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Tlaquepaque Village

Purtymun-house-11-21.jpgBrent Hickey wants to build an 800-car underground parking lot in Oak Creek Canyon — and a shopping center that looks like Tlaquepaque, but three times its size, on top.
By Susan Johnson
Larson Newspapers

Brent Hickey wants to build an 800-car underground parking lot in Oak Creek Canyon — and a shopping center that looks like Tlaquepaque, but three times its size, on top.

Hickey, a Phoenix developer and principal of Phoenix Holdings, appeared before Sedona’s Planning and Zoning Commission for a conceptual review of the project on Thursday, Nov. 15.

His attorney, John Mosher of Phoenix, informed the commissioners that they were welcome to make comments on the plan but that the property’s current zoning, a combination of C-1, or General Commercial, and L, or Lodging, allowed the densities as submitted.

The proposed 8.8-acre project is on seven parcels of land known as Lomacasi.

Shaded by dappled sycamores, the property borders Oak Creek, meandering along U.S. Forest Service land.

It currently has 19 cabins which were used for lodging until three years ago.

The property is also the site of the Purtymun cabin, one of the last remaining historically significant buildings in Sedona.

Although Mosher informed the commission that the project was within its rights to demolish the Purtymun house, Hickey said that he might consider allowing it to stay on the property, albeit in another location, and also that he was willing to make the structure available for the city to move to another location.

Phoenix architect Christy Waring described the project, her first commercial design in Sedona, as a “retail village” on a pedestrian scale with three levels, courtyards, water features and plazas, adding that creek access from the village would be “very controlled.”

Fifteen short-term lodging units will be incorporated on the upper levels.

In response to questions about the need for flood control pumps in the garages which are situated below the level of the creek, Waring said, “The two-story parking garage will be a vault and therefore there will be no flooding issues whatsoever.”

Safety and traffic in an already congested area were at the top of the commission’s list of concerns regarding the development after hearing presentations by Senior City Planner Nick Gioello and Hickey’s team, but they were critical of other issues as well.

“This looks like Phoenix, not Sedona,” Commissioner James Eaton said. “And I find your threats of demolition very disturbing.”

Eaton told Hickey that he wanted the Purtymun home preserved in its current condition and location and that provisions for employee housing should be included.

Commissioner Hal Driggs took exception with the design of the project, suggesting the architect consider using the stone and simple roof materials of the cabin as a model rather than the Spanish Colonial design that was submitted, a style that Commissioner Denise Barnhart described as “Tlaquepaque-wannabe.”

Commission Chairman John Griffin questioned why Hickey was putting in 150 more parking spaces than necessary, particularly at an estimated cost of $30,000 per space.

“I’d rather see this underparked and focused on public transportation,” Griffin said. “By digging down so far, I can’t imagine that it won’t affect the remaining trees, 40 percent of those there now, which is exactly what we don’t want.”

The plan calls for deliberate removal of 60 percent of the existing trees.

Joe Martori, chairman and CEO of ILX, spoke in support of the application due to its economic and tax implications for the city, adding that ILX sold the property to Phoenix Holdings in 1994 with the admonition that the creek and trees be conserved.

El Portal’s owner, Steve Segner, was critical of the project, citing traffic and safety.

“There’s already a 45-minute wait to get into the city, adding 800 parking units creates a really dangerous situation.”

An adjacent neighbor to the proposed development expressed her concern regarding noise, trash, loss of privacy, increased traffic and loss of property values.

With southbound traffic on Hwy. 89A routinely backed up for the last two or three miles before it enters Sedona, Barnhart questioned whether the project was creating a potential disaster for existing residents in terms of evacuating the canyon during a fire or flood.

Mosher assured Barnhart that the project would not go forward if the Arizona Department of Transportation or the Sedona Fire District had any concerns regarding safety, and that all necessary government agencies had been advised of the project.

Those agencies, including Coconino County, ADOT, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the SFD, will need to provide documentation that the project is acceptable before it can be approved.

“ADOT has a big part to play in this development,” Gioello said.

Geoffrey Messer, a commissioner who drives Oak Creek Canyon to work everyday, called the project a “monstrosity.”

“Just because you have the right, doesn’t mean it’s right for our town and our residents,” Messer said.

No decisions on the project were made.

Hickey and his team can either return to the commission with a request for a development review or they can redesign the project and return for a new conceptual review.

“They could come back in six weeks or six months,” Gioello said.

Susan Johnson can be reached at 282-7795, Ext. 129 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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