Mayor & City Council Thwart Economic Development with Affordable Housing Component

On the evening of 19 February, the Mayor and City Council were presented an ordinance to rezone approximately 15 acres of land at Butler and Sawmill from light industrial and heavy industrial to highway commercial and high density residential called the McGrath Partners Zoning Map Amendment Request.

One week prior to the formal Council Meeting, the Mayor and Council heard presentations on the proposed development project of residential housing and commercial (mixed use/multi-family housing) by City of Flagstaff Community Development staff, including traffic engineers, the City’s Housing Department and various other city staff who provided countless hours to get the project to the finish line. After city staff presentations, Mayor and Council queried the developer Mark Lindley of McGrath Partners about the project and made several demands over what had already extracted. The demands included reducing the number of four-bedroom units and giving more cash to the City’s Housing Department.

Over the course of the next seven days, McGrath engineers and team leaders worked with city staff to place in the development agreement the exact concessions asked for by the Mayor and City Council. At the 19 February Council Meeting, the Mayor and specific members of City Council again queried city staff and the developer for two-plus hours. After the questions, Councilmember McCarthy moved the rezone and it was seconded by Councilwoman Salas. There was no debate, and a
5 – 2 vote ensued denying the applicant the rezoning of property.

Sadly, the Flagstaff community lost an important housing and economic development project with the rezone denial. The project was estimated to generate over half a million dollars in property taxes annually, after completion, and would have been the new home to Goodwill and OneAZ Credit Union on the commercial piece.

We cannot speculate on why certain individuals voted the way they did, as they did not explain their votes to the public during the discussion on the specific agenda item. The result is not a good sign for future developers who are willing to present economic development projects, including projects with affordable housing components in the City limits.

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