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Benson Development Will Move Forward

Research to determine the effects a proposed development could have on the San Pedro River is in limbo because of funding issues. Photo credit: Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star

By Tony Davis for Arizona Daily Star

Opponents hoping to stop or even slow down a 28,000-home development in Benson are more than a little late, says a partner in the company that’s planning the project.

The developers will proceed with their project — which they estimate will cost them $500M in the first five years — even if the Benson City Council votes April 13 to delay approval of a preliminary master plan for it, said Mike Reinbold of the Phoenix-based El Dorado Holdings.

Zoning on the property was approved more than 20 years ago, and developers don’t need council approval to go ahead with it, Reinbold said.

Reinbold spoke to the Star about the project last week. Here are some highlights:

Q. Water is the biggest issue for many people concerned about the project. Can you guarantee that your project’s water use and pumping won’t dry up the San Pedro downstream?

A. We’re looking at the questions that were raised at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on water. We’ll respond in the next 60 days. We hear the questions. We need time to analyze them.

Q. Why not wait until then to get your plans approved?

A. We can start tomorrow with preliminary plats (formal layouts for subdivisions). We’re taking a different approach, creating a cohesive plan on the entire property. The perception is that we’re rushing. We’re not rushing. We chose to say, “Let’s create a master plan, with consistency from the day we start to the day we end.”

Q. If the council says no, what would you do with your project?

A. We would start the first plat and use it as a non-council-approved plan. We don’t need a council-approved plan to do it.

Q. How much money will you invest in your project?

A. We’re still doing budgeting, but I would guess that in five years, our capital investment will be something approaching $500M. It’s just a function of how fast the markets are and how fast we get through planning. We’ll spend close to $100M just to open.

Q. You hope to break ground in late 2015 or early 2016. When do you expect to start selling houses?

A. Assuming we start in first quarter 2016, it will take 18 months to do our first phase of improvements and amenities. House building will take 18 to 24 months. Our first homes will be occupied in late 2017 early 2018. There will be a 20-year period from the start to the end of construction. We’ll build 2,000 a year during good times, 750 in slow times, and there could be 2,500 in hot times.

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