The commentary in Lynne LaMaster’s May 10th “Granite Dells Development Open House” article represents some misconceptions and it’s important to get the facts straight when reporting on such an important and complicated subject. Save the Dells is not proposing that the City of Prescott “force the developer to turn all the privately owned land into a regional park” as LaMaster stated. Save the Dells is utilizing a range of mechanisms to protect the Granite Dells, none of which involve forcing the developer to do anything. In fact, Save the Dells has resisted calls from some in the community to exert pressure on the City to condemn the land through eminent domain. To be clear: as a landowner myself of more than 65 acres that I have my own plans for, I personally fully support private property as a fundamental constitutional cornerstone of our nation. And I know that the Save the Dells campaign honors this sacred truth too.
Later in the article LaMaster writes: “But, it’s not a question of ‘...taking our Dells away from us.’ It's not ‘their’ Dells. It almost seemed as if those in the room were the ones who actually want to be the takers.” No one in Save the Dells has stated that they want to take this land from AZ Eco Development. Instead, they are encouraging the developer to do the right thing for the Prescott community, as they claim they want to do. In fact, a quote from AZ Eco Development’s website states, "We are native Arizonans who aspire to manage AED’s lands responsibly, with an eye towards the land’s heritage and also to the great natural beauty of the site, particularly the Point of Rocks. We acknowledge and believe that whatever we do with this land must be sensitive to local needs and the concerns of the area’s citizens." We accept this offer to be sensitive to our needs. Our Nation’s heritage is not built solely on private enterprise. It was, in fact, the authors of our own Declaration of Independence who said: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” This is about more than one developers dream - this about our mutual obligations to do right for the entirety of the community, now and into the future. With rights, come responsibilities.
In short: if Save the Dells achieves land acquisitions that go towards a regional park, the developer would get something big in return. He would get water, sewer, roads, and millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded services from the City of Prescott. The developer is, after all, asking to annex into the City of Prescott, which is a privilege, not a right of being a private property owner. The developer is asking for the land to be rezoned so that they can develop at a higher density than is currently allowed under state law, which is a privilege, not a right. And the developer is asking for more water rights than they currently own, which is certainly a privilege, not an entitlement. So I do not see where the author of this article is coming from with her statements about unending and unrestricted private property rights, as the property is currently zoned under county, not city, jurisdiction.
As Trudeau, Chairman of Save the Dells stated, he wants the developer to be fairly compensated for the land. Lynne LaMaster emphasized twice in her article that the land price was $132 million, which was 12 years ago when the ranch was originally sold to a Scottsdale development firm. However, she doesn't mention that according to the Phoenix Business Journal (April 30, 2013) AED scooped up the 15,000 acres of land out of bankruptcy proceedings for only $31.3 million. That's about $2,000/acre, which everyone should know is a screaming deal. The author of this article asks, “Can Trudeau and his group really expect to buy out Arizona Eco Development?” The answer is a qualified yes; through various mechanisms Save the Dells does expect to work out a deal where private property rights are respected and AZ Eco Development gets something in exchange for their HUGE asks from the City of Prescott. All that Save the Dells wants is for the citizens of this region to get a fair deal in respect to open space and water rights as we all work together for a mutually beneficial annexation that protects in perpetuity the character of our town’s most valuable and enduring natural asset. Let the conversation continue.