Sunday, October 26, 2014 - Northern Arizona's Locally Owned Newspaper

Big Plans for Little America – Council Update

Wally Huffman Little AmericaUpdate on zoning change from Flagstaff Councilman Jeff Oravits.   Little America 495 acre expansion PASSES 5-2
Evans and Barotz opposed.

I am pleased with the outcome of this vote. As it was, Little America had the right to develop hundreds of single family homes on 1 acre parcels. Last nights approved changed this to allow for more housing and a more diversified development. Once again, some argue for more affordable housing and more jobs yet their actions are often contrary to these goals. It’s simple, more houses of a varied type increase the supply of housing and has an impact on overall affordability. More investment in our community creates more economic activity, jobs, revenue, etc.

This concept apparently continues to allude anti growth groups such as Friends of Flagstaff’s Future.

“But representatives of Friends of Flagstaff’s Future, along with several other citizens, questioned whether the city needed increased tourism, especially if it overtaxed local water and sewerage systems”. AZ Daily Sun 12/4/13

I often wonder, do these folks live in a home? Wasn’t their home built at one point on land here in Flagstaff? Do they need money to live? If so where do they work? Don’t they need a vibrant economy as well? If this anti growth attitude existed in the past when their homes and jobs were created, would their homes and jobs exist here in Flagstaff today?

Several other public comments were quite revealing.

“They have the ability not to develop this property, they have enough money”, stated one speaker regarding the Holding family.

Well I guess they could just hoard their money and not reinvest. But people of wealth reinvesting their wealth is good for society. Reinvestment of capital creates jobs, increased economic activity, increased tax revenues so the City can provide services to the citizens of our community and so many other positive impacts. I say good for these investors, good for our community and thank you.

“We should keep this land as open space”, another speaker stated.

This is not open space though. This is private property that the owners have allowed residents of Flagstaff to use for 40 years. They could have put a fence around the property to keep everyone out, but they didn’t. They’ve been a good neighbor.

I’m glad to be part of the Council that is moving Flagstaff forward, pushing to grow our economy yet at the same time preserving the character and quality of Flagstaff. We have a lot more work to do but things are moving in a positive direction.  END COMMENT FROM Councilman Oravits.

 

The following story was written by Stacey Wittig and featured in the print version of Flagstaff Business News. 

 

Little America Hotels & Resorts has applied for a major amendment to the current City of Flagstaff Regional Plan to change zoning for approximately 500 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to the current Little America Flagstaff Hotel. The land is owned by the R.E. Holdings family, which built the hotel in 1972. The family-owned company includes mountain-town properties of Sun Valley Resort in Idaho and the Snowbasin Resort in Utah.

Little America Hotels & Resorts envisions a similar resort for Flagstaff, but first must work with the city to change zoning of the property. As part of the major plan amendment process, an economic impact analysis and other studies were prepared for the Little America Hotels & Resorts.

“The current zoning is one unit per acre but the underlining plan is five to seven units per acre depending on the area,” said Wally Huffman, consultant to the Holdings family. “The existing plan was created in the early 1990s when things were booming. Most of the land [adjacent] to the Little America property has similar land use designation. I believe that the city intended these properties to be high-density infill because they are located in the middle of the city.”

Instead of high-density housing, Little America’s proposed plan offers a vision of creating a destination resort with a resort hotel, conference facilities and sustainable golf course, along with mixed-use and residential neighborhoods.

“The model looks more like Sun Valley and Snowbasin with mixed commercial, single family and a resort hotel and golf course. That falls into the mixed-used sort of description. We think that it would be very appropriate for the town of Flagstaff … a signature hotel, single and multi-family housing around a golf course,” said Huffman, who has worked for the Holdings family for many years, 37 of which he served as general manager of the Sun Valley Resort. For the past 10 years, Huffman worked on the master planning of Sun Valley Resort. “I have been working with the Weber County and Morgan County people for the past five years [on the current land project at Snowbasin Resort behind Ogden, Utah]. I’ve worked in mountain towns all my life,” he added.

According to a report by RRC Associates of Boulder, Colo., the proposed plan will have an estimated $115 million impact on the Flagstaff economy and generate approximately 1,274 jobs. In the study entitled “The Little America Flagstaff Economic Impact Analysis,” the total direct output at project stabilization after buildout was approximately $34 million and 500 jobs. Direct impacts are outputs associated with economic activity directly generated by the project, such as construction and visitor purchases anticipated to occur within the city limits.

Direct output calculations were estimated as the sum of four categories: initial construction impacts, trip-related visitor spending impacts, impacts associated with new commercial/retail development, golf course operations and the potential redevelopment of the truck stop; and on-going spending of local residents and second homeowner occupants of proposed housing.

The experts used the IMPLAN economic impact modeling system to estimate $81 million and 774 jobs from indirect and the induced impacts of the project. Additional rounds of economic activity such as supply-chain activity and employee income spending were projected as the secondary output.

The report is quick to point out that care was taken to identify economic impact that was new to Flagstaff and to avoid double-counting economic impacts. The authors also emphasize that the building program is “preliminary and subject to change.”

 

Next Steps

 

The City of Flagstaff Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 11. The commission will review the proposal and make recommendations to the City Council. “There will be numerous meetings with stakeholder groups and alterations made to the plan in respect to their comments,” explained Huffman. “If the City Council approves the plan amendment in December, then there [will likely be] 18 more months of dialogue to rezone the project. This is the first step in a fairly long entitlement process.”

Implementation of the plan would start three years after zoning approval and roll out during a 12-year period according to the amendment application. Development would begin in the north and move progressively toward the south. The plan includes trails, preserving sensitive lands as open space and a minimum 50-foot buffer of existing trees and vegetation. Revisions such as a community garden, trail preservation and detention ponds to divert storm water run-off from the Rio de Flag were made to the plan as a result of stakeholder meetings.

“I believe in this plan. I believe it would be a signature resort and residential development in the center of Flagstaff that will bring business to Flagstaff tailored around business meeting and convention groups. We have found in these remote mountain towns that in order to make a successful business model, golfing is a necessary recreational amenity. The proposed golf course would be open to the public as in Sun Valley. Our model is to consider the public as an asset and contributor,” concluded Huffman.  FBN

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