By Emily Bregel for Arizona Daily Star
In under five minutes, the Benson City Council on June 1 approved a 40-year development agreement with developer El Dorado Holdings.
The agreement lays out how the city and developer will work together to provide city services to the proposed 28,000-home Villages at Vigneto master planned community. That includes water, wastewater treatment, streets, fire and police.
The council has yet to approve a final community master plan for Vigneto, which could bring 70,000 more people to Benson. The project has generated opposition from those concerned about its impact on the fragile San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, while supporters say the development will transform the lagging Benson economy.
Previous Agreements Dissolved
The development agreement replaces a series of agreements established by an earlier developer, Whetstone Partners, which had planned a 20,000-home development on what is now El Dorado’s property.
The new agreement improves the terms for the city, Mike Reinbold, spokesman for El Dorado, said after the meeting. It saves the city between $30M and $40M in costs, compared to the earlier agreement, he said.
The current development agreement doesn’t force the city to use construction sales tax for any specific purpose, including the development’s infrastructure, Brad Hamilton, Benson public works director, said in an email.
The agreement also leaves open the option for the city to form multiple improvement districts, which are mechanisms to sell tax-exempt bonds to help finance a development’s infrastructure.
The approval comes a week after six environmental groups filed a lawsuit against two federal agencies, which the plaintiffs say failed to consult about Vigento’s environmental impacts (AZBEX, May 17, 2016).
The city council will likely vote on a final community master plan within two months. If approved, construction on the project would begin in the first half of 2017, he said.
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