parcel was purchased in 2005 with the intention of developing it for affordable housing, but sat vacant until 2017. When the council tried to move forward to develop it, they were met with extensive public opposition and eventually did not develop the parcel.
“Council a few years ago purchased a property thinking it was a great thing,” Lopez said. “It turned into a nightmare that you all had to go through.”
Lopez suggested the city hold a neighborhood meeting between the first and second reading of the purchase ordinance. The first reading was approved Tuesday, the second is scheduled for February 20.
Lee and other city officials said the city would be able to host a public meeting about the purchase and the intent to use it for affordable housing, but said the meeting might take place after the second reading of the ordinance, because there would not be enough time to do the usual amount of public outreach.
“The major issue with Schultz Pass is it sat there,” Mayor Coral Evans said. “If we purchase the property for affordable housing, we need to put affordable housing there as soon as possible.”
In the meantime, Evans suggested the city put a sign on the parcel telling passersby that the parcel will be a future site of affordable housing. The meeting, she said, should be geared toward informing residents the parcel will be used for housing purposes and seeing what residents’ concerns are, not asking for input on what neighbors would like to see on the site.
Management Services Director Rick Tadder told the council the purchase of the land uses up the last available funds the housing division has for land acquisition. Then housing department brought the parcel to the budget team’s attention in November and wanted to act quickly so they would not lose the opportunity to buy the property, Tadder said.