By Jeanie Hankins
In the face of a pending referendum to stop the approved development agreement between the Town and the potential developer of Heritage Square, Town Council is looking to consider another route to pave the way for the project to move forward.
Earlier this year Provident Real Estate Ventures unveiled a plan to build a three story hotel and retail shops in the downtown area between W. Wickenburg Way and the Community Center. In answer to public comment, Provident amended its original plan to preserve the historic adobe house in the middle of the property. In return, the Town agreed to lease an unused dirt lot to the developer who was committed to pave and maintain it as a parking lot. The Town also agreed the Community Center parking lot could be accessed by Heritage Square patrons.
After the agreement was approved in the form of Resolution 2221 in May, a citizen pulled a referendum petition and returned it to the town clerk who is now reviewing the signatures.
The referendum was discussed in executive session during the regularly scheduled Council meeting Monday night. No formal action was taken following the session, but newly elected Mayor Rui Pereira gave the lay of the land reminding council that Resolution 2221 was unanimously approved in May by each of them and the former mayor. Finding out whether the referendum petition has garnered enough valid signatures to prompt an election will take months, and then it would likely not be seen on a ballot until March or November of 2020 if enough signatures exist, he explained.
Rather than wait for the referendum process to play out, Pereira said the Town may consider another course of action which would mean rescinding Resolution 2221 and negotiating a lease, based on a feasibility study with a lease price for the dirt lot set at fair market value. He pointed out, without Resolution 2221, the developer would not be bound to protect the adobe house nor abide by any other stipulations in that development agreement.
“Thats what we’re planning to do. That’s where we are going, and you will most likely hear more at the August (5) meeting,” Pereira said. (The July 15 meeting is cancelled as is customary during summer.)