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Council approves Cahava Springs project

Tara Alatorre ~ Staff~ 4/15/2015

CAVE CREEK – On April 6, the Cave Creek Town Council approved a resolution that puts the Cahava Springs Utility District project in motion, which would essentially provide a dedicated funding stream for public infrastructure projects estimated at over $19 million through special assessment bonds.
The proposal from Cahava Springs Development would allow the planned subdivision of 772 acres with 230 residential lots to form a special district, which allows it to issue special assessment bonds to the lots sold that are based on home value, and paid yearly by the homeowner. The bonds will be used to finance town infrastructure projects that provide municipal benefits to Cahava Springs residents, and also town residents living on the north side of town adjacent to the subdivision.
“The improvements to be made are outside of the district. We are constructing improvements that are truly public,” said Mark Staff, the owner of Cahava Springs, while requesting the special district during the council meeting.
The project was halted due to the recession about eight years ago, but is moving forward in full force by attempting to secure financing through the assessment liens on the lots sold in the subdivision, which is estimated at $2,400 a year per home, and to be financed over the next thirty years, according to plans submitted by Cahava Springs.
“We are ready to start construction; once we do that it looks exactly like any other development, the only difference is how we choose to finance it,” said Staff, while addressing the Cave Creek Town Council.
The assessment bonds will be used to complete several infrastructure projects, including: improvements to a portion of the existing waterline south of Joy Ranch Road; improvements to and activation of the existing waterline in 26 Street north of Joy Ranch Road; extension of the water line to 32 Street and Honda Bow Road; install booster pumps, storage tank, and other facilities necessary for the town to operate the system; roadway improvements along Saddle Mountain, 32 Street, Rockaway Hills, and into the Cahava Spring Development, including bridge structures, grading, drainage structures, paving, and landscaping.
Once the houses are built, the special district will be represented by a 3-person board comprised of residents from Cahava Springs. The board has the authority to adjust the assessment fee based on fluctuating home value, just as one might refinance their home.
“Our goal is to get the houses built, and homeowners to take over the district as fast as they can,” said Staff about the special district.
Town resident, Terry Smith, who lives on the north side of town, addressed the council and public at the meeting about the Cahava Springs project, saying he and his neighbors are desperate for water, and he fully supports the resolution.
“We are impacted by this, most of you know we need water; ok, we have been promised and promised and promised….the town isn’t doing it,” Smith said while facing the town council. “We are having water delivered for $65 a load, and we’ve been doing this for years,” he said.
Meanwhile, other residents voiced their concern and apprehension about letting the Cahava Springs Development create a special district, worried not only about financial liability of the town, but about potential negative effects of more residential development with the ongoing drought issues in the Cave Creek.
“I think that some attention must be given to the water supply for this community in addition to the infrastructure,” said resident Kerry Smith while addressing the council about the topic at the meeting. “A shortfall of Central Arizona Project water is anticipated in 2017,” he said.
 Greg Schwartz, an attorney representing Cahava Springs, wanted to reassure Cave Creek residents that the formation of the special district would not give the subdivision the ability to bypass town laws.
 “The district cannot trump any authority of the town,” said Schwartz after listening to some of the residents’ concerns.  “Right now, you have 11 districts overlapping in the town, 75-90 districts are operating in the state currently.”
The council unanimously approved the resolution 7-0, with several councilmembers noting that Cahava Springs will still have to come back for further approval, making the district irreversible at this point.
“No liability to the town, a benefit to the west side of town, where is the downside?” said Coucilman McGuire when voting yes for the resolution.
The council also unanimously approved in a 7-0 vote to re-adopt the current general plan from 2005, until more work can be completed to complete a new proposed general plan. The planning commission now has until August 2016 to complete a new general plan to propose to the council.
The new deadline will relieve some of the pressure to finalize a plan, and will give more time for the commission to gather public input.
“2016 is only a date, we anticipate it will be done much sooner,” said Councilman Dick Esser.  “This is something we have to get right.”