Main Street Condos Clear Final Hurdle

Chilson Ranch ready to send bulldozers into the American Gulch to start grading drainage and streets for a 158-unit luxury condo project

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After a three-month detour down a flood-prone wash, the 158-unit Chilson Ranch condo project off Main Street could unleash the bulldozers within about two weeks, says developer Hallie Jackman.

The luxury condominium project that includes a block of commercial property just off struggling Main Street will include the state’s largest artificial waterfall and a stream designed to clean up the water in one of the smaller Green Valley lakes.

The grading should take six months, and construction should start this summer, said Jackman, who won council approval last week for a change related to her plan to build an all-weather crossing on McLane Road.

“The lender is happy with everything, but I couldn’t get started until I had my grading permit.”

The holdup came from Jackman’s effort to solve drainage problems in the American Gulch upstream from her project. Those improvements should prevent the periodic flooding of McLane and its intersection with Main Street, plus properties fronting on the American Gulch.

The Chilson Ranch project will include a meandering string of condominiums with prices starting at $300,000, and an artificial stream running through a lined, boulder-strewn stretch of the American Gulch — which now remains dry when it isn’t flooding.

In addition, Jackman plans to build a 150-foot-high waterfall that will pour off the rocks on the hill overlooking Green Valley Park, pass over filters designed to remove algae, cool as it runs over boulders through the project and return to the Green Valley Lakes. In theory, the waterfall should lower lake temperatures enough to slow the growth of algae, which can make the lake waters green and smelly.

The holdup came as a result of Jackman’s agreement to put in a larger culvert beneath McLane and to narrow and channelize the area leading to the culvert. That will ensure a constrained and controlled flow of water onto her property, which will protect the stream designed to look natural and perhaps even harbor trout. The stream will be accessible to the public and lined with hiking and jogging trails.

However, Jackman’s agreement to do the flood control work upstream required her to get a new plat plan approved, which delayed the release of her financing and forced a three-month delay in getting a final grading permit, said Jackman.

“No good deed goes unpunished,” she joked.

She said she was turned down in her first effort to win an $800,000 federal grant to pay for solar power to pump water out of one of the Green Valley Lakes up to the top of the hill for the waterfall. She has applied for another grant and remains hopeful she’ll get money for the necessary solar panels. In addition, she’s pushing to have the project considered as part of the proposed federal stimulus package — since it involves alternative energy and is close to “shovel ready.”

However, even if she can’t get a grant to pay for the solar power, she’s committed to spending $500,000 to put in the waterfall and artificial stream.

“We’re going ahead,” she said. “We’re going to have those ditches open anyway, so it’s an opportune time to go forward with everything.

“I don’t want to jinx myself by saying it out loud,” she said, after years of stops and starts on the long-suffering project. “But nobody else has to say ‘yes.’ All we have to do is put the money into an escrow account and we’re ready to go.”

She will start with model home units and the 15 reserved units. She said she’ll then build additional units as she gets contracts from buyers.

Once the condo project is well launched, she said she will start construction on an unusual commercial office building. She hopes to sell ground-floor business frontage to people who will live upstairs in residential units. Instead of leasing the space, she will sell to the live-in business owners.

If the construction crews do start work in the next month, it will mark one of the few projects to actually start construction in Payson in more than a year.

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