Chilson Ranch Rarin’ To Go: Condo Project Will Tame Flooding

Project along American Gulch will take land out of flood plain

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Aerial photo courtesy of Hallie Jackman

This aerial photo shows the site of Chilson Ranch. The white lines show the channelized American Gulch, running south of Main Street. South McLane is shown near the middle of the photo. The 153 condos will be in the open area in the lower left-hand side.

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Photo courtesy of Hallie Jackman

This aerial photo shows the area (in blue and green) that would be removed from the flood plain by the plan to channelize the American Gulch (between the narrow black lines) as part of the grading plan for Chilson Ranch. Photo shows West Main Street on the top and South McLane in the center.

After enough setbacks to plot a soap opera, a sometimes-controversial developer is ready to send in the bulldozers to start work on a luxury condominium project that could play a key role in the revival of Main Street.

Hallie Jackman says she will start grading the first phase of a 153-unit condo project along the American Gulch between Main Street and the hills to the south.

Jackman will put $3.4 million in cash to guarantee she will put in promised street and infrastructure requirements.

That includes deepening and widening the American Gulch to contain an artificial stream and so reduce the flood danger for surrounding properties that many landowners will no longer need flood insurance.

In addition, Jackman has promised to help the town put in the state’s tallest man-made waterfall, which will cool and filter water from the increasingly algae-prone Green Valley lakes. The water will pour off the waterfall into filter-lined ponds, then circulate down a meandering stream through the development, into the reconstructed American Gulch and back into the lakes. Jackman has applied for a million-dollar federal grant to install a network of solar panels to pump the water from the lakes up to the top of the sandstone butte overlooking Main Street.

Jackman said she has agreed to do the flood control work in the American Gulch, put in all-weather culvert crossing of McLane and put in the plumbing for the waterfall and water-cooling stream course. Completing the full waterfall project will wait on the federal grant, she said.

“It would be a wonderful thing for our area to have one of the largest water-moving systems in Arizona for cleaning a lake — it would be pretty cool. Otherwise — the lakes are going to stink,” said Jackman.

The federal grant would pay for solar panels on roofs and armadas to generate the power to pump the water to the top of the hill.

Jackman recently delivered $10,000 worth of huge sandstone slabs and boulders to the property, to use in construction of the artificial stream along the American Gulch. She plans to line the stream course with boulders, to create a natural-looking stream lined with hiking and biking trails. She’s still talking to stream designers to determine whether the stream could be provided with pools deep enough to support fish, including trout. However, that depends on whether the federal grants come through for the Green Valley Lake cooling project and whether the town will provide enough water to support fish in the stream.

The biggest immediate impact of the grading work expected to start within about a week will be removing a swath of land along the American Gulch from the flood plain, including property owned by the Humane Society and the intersection of Main Street and McLane. Jackman agreed to extend the flood work all the way to McLane and to do grading on the other side of McLane to make sure flood water enters the culverts and then flows down the regarded American Gulch.

Ironically, Jackman earned the ire of Humane Society backers by trying to block approval of a new animal shelter on a parcel right next to a strip of land on which she wants to build a row of six-unit condominium blocks. The council rejected Jackman’s appeal of the Humane Society’s conditional use permit. However, the town has also been negotiating with the Humane Society about possibly moving the animal shelter to a town-owned site by the rodeo grounds.

Jackman filed her grading and flood control plans with the federal government and got approval to take a big chunk of land out of the flood plain. That means land owners won’t have to carry flood insurance to get residential and commercial loans.

The project will include a total of 153 luxury condominiums, including duplexes and sixplexes with price tags starting at an estimated $300,000. In addition, the project will include 47,000 square feet of custom-built commercial development, in a chunk of the project on the north side of the American Gulch, just off Main Street. Jackman plans to sell the commercial space to small business owners, with the option of building living quarters for the business owner on the second floor.

Jackman said she’ll first do the grading for the roads, the American Gulch and a set of model homes plus phase one of the condos — about 20 units. She already has deposits on about 19 of those units.

Jackman plans to build the remaining 130 condos in perhaps two phases, preselling each phase and basing the timing of construction on sales.

She noted that she already has several tenants lined up for the commercial space, but isn’t ready to start construction on those units yet.

“We’re within about six days of finalizing everything,” said Jackman of the complicated financing for the $29-million project.

She said her lender had already set aside the money and is not affected by the current crisis in the financial markets. She said the lender had balked at putting up a letter of credit as Payson had originally demanded, for fear the town would impose additional delays. Instead, the lender agreed to loan her the $3.4 million the town wanted to ensure the construction of required roads and facilities, so she could put up a cash bond.

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