By Susan Johnson
The city of Cottonwood is eyeing a 10 square mile parcel of state land, considering the possibility of annexing the 6,000 acres into the municipality’s boundary.
For the most part, the property is shaped like a large square with one smaller square attached at its southernmost boundary.
Looking northeast toward Sedona on Highway 89A, it begins about a mile and a half north of Cornville Road and ends about a mile short of Page Springs Road.
It encompasses both sides of the highway with about three-fifths on the west side and two-fifths on the east.
At present, the vast majority of adjacent property is undeveloped with the exception of Spring Creek Ranch to the northeast and several commercial buildings on the west side of Highway 89A at its intersection with Bill Gray Road.
This section of rolling hills and distant vistas to the west has always served as a buffer between Cottonwood and Sedona, providing open space and a beautiful scenic gateway.
The annexation itself would not change ownership of the property which belongs to the State Land Department of Arizona and which can be sold by that entity at any time of its choosing.
According to its records, since 2000, the state has reaped over $2 billion in proceeds from its land sales, primarily to developers.
When it decides to put a parcel on the auction block, the state does not consider the effect of its actions on nearby residents or businesses; its only mandate is to get as much money as it possibly can for the piece.
Proceeds from the sale of the land are deposited into the state’s Permanent Fund, some of which is used for education and other public agencies.
Before an annexation can go through, it must garner the approval of the State Selection Board which is currently made up of Gov. Jan Brewer, Attorney General Terry Goddard and State Treasurer Dean Martin.
The prior board, comprised of the same positions but with former Gov. Janet Napolitano still in office, voted 2-1 in favor of a recent request by Cave Creek to annex 8.8 square miles.
Cave Creek plans to preserve 6.7 square miles from development in a three-way plan.
The first step is for the town to place restrictive zoning on the 6.7 square mile preserve, thereby lowering its salable value and making it affordable for the town to purchase.
The second is to place high-density zoning on the 2.1 square miles, thereby significantly raising its value to developers.
Cave Creek will still have to pay for the part they’re excluding from development, but it has 20 years to come up with the money.
According to Mayor Diane Joens, the precedent set by Cave Creek could possibly be emulated by Cottonwood in order to preserve some portion of the property for open space.
Next in the series is a description of the regional stakeholders.
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