Never has so much fanfare and secret deal making resulted in a news conference where an announcement regarding hundreds of acres of land development didn’t say anything important, until now.
Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli called an 11 a.m. news conference today to announce a letter of intent between EcoDevelopment owner Jason Gisi and the city that might allow Gisi to develop residential and resort buildings, someday.
Gisi wants to build both types of projects near Granite Dells, the historical granite hills north of the city. The development has been vigorously opposed by a citizens group called Save The Dells for years. Neither Gisi nor Save The Dells representatives were allowed to speak at the news conference, which drew about 20 people - none of them wearing Covid-19 preventing masks - who were mostly council members and city staff, to a closed council room.
The meeting was televised on the city access channel but most of the mayor’s comments were not audible because of audio problems and the video picture was mostly out of focus. Maps of the project on a wide screen behind the mayor were out of focus and not legible.
But if a viewer from home strained, he could glean the following: It is all about a non-binding letter that may allow them to move forward; council has not voted on it yet; public comment will come later; and it involves the city trading hundreds of acre feet of water to EcoDevelopment in exchange for acreage owned by EcoDevelopment. Most of what the city gets is north, up by the airport; Jason Gisi, owner of EcoDevelopment gets enough city water to service homes and upscale resort centers from the proposal.
But the city has enormous hurdles to cross. Some city speakers said the Federal Aviation Administration would have to get involved because land is near the end of the city’s airport runway – an airport that has been operating round trips flights, daily,between Los Angeles (the Covid-19 hot zone) and Prescott for months.
Some spoke of parcel 32 and 33 needing to be part of the deal – which they are not, yet– and the fact that they “think” the State Land Department might own those parcels but Prescott Valley might own them, too. More information about those two parcels is in the companion article to this story on this news website. When the mayor was finally asked to move over to a microphone that worked, viewers could hear him say, “We are in a weak position to annex these properties because the Land Trust controls them.”
When asked for comment, the Prescott Valley Mayor declined through his spokesman, and Prescott Valley town manager Larry Tarkowski said, “I don’t want to comment and the Mayor doesn’t want to comment on another city’s business.” Which sort of indicated Prescott Valley ain’t gonna make a decision on parcels 32 and 33 any time soon.
Speakers said they were working on the land deal with the State Land Department, but the companion article to this article clearly shows that the content of a letter and a spokesman’s quote from Commissioner Atkins describes it as quite the opposite. In fact the Land Commissioner, in the letter, appears to take councilwoman Billie Orr to school for her maneuvers, which were conducted while the Mayor was out of town.
Councilman Phil Goode took to the podium with the working microphone and said, “This is not a binding document, just a letter of intent,” and he listed many things that have to be done before the deal can ever be considered a deal. He reminded the crowd that this is about property rights and that the land which is owned by EcoDevelopment is in the county, and that Jason Gisi can keep it in the county if the deal falls apart. Goode also said the City of Prescott Planning and Zoning committee still has many meetings to conduct before this can be considered “a contract.”
Councilman Steve Sischka waxed poetically saying, “This deal could not have beendone unless we converted water into land.”
Gisi told me, before the meeting began, “AED starting working on our Prescott annexation application over 6 years ago. AED is excited about the possibility of completing an annexation that is a win for Prescott, the public and our company… there is much work ahead and I hope the emotional intensity dies down as the public digests the mapping that will be presented at the press conference today.”
But discussions with former Prescott and Prescott Valley Vice Mayor and Councilman Harold Wise indicated this is life in the big city; I’m not sure if that meant Prescott or Petticoat Junction, but Wise did have a new nickname he gave me for Prescott –Carmel by the Trees, where every Californian can cash in his beach house for a million and get one here for $400,000.
The full text of the City of Prescott's press release along with maps of the proposed site are provided below: