Aspen Heights has withdrawn their application for a re-zone request. They are however still asking to be annexed into the City limits this Tuesday.
Obviously there was a large segment of the community opposed to this development. In the end, the hundreds of emails and a petition to stop the development was to much to continue on with.
I have mixed feelings on this issue. Our community needs more housing, it just seems no one wants it “in my back yard”. Many also want affordable housing but want maximum amounts of open space. Something’s gotta give!
While this was not directly providing affordable housing it would have added hundreds of rentable units to the market freeing up housing elsewhere in our community and indirectly helping, even if in a small way, the affordability issue.
For a couple of my colleagues on Council and Friends of Flagstaff’s Future, this is the third large housing development they have strongly opposed in the past two years. They want jobs and affordable housing yet they consistently say no to both. The opportunity for thousands of housing units and tens of millions of dollars invested into our community has been lost, at least for now.
With regard to Aspen Heights, a confusing message has also been received. The Naval Observatory along with many people have sent a clear message that they do not want any light degradation in the West 66 area. Translated, little to no development. Yet this area is listed as an urban activity center on the new Regional Plan.
The Regional Plan passed Council unanimously and was ratified overwhelmingly, with 75% of Flagstaff voters approving it. An urban activity center calls for dense housing and commercial development. What message are we sending for the hundreds of acres of private property and many developments slated for West 66? The Regional Plan says develop this area but many are now saying the opposite.
I was actually one of the leading voices in changing the regional plan to its current approved version. The original version of the plan presented to Council actually called for more compact, dense development. I said this type of development would “fundamentally change the character of Flagstaff” and I pushed successfully to scale it back. Friends of Flagstaff’s future and others came down really hard on me for changing the plan, a plan they had a large part in drafting. I warned about the issues of compact development and how it would change Flagstaff. We’re now seeing these issues come to fruition.
Going forward I will be supporting Mayor Nabours request to discuss this area of town in more detail and a dialogue with the observatories and NAU. My assumption that we addressed these issues through the regional plan and it’s overwhelming approval was wrong. We need to address community concerns but those in town that continue to say we need more housing and more opportunities, groups like friends of Flagstaff’s Future, also need to recognize that saying not to most large development is not the solution.
Let’s come to the table to figure out how to best to move forward and reconcile what are obvious discrepancies between the approved regional plan and what some in the community are now asking for.