Dana Cole, a reporter for Wick Communications was the keynote speaker, addressing the new development slated for construction in Benson, known as the Villages at Vigneto.  At completion, the master planned community is expected to contain 28,000 homes.  The developer is El Dorado Holdings, Inc., out of Phoenix.
Ms. Cole explained that the total development site encompasses 12,339 acres, containing 60 percent residential space and 25 percent open space, and will provide a mix of active adult and traditional family homes, with bike paths and trail systems throughout the development.  The Tuscan-themed development will also include a village core for entertainment, dining and shopping.
El Dorado has submitted a community master plan to the City of Benson with the hopes of setting design parameters to ensure consistency throughout the 18 year buildout.  The plan provides for the construction of the development in 14 planning units, and includes the creation of special taxing districts which would generate revenue to pay for the infrastructure and improvements over a 25 year period.  Those residing within the development’s taxing districts would be liable for the costs of building the improvements, purportedly leaving very little financial liability to the City of Benson.
If successful, the economic impact of the development would be very large, with a projected an annual impact of $1.2 billion per year.  The development has been heavily endorsed by governmental and economic development organizations and is opposed by environmental and conservation groups.
In fact, a lawsuit by Earthjustice on behalf of Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Maricopa Audubon Society, and others is already pending.  The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that the development would impact four endangered or threatened animal species and suggests that the Clean Water Act Permit issued to Whetstone Ranch, which was transferred to El Dorado with its purchase, does not fully cover the extent of the development.