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BEFORE THE SMOKE

Flagstaff City Council moved forward with a discussion on a three-acre piece of city property near Schultz Pass, but only after the deadline for putting a citizen initiative on the ballot has passed.

If the group Save Schultz Meadow, which is gathering signatures to put a question asking Flagstaff to make the land open space, doesn’t make the deadline to put a question on the ballot, the council will again discuss building affordable housing on the property.

If the group does get the more than 4,000 signatures needed, council suggested they would wait for a decision by the electorate, but would discuss the possibility of raising $500,000 to put into the affordable housing fund.

That’s because the city has already invested that amount of money from the affordable housing fund into the property, and Mayor Coral Evans said she did not believe losing that investment if the land becomes open space would be fiscally responsible.

Evans said she did not know how the city might be able to get that money back, but suggested perhaps the city could pass a bond or tax of some kind, adding that she had hoped the citizen initiative might have addressed the issue.

Other councilmembers raised concerns about that possibility as it would, in essence, mean taxpayers spending a million dollars on three acres of property, but agreed that the discussion was one they could have if the time came.

Bob White, who is with the group Save Schultz Meadow, said he did not attend the meeting but watched portions of the live stream, adding he was not particularly surprised by the council's decision. He said he found the mayor’s suggestion odd.

“I’m not sure why we would go out and have the taxpayers pay themselves back,” White said.

White said the question of whether the land should be open space is unrelated to issues of affordable housing and they oppose all development on the site.

The land has long been marked as going toward affordable housing.

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Council also heard from Charity Lee, real estate manager for the city of Flagstaff, on other properties the city might look at for affordable housing.

Among these parcels is a piece of land that is more than 10 acres, and bordered by the Museum of Northern Arizona and Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy. Another parcel, currently undeveloped and almost five acres in size, is located between a multi-use field and houses along North Aztec Street.

Other parcels were located at the intersection of South O’Leary Street and South Lone Tree Road, and a 4.5-acre undeveloped triangle of land along East Cedar Avenue across from the Cedar Safeway shopping center.

Many of these pieces of land are not designated as being for affordable housing, instead marked for parks or other uses, but the council could change that. Some of the sections of land mentioned were also bought using specific city funds, and those funds may need to be paid back if the council were to move forward with putting housing on that land.

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Adrian Skabelund can be reached at the office at askabelund@azdailysun.com, by phone at (928) 556-2261 or on Twitter @AdrianSkabelund.

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Reporter - Government, Development

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