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Canyon del Rio development site map

The site map for the Canyon del Rio development near the intersection of Butler Avenue and Fourth Street.

After the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the project last month, Flagstaff City Council moved forward with the rezoning of a 270-acre piece of property at the intersection of Butler Avenue and Fourth Street.

But Council also outlined some requirements the developer must agree to before it is expected to make the final call on June 4.

The development, called Canyon Del Rio, will include an estimated 1,100 units as both single-family homes and apartment buildings and commercial areas along a future extension of Fourth Street.

The limits to the development Council suggested were in part meant to appease the concerns of nearby residents, about 40 of whom attended the meeting.

Council was most concerned about the height of the apartment buildings and if they would be built to accommodate students, as well how the developer could help alleviate the affordable housing issue.

The zoning change would allow the apartments to be as tall as 65 feet and would be situated on what is already a 30-foot-tall hill according to neighboring residents, some of whom are worried the buildings will block their sight lines.

Brian Rhoton, an owner of Capstone Homes, which has been working on the project for some time, said he doesn’t think the apartment buildings would be more than three stories, or about 42 feet, in height.

Council wondered if a stipulation could be outlined in the development agreement saying despite the zoning allowing for it, the buildings would be no taller than three stories.

Rhoton said he would be open to that but did worry that such a restriction may not allow them to meet the city's minimum requirements for density without the use of at least some four-story buildings.

As such, Rhoton suggested that the development agreement limit those buildings to three stories but also outline a process allowing the developers to come back to the council asking for taller buildings if they were not able to meet the requirements.

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Neighbors were also concerned the zoning change would mean the construction of student housing.

Rhoton said because the development is over two miles from the university, he doesn’t expect apartments to be designed specifically for students. That is not to say students may not live in the apartments, but the units built likely won’t be four-bedroom, four-bathroom like other student-focused developments have been.

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Councilmember Austin Aslan said he did not feel he could vote in favor of the development if there were not some assurances that the buildings would not be student-focused. City staff said this could also be a stipulation in the development agreement, preventing units from being rented by the room, a common practice in student projects.

When it comes to affordable housing, Rhoton said one section of Canyon Del Rio is set aside for that purpose, providing 80 units. It is likely, however, the affordable housing section of the development won’t be built for 5 to 10 years.

Mayor Coral Evans said she didn’t want to have to wait that long to receive the affordable housing benefits the development is offering, and wondered if Rhoton and the owners of the property would be open to providing the city a cash payment for affordable housing as opposed to the 80 units.

“We’ve been talking about this project since 1984; we could be talking about this 40 years from now. So I think waiting on this affordable housing is an issue,” Evans said.

That change would also mean the section of the property that would have been the 80 affordable housing units would be additional market rate homes.

Rhoton said he and his investors could be amenable to that idea, although because of the upfront costs they are already seeing, they may need to spread such a payment out over the course of a few years.

Rhoton also told the council even with the payment, they could keep their own internal affordable housing program for other developers who may build within Canyon Del Rio. Those internal incentives encourage developers who build within the property to set 5% of the units as affordable housing.

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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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