By Jeanie Hankins
A referendum petition has been pulled in an effort to block the already approved agreement between the Town of Wickenburg and the developer planning a hotel and retail shops at Heritage Square.
On May 20, Town Council unanimously approved a development agreement with Gateway Oasis VI LLC (aka Provident Real Estate Ventures LLC). The document included a site plan, a lease of public property, and a usage agreement for public property.
In March, Provident Real Estate Ventures approached the Town with a proposal to build a four-story hotel in the downtown area known as Heritage Square. The property lies between the Community Center and E. Wickenburg Way and contains buildings which house several retail shops. During two March public hearings, members of the community expressed affection for the historic adobe house located in the center of the property. Numerous residents also commented in opposition to a proposed zoning change which would have been necessary to allow the hotel to be built to four stories.
Following those public hearings, Provident representatives and town staff continued to work on options to build the hotel to three stories (allowable under the Town’s current zoning), and to save the historic building, according to Town Manager Vince Lorefice. The developer’s site plan presented at the May 20 meeting reflected both of those changes. In return for leaving the adobe house intact, Provident requested the Town allow the developer to lease and improve adjacent, vacant Town property to be used for parking. As a result, the agreement approved on May 20 allows the developer to lease the Town-owned dirt lot between the adobe house and the roundabout for a period of 50-80 years for a cost of $1,200 per year. Provident agrees to grade, pave and stripe the parking lot as well as maintain it. Additionally, the Town also agreed to share use of the Community Center parking lot with the hotel at no cost.
According to Town Council Minutes of the May 20 meeting, local resident Casey Hanna urged the Council to vote no on the development agreement. A retired senior project manager for Boeing, who moved to Wickenburg Ranch from Washington, Hanna said he found 26 issues with the development agreement, 20 issues with the lease and 17 issues with the parking lot user agreement. He asked, “Why is the Town adding value to this developer?” And he expressed concern that there will be insufficient access when Apache Street is closed for Gold Rush Days, according to the meeting minutes.
On June 6, Hannah applied for a referendum petition to block the project. His petition reads, “This referendum petition seeks to rescind Town of Wickenburg Arizona, Resolution No. 2221 that approves and authorizes the town mayor to enter into a development agreement with Gateway Oasis VI LLC, a Minnesota Limited Liability Company, related to a development of property in heritage Square in the Town, Section 1. Authorizes and directs mayor to execute development agreement attached as Exhibit A. Passed and adopted by common council on May 20, 2019. Exhibit A Development agreement has attached Exhibit E, form of lease for leased property and Exhibit F, form of Parking Use Agreement.”
According to state statute the referendum must be filed with the Town clerk by June 20, and must contain a minimum of 264 signatures. If the county verifies a sufficient number of signatures, all actions agreed upon between the Town of Wickenburg and Provident will be suspended until an election is completed, according to Lorefice. Town Clerk Amy Brown estimates an election would cost the Town approximately $20,000, and would probably not take place until March 2020.