Pipeline to pump life into Scottsdale golf course projects

Scottsdale’s unofficial moratorium on new course projects has been lifted for at least two proposed developments, thanks to a soon-to-be-built privately funded water pipeline that will feed the courses.

The developers behind the new courses, Desert Mountain Properties and Crown Golf Properties, received the green light May 13 when the Scottsdale City Council unanimously approved the Irrigation Water Distribution System.

For the past five years, Scottsdale city officials have required all course developments to supply their own water, in part, because the city’s supply is in short order. That prerequisite had blocked approval of new projects – even though the city does not have a formal ban on course development.

Several courses are under construction in the area, but these projects were able to move forward because they secured water access years ago from a pipeline built in 1993.

“You can build a golf course. You just have to bring your own water,” said David M. Mansfield, Scottsdale’s general manager for the Department of Water Resources.

But that’s easier said than done in Scottsdale, which, combined with Phoenix, features 200-plus courses and no excess water to tap.

The “catch-22” situation had prevented developers from planning new courses in this highly desirable resort and residential destination. Until now.

Tim Bray of Scottsdale-based Southwest Community Resources Inc., whose company is spearheading the $35 million water pipeline project, says construction is expected to start this month.

“It’s been funded and I have pre-construction meetings this week,” Bray said late last month. “We’re ready to go. It took quite a while, but I was never in doubt.”

Desert Mountain, which has plans to build a sixth course at its massive master-planned community, will pick up two-thirds of the pipeline’s cost, for which it will get 2.67 million gallons of water a day. Desert Mountain also has plans for an executive course or new practice facility.

Crown Golf will pick up the remaining one-third of the pipeline’s cost for its private Golf Club of Scottsdale, an 18-hole golf facility that costs more than $200,000 for memberships. Crown will draw 1.33 million gallons of water per day for its Jay Morrish/ Dick Bailey-designed facility.

Water should be ready for delivery by next spring, according to Bray and city officials.

Originally, the pipeline was divided into four shares, at $7.5 million each: Desert Mountain was to get two shares, or 2 million gallons of water, Crown Golf would have one share and Scottsdale developer Scott Kusy would have one share for his proposed Wildcat Hill Golf Club, a low-density golf community.

But Kusy put his development on hold and backed out of the deal. Bray says Kusy has an option to participate in the pipeline and can exercise that option before the pipeline is completed.

The Scottsdale City Council originally approved the water distribution system – and some contentious annexation of land – by a 4-3 vote in December 2000. But the pipeline was held in limbo because of continued concerns about it meeting a state-required mandate to provide water for the next 100 years.

Overall, the 13-mile pipeline will pump a total of 5.25 million gallons of water each day, with 1.25 million gallons used for groundwater recharge of the Carefree Basin, which serves the towns of Cave Creek, Carefree and Scottsdale.

That’s just one benefit for Scottsdale and neighboring communities. The city also will own and operate the pipeline when it is completed.

As part of the agreement, Scottsdale residents also get 1,260 annual acre feet of water from the pipeline. According to Crossman, a typical homeowner in Scottsdale uses about a half-acre feet per year. These are just some of the benefits pipeline proponents say make the public-private venture such a success.

“What we tried to define is not only how this benefits my clients, but how the city benefits,” Bray said. “And clearly the benefit is the water aspect – principally water. Secondly, I think there’s the economic benefit.

“Golf is a major industry here. Some cities have automotive plants. Our industry is golf. It’s an important part of what Scottsdale is and what it provides in its tourism business. Those two elements together, I think, is what really carried the day here.”

Crown Golf can’t wait to get started on its long-awaited private club. It already has about 100 deposits for memberships.

“We’re ready to roll our sleeves up and get going,” said Scott Flynn, president of the Glenview, Ill.-based company. “There were times we weren’t sure where the finish line was.”


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