The town of Prescott Valley adopted a policy that is not strictly legal: requiring all types of housing developments to provide proof their projects will have water.
Prescott Valley resets on a regulated groundwater basin called the Prescott active management area.
Developments in the AMA are required to provide proof they have an assured water supply, but there are some loopholes in the law. Properties built to rent and not sell don’t have to provide assured water supply. Neither do multifamily commercially zoned projects.
Prescott Valley residents became upset when they discovered that developers were building several projects and rezoning them in such a way that they wouldn’t have to provide proof of assured water supply, but the town adopted its own policy to get around that.
Town Manager Gilbert Davidson said the informal policy the town has been using is to tell any developer that they will have to provide proof of water, no matter what kind of zoning their housing project gets. The law doesn’t require that, but the town is unilaterally making it a rule.
“I think we’re taking a risk of trying to put our foot down,” Davidson said, noting that he doesn’t think the policy is allowed legally. “We feel it’s worth obviously protecting our water resources,” he said.
At the legislature, both a lack of affordable housing and a lack of assured groundwater are topics of high interest that go hand in hand.
Sen. Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, and Rep. Selina Bliss, R-Prescott, both represent Prescott Valley and in no way condemn the municipality for taking a stand.
“I think they’re making the right decision, and if the statutes create a bit of risk for them then that’s why we need to address the statutes,” Bennett said. He and Bliss both intend to address this next session.
“It’s a loophole in a law that needs to be updated,” Bliss concurred.
One planned project turning heads in the Prescott Valley community is a housing development called The Observatory speared by the Fain Signature Group – some of the area’s largest developers. And it’s one of many similar projects. “Specific to the Observatory project, folks are assuming that assured water supply is not being brought to this project. This is not correct. In fact, assured water supply is being brought to this project even though State law says builders are not required to when it comes to projects like Observatory,” Fain spokesperson Guy Roginson
said in a statement.
Residents are concerned both because they want to make sure the town has an assured water supply and also because not everyone wants to see large housing developments popping up by their own homes.
Rather than requiring certificates of assured water supply, Davidson said Prescott Valley is accepting effluent water credits from developers. Effluent water is wastewater that flows into surface water and can be used to recharge groundwater.
As of September, the town’s policy is informal, but Davidson said it will go before the town council formally in October or November.