Flagstaff City Council and mayoral candidates have been given the chance to answer a weekly question in no more than 150 words. This week’s question is: Given the competing values of open space and housing affordability, what is your ideal future for the Schultz Pass Meadow parcel and how should that future be determined?
I have been against the development of the Schultz Pass Meadow parcel from the beginning and I believe the use of the parcel for housing of any sort is a mistake.
How is it logical to put housing on a parcel that has a valuable view shed, is on our Flagstaff city logo and has three large transmission gas lines that run down the middle of the parcel? I would like to see the residents of Flagstaff make the decision of what we should do with the property.
I do have a record of delivering housing that is attainable for all income levels for our residents. I ask for your vote, for I have the political will as Mayor to see through my vision of a redevelopment of city owned and managed housing in our community of Flagstaff to really make a difference.
The Save Schultz Meadow initiative has received over 4,500 signatures to place a proposition on the ballot to designate the parcel as open space. At this point, with the amount of interest in the piece of land, the future of the meadow should be determined by the voters. I will respect the will of the voters whatever they decide to do with the land. It should be out of the Council’s hands until the next election. In the meantime, the city council should focus on developing affordable housing projects on other parcels of city land.
Since I have been on Council, we have addressed Schultz Meadow several times. After receiving extensive public input to save the parcel, I and the Council majority voted against developing it, twice.
Schultz Meadow was part of a three-parcel affordable housing project. When it was taken out of the project, that cost us 26 housing units; however, we found another parcel where we could build 50 units.
Flagstaff citizens are on track with signatures to put Schultz Meadow on the ballot. I will wait for the 2022 vote, and respect the voters’ wish to designate it open space, or to develop it.
Incidentally, construction has started on the Starpoint project on Fort Valley Road. It will have 69 permanently affordable units (below-market rent).
In the last several years, the city has aptly acquired and designated significant open space. Open space and housing affordability are not necessarily competing values.
Public discussions about this three-acre parcel started in 2005 when the city council began the process of purchasing it. The regional plan was amended, rezoning for housing occurred, and $435,000 was expended to bring infrastructure to the site.
I value open space, and am proud that I began working 20 years ago to help protect thousands of acres of ecologically important lands in and around Flagstaff. Strong public policy requires weighing the costs, benefits, needs and opportunities for our community for every decision that comes before council. This parcel has had $575,000 in taxpayer money invested in it and is surrounded by 80 acres of privately owned land on which development will significantly alter the look and feel of this parcel.
After carefully weighing all of the factors, I don’t think we should miss an opportunity to fulfill a critical need for housing faced by working people in our community.
Let’s begin with some facts. In 2005 the Flagstaff City Council decided to incorporate the Shultz-Pass Meadow parcel into the Flagstaff city limits. This was accomplished by way of acquisition, costing us $140,000. In order to prepare this parcel, the City then invested approximately $465,000 toward the public-service/utility infrastructure improvements needed to support future housing development. This decision was made to help those less fortunate obtain affordable housing and the land remains designated for this purpose. Appropriated affordable housing funds were used to pay for this.
Flash forward 14 years. Still undeveloped, the group Save Shultz Meadow created a citizen’s initiative to redesignate this parcel as open-space. Although I support giving the voters this choice, the initiative was never submitted to be included onto the 2020 ballot.
In the spirit of compromise, why couldn’t we develop affordable housing here that retains the natural aesthetic our community has grown to love?
The future of the three-acre Schultz Pass Meadow parcel should be determined by the community. I support the citizen-led ballot initiative that would ask voters to decide if the parcel should be designated as open space or developed for affordable housing units.
Although voters won’t be able to vote on the future of Schultz Pass Meadow this fall because signature collection was hindered due to the pandemic, I’d like to see the initiative on the ballot in 2022. I believe the city should wait to make any further decisions until the people of Flagstaff have collectively voiced their opinion.
Ultimately, the city’s response to our housing crisis has been scattered and the scale of the problem is too big for the city alone to solve. We need a comprehensive housing plan that incentivizes developers to build more housing that’s affordable and designed for Flagstaff’s working class.
Council recently concluded the issue of the Schultz Meadow parcel to go before voters for a final decision in 2022 for either affordable housing or open space. Should voters determine this piece of city-owned land to remain open space, I’d honor that decision. My position is that after listening to Council and our Housing Commission, I think the evidence provided validates building for affordable housing.
The following reasons tilt the scale for me: 1) 15 years ago council held a series of hearings and decided to pursue affordable housing, 2) taxpayers already spent $575,000 on infrastructure, 3) we are in an affordable housing crisis, 4) every piece of city-owned land discussed for affordable housing has had similar resistance, 5) climate migration and growth will add to our existing housing pressures (state preempts set-aside requirements for future developments), and 6) building for affordable housing is included in our voter-approved Regional Plan.
I believe as City Council we need to engage the community in the sale or use of city owned lands. Schultz Pass Meadow is one example. I realize this parcel has gone back and forth from affordable housing to open space, and I understand the frustration.
During conversations with members of the community, I feel that another option would be for neighbors to create an independent trust and purchase the land from the city, ensuring the city gets paid back funds already invested in the parcel. Those monies would then be put towards future affordable housing developments. This is another option, and I am always looking for creative as well as traditional solutions with all pressing matters so that we have more than two choices. My experience as a business owner for over 20 years has given me hands on experience with creating viable solutions for difficult situations.
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