Road deal paves way for long-stalled Rocking K housing development
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Road deal paves way for long-stalled Rocking K housing development

Groundbreaking is a little closer for a master-planned development on the far southeast side that has been decades in the making.

The Tucson City Council in June agreed to de-annex a portion of East Valencia Road east of South Houghton Road to allow developers of the Rocking K project, Diamond Ventures, to construct a more than 2 ½-mile section of the road to Old Spanish Trail in agreement for credits on impact fees.

The road now lies within the city and county. By placing it under county jurisdiction, Diamond Ventures could receive reimbursement for constructing the road from the impact fees the development would generate. Construction of the roadway is estimated at $13.6 million.

“The county cannot use its impact fees on streets and highways that are not the responsibility of the county,” Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said.

The Rocking K plan has undergone changes since first conceived in the 1980s. The most recent amendments to the plan in 2011 scaled back the development to 3,000 houses and a golf course on 5,600 acres. Earlier plans called for 10,000 houses and four golf courses in the community that borders Saguaro National Park.

Commercial development is also planned for part of the property.

The amended plan also included the impact fee reimbursement agreement.

“They are the ones at risk here,” Huckelberry said, adding the company would not be reimbursed if they don’t build enough houses that generate the impact fees.

Impact fees for single-family residential properties cost about $6,000 per unit, Huckelberry said.

The de-annexation was necessary because the city has already allocated its collected impact fees for the southeast region to Houghton Road improvements, he said.

Impact fees must be used within a jurisdiction in the region they are collected.

By placing the entire roadway project in the county’s jurisdiction, the developer can offset the costs through future impact fee credits.

It should take the county about two months for its process to accept the de-annexed areas.

Huckelberry said he did not know when construction is to begin. Diamond Ventures did not return calls for comment.

The possible start of construction comes at a time when county officials anticipate the far southeast side is primed for intense growth and development.

Rocking K stands just a few miles from the University of Arizona Tech Park and a proposed new connection between the interstates.

National and regional government officials have pushed for federal funding for a connection between interstates 10 and 19 south of Tucson International Airport.

In June, members of Arizona’s congressional delegation sponsored a bill that would include the proposed highway, the Sonoran Corridor, on federal planning documents. The move would make the corridor eligible for federal funding.

The county also has committed to use $30 million toward construction of the Sonoran Corridor from a future bond package. Voters will decide the fate of that and six other bond questions in November.

The proposed Sonoran Corridor sits near a convergence of surface, rail and air transportation systems. It also would connect employment centers like Raytheon and other airport area businesses with the University of Arizona Tech Park near I-10 and Rita Road.

Regional leaders see the proposed highway as a way to facilitate the growth of defense, aerospace and logistics businesses such as HomeGoods, which recently announced plans to build a regional distribution center near the airport.

“The Sonoran Corridor is really a jobs corridor but you really have to have housing in proximity,” Huckelberry said.

The proposed highway also runs past another planned Diamond Ventures’ development, Swan Southlands, that sits on 3,100 acres southeast of the airport.

The Sonoran Corridor would run near the northern and western edges of the development.

The move to jump-start the Rocking K development could signify a rebound in the housing economy.

“I definitely think that the south and southeast are going to be the future growth areas,” said David Godlewski, president of the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association.

As of the end of June, the county has seen about 370 permits for new single-family residential homes, a pace that would reach about 740 by year’s end.

That’s considerably less than the recent boom years. In 2005, the county issued nearly 5,000 new housing permits.

By 2011, new home construction had nearly ceased, with fewer than 500 permits issued.

Godlewski said the economy has begun to recover for the home construction industry, albeit slowly.

The recent sale of 195 lots in the master planned community La Estancia in the city near I-10 and Wilmot was another indication the local economy has started to rebound, Godlewski said.

La Estancia is a 565-acre, 2,500-home master planned proposal.

“When you look at quality homes adjacent to the job corridor,” Huckelberry said, “it’s pretty attractive.”

Contact reporter Patrick McNamara at 573-4241 or pmcnamara@tucson.com On Twitter: @pm929

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