Speed Bumps Delay Arizona KOA

About six months ago (June 26) I reported that the voters of Chino Valley, Arizona, overwhelmingly supported Proposition 401. In so doing voters uphold a decision of the Town Council from July 2010 to rezone 17 acres at Road 3 ½ N and Highway 89 to accommodate a KOA campground.

The unofficial tally was 1,814 “yes” votes and 802 “no” votes. At that time Charlie Arnold of Southwest Development Consultants, advisor on the project for developer Jack Tuls Jr., indicated they plan to begin construction in September and open the KOA in March 2012.

During the interim, plans for the proposed KOA campground project in Chino Valley have hit some speed bumps, but according to Arnold they hope to begin construction this summer, the Chino Valley Review reports.

Arnold cited Prop 401 as the major setback of the project.

“The referendum basically put a hold on 80 percent of what we were doing,” said Arnold. “The lenders that we had been working with, that we had commitments from, said that until the referendum situation is addressed we aren’t going to go any further.”

Arnold added that during the waiting period he remained in contact with the potential lenders on behalf of the developer.

“During the referendum, we continued on a weekly basis to keep them apprised of the situation. But as time progressed, there was a lot of turnover in the banking industry,” said Arnold. “All but one of the people we had been dealing with at our primary lenders were either no longer in that division, no longer with the company, or no longer involved in our project. It was a disaster. We had people who had been involved with the project since 2010 on the lending side. They were big cheerleaders, big supporters of this project and they no longer existed in their capacity within the bank we were dealing with.”

Signs show where the 17-acre Kampgrounds of America RV park campround will go on the east side of Highway 89, north of Road 3 North in Chino Valley. (Credit: Salina Sialega/Special to the Courier)

When the dust finally settled after the May 2011 election, approval for the project was given, but according to Arnold the damage was done, reports Chino Valley Review.

“Brutinel said we had to let the voters decide,” recalled Arnold. “And almost a year later the voters in Chino Valley overwhelmingly gave us the thumbs up to move forward on the project. But by then, our financial cheerleaders were gone.”

“We went back to the town, got the water and sewer agreement approved, the site plan approved, all of that stuff. We also started the bid process with many of the contractors,” said Arnold. He cites two major factors that have held up construction. “One, this is a seasonal project. The time period we needed to be under construction was at the very latest mid to late October so we can be open for the summer season. And two, losing our cheerleaders in the banking industry. That just killed us.”

Overall, Arnold says his dealings with the Chino Valley council have not caused a hold on the project. “Our dealings with the town council moved at a pace that is normal with a project this size,” he says. “I will tell you that the council has really pushed to re-work how projects move through the process, to make it more transparent, not just for the public but also for the lenders. The biggest hurdle that developers face are last minute additional requirements, something that pops up at the last minute. The town council and staff have worked with us to really streamline the process.”

Arnold adds that his group has had to make some adjustments in an effort to succeed with their plans. “We have been working from a completely different perspective now, we’ve had to restructure how we’re going to finance this project,” said Arnold. “We have to plan so that we begin construction and then open at a time the right time of year. There is a proven track record and studies that show when we need to open anything in the hospitality industry. If we are not in construction by August or September then we won’t be done in time to open for the season. If finances get in line then we will be ok.”

The Granite Dells, massive boulders of ancient rock that have weathered into delicately balanced forms and fanciful shapes, are located 10 miles sorth of Chino Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arnold said he will contact town officials in the coming weeks to request an extension of the site plans, originally approved for one year according to Arnold.

“At this stage of the game, there won’t be any real changes or modifications. It has already been approved by this council so I’m confident that we can get the extension we need,” he stated.

Arnold stated that he is confident the plans will move ahead and campers will be visiting the site by next spring.

“I will tell you candidly that the lending market is still horrific, but I’m optimistic that we have about a 70 percent chance to get it done this year,” predicts Arnold. “When we get the approval from the lender, I want to be able to stick a shovel in the ground within 30 days.”


Worth Pondering…
Newcomers to Arizona are often struck by Desert Fever.

Desert Fever is caused by the spectacular natural beauty and serenity of the area.

Early symptoms include a burning desire to make plans for the next trip “south”.

There is no apparent cure for snowbirds.

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