By now, you may know that the Arizona State Land Department’s intent to put up for auction 11,700 acres has been withdrawn at this time. While no concrete reason was given, I speculate that things in the corporate world just were not lining up, and the concept may have been ahead of its time. While some may rejoice at the announcement, that may well be because they were unaware of the many amenities and inclusive problem-solving that this project would have brought to the region.
I was disappointed with the wild speculation and misinformation that was promulgating and growing via social media. Had this sale taken place and worked its way before the Pinal County Board of Supervisors in October, I was prepared to fully explain the premise and show that it provided almost everything that the Gold Canyon/Peralta area has been requesting for decades.
Even though the concept is moot, I’ll now attempt to address some of the questions and provide information that was being withheld for some reason.
Why the north side of U.S. 60 and not the south? This was with the intent to create open space and preserve nearly 4,000 acres “never” to be built on. This is the difference between the yellow map and the map that had the southern portion in purple. The area north of the purple is where folks hike and houses the petroglyphic and trail heads. The purple would have housed some low-profile building — not smokestacks, windmills, solar farms or 3,000 potato barns.
The alternative as it exists today is the ability for developers to construct 30,000 new homes right up against existing homes — not the buffering setbacks that the employment project would have provided. All of these potential new residents would use U.S. 60 as there is no current provision for additional roads or a way to pay for them. More on roads in a bit.
Another piece of misinformation was that critical utilities could not have been provided. Do you really think that the land department would auction any parcel of land without these questions being pre-answered? SRP and Arizona Water stepped up with the ability to not only provide water and electricity — no groundwater used — but also a water treatment plant. Since power and water would have been provided nearby, it could have allowed the county to provide restrooms and electricity at the new Peralta Park instead of port-a-johns.
The most enticing aspect to me was roads. What annoys Gold Canyon more than anything? The Renaissance Festival and truck traffic.
As of now, there is no timeline or funding to extend State Route 24 beyond Ironwood Road. This concept would have fast-tracked SR24 to be constructed concurrently with the employment project, coming in right behind the Renaissance Festival with a dedicated exit/entrance just for its traffic, keeping it away from U.S. 60.
As for trucks, other than deliveries to Gold Canyon businesses, all truck traffic would have been diverted to SR24 as the designated truck route, thus preserving U.S. 60 and greatly reducing the pass-through traffic — effectively making U.S. 60 “local” traffic only through Gold Canyon.
The employment center would have had its own dedicated entrances and would not have encroached on Peralta Road, keeping it a residential thoroughfare. Chevelon Trail would have also become another exit out of Peralta Trails. Another major addition included in the plan was extending Ray Road through as a surface street between Meridian Road and U.S. 60, serving much like Baseline did back in the 1980s.
Other positive consequences:
Over the years, the thought of Gold Canyon incorporating and controlling its own destiny has often been discussed. It’s virtually impossible for a set of rooftops with no major tax generators to accomplish this. This is why San Tan Valley is struggling to do it. With no tax generator to pay for services, the only alternative is to fund it through an additional property tax — no one wants this. With an entity such as Intel close by, or other high-tech industry, property taxes could finally be lowered.
So, would every aspect of a project like this have been positive? Of course not. Odds are some may have been able to view the top of the structures in the distance. However, I do believe we would have been able to hold light pollution to dark-sky standards.
Another concern would have been rail south of U.S. 60. However, shipping products in and out in this manner would have served to lower truck traffic even further.
In conclusion, in Pinal County’s previous comprehensive plan, the supervisors unanimously approved transportation, open space and employment as goals for the citizens of their districts. The county is growing rapidly with approximately 500,000 residents, but with only 51,000 jobs, most of our residents have to commute to Maricopa County to work. The nearly 200,000 people residing in Apache Junction, San Tan Valley, Florence and Superior would gladly seek employment in a concept like this.
As supervisor, I would be remiss if I did not explore every possible way to deliver these goals of employment, transportation and open space to the community.
I hope I have been able to provide you with some context to help you better understand why the Arizona State Land Department considered this concept and why they looked at land to the north of U.S. 60.
Editor’s note: Jeff Serdy, of Apache Junction, is the Pinal County supervisor for District 5, which includes Gold Canyon.