Escalante subdivision changes hands; water turbidity questioned

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — A portion of the Escalante subdivision on the north side of Bill Williams Mountain, near the Williams Ranger District offices, has changed ownership.

At a recent city council meeting, Tim Pettit, city of Williams Chief Building Inspector, said the property went into receivership and was picked up by a new developer who plans to redesign the subdivision and call it Williams Pioneer Estates.

The preliminary subdivision approval for the Escalante subdivision was completed in 2005. According to 2005 editions of the Williams News, the preliminary plans called for an upscale housing development slated for the west side of Williams. Ohio-based developer Bill Keethler said the 280 lots would range in size from one-third to two acres. There was to be a 10-acre “lifestyle center” which would have included a fitness facility, conference hall, real estate offices, pool and bike rental.

Keethler believed the project would generate $12 million in fees to the city in the form of sales tax and impact fees.

After 12 years and a sluggish economy, the property went into foreclosure with only three houses ever being built in the subdivision.

Those homes and some of the properties will still be called Escalante subdivision and will be stay under their established home owner’s association according to Pettit.

“The new developer wants to work the existing site, they’re not going to follow the plan that was established by the previous developer,” Pettit said.

Pettit said the new owner will mostly rework the western portion of the undeveloped subdivision with plans to reduce the number of lots and improve the density of the homes. The previous 280 lots will be reduced to approximately 200.

“Mostly it’s changed in the area where the topography is steeper,” he said.

“I think it’s a good thing because it’s going to reduce the water need for the entire development,” said City Manager Skylor Miller.

Miller said the new subdivision plat will include installation of a water storage tank to be used by the property owners and other residents in the city of Williams. The previous plat required the owner to install a well.

“The original plan, with those conditions placed on it from the city, were from 2005,” he said. “Our needs have changed. The impact of residential housing on the city has changed, so we need this opportunity to reassess our needs and how it works with the developer.”

Miller said although the subdivision has a history, the city is looking at it as a new development.

“They are coming in with a new preliminary plat and it’s going to have to go through the planning commission process, our development review team process and then back in front of city council,” he said.

Other city news

Pettit said progress has stalled on the Grand Canyon Under Canvas tent cabin development. The upscale camping resort got approval for development from Williams City Council in June of 2016, but never got off the ground.

“I believe they went completely away,” Pettit said. “I think the original discussion between the land owner and buyer and delays in financing got so complicated the land owner just called it quits.”

Grand Canyon Under Canvas was to be a safari-style tent motel, ideal for travelers who wanted to experience camping but didn’t have the equipment or desire to create their own camp.

It was to be located on 56 acres of land on the eastern edge of Williams, with 40 tents of various sizes providing a rustic but elegant shelter for travelers.

The Under Canvas company has locations in Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons, Glacier National Park, and Moab, Utah.

According to Miller, several residents have approached the city about notices sent out regarding a violation of an Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) standard for water turbidity at the Williams water treatment plant March 24.

Following the April 13 city council meeting, Miller addressed the notices. He said due to upgrades at the water treatment system in January, water samples that month showed higher turbidity rates than normal. The testing showed 27.9 percent of the turbidity measurements were over 0.3 turbidity units. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality standard requires that no more than five percent of samples may exceed 0.3 turbidity units per month. The city stated that turbidity levels were relatively low, however their persistence was a concern, as turbidity is typically 0.2 units.

Miller said at higher levels, turbidity can interfere with disinfection and provide a medium for microbial growth; however, the city’s levels were so low this was highly unlikely.

“This was a secondary standard that had no bearing on the sanitation of the water,” he said. “Turbidity with material in the water can have microbes, but at the scale we’re talking about it’s only the clarity of the water that is affected.”

Miller said in January the results showed the city was producing water just slightly over the threshold and the rest of the year the city was producing water well under the threshold.

“So all that water we produced went to the tanks and diluted,” he said. “The water coming from the tap was well below threshold. No one could notice a difference in the water. We’re talking fractions of a percent.”

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