Last week in The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde’s Louann Patterson said “[It] does no good to build a road if you don’t build anything around it.”
Patterson, co-owner of Copper Star Indoor Shooting Range along State Route 260, was referring to Arizona Department of Transportation’s SR 260 improvement project.
Construction began earlier this year to turn the full 11-mile length of SR 260 in Camp Verde into a modern, separated four lane highway with seven roundabout intersections, including two that ADOT expects will accommodate future development.
The issue of future development is sometimes a contentious one, with many caught between preserving the town’s rural character and wanting more economic opportunity. Regardless of reservations, economic development is a major priority for the town:
Under Camp Verde Economic Development Director Steve Ayers, who began his tenure with the town early 2013, Camp Verde has pursued sustainable, environmentally friendly development.
Coming in, one of Ayers’ top priorities was to see SR 260’s transformation completed. Since 2003, Camp Verde and Cottonwood had been stalled in an “ugly fight” over SR 260’s Access Management Plan. Without good access and the proper infrastructure to support development, Ayers said, the SR 260 corridor has been underused.
“Contrary to what some believe, I believe the reason nothing’s been done out there is because it hasn’t been developed,” he said. “You needed tostart by fixing the road itself.”
Once approval of ADOT’s improvement project came through, Ayers, Town Manager Russ Martin and Camp Verde Town Council saw more opportunities to leverage a more safe and convenient highway.
In November 2016, Camp Verde Town Council approved a three-year, $110,000 contract with Alabama-based Retail Strategies to analyze the town’s retail potential and assist with recruitment efforts, with the ultimate goal of attracting one or more major retailers.
According to Mayor Charlie German, increased access to and from Cottonwood — and thus the entire Verde Valley and Sedona — via SR 260 will be one of the major drivers of recruitment efforts.
Traditionally, retailers look at population as a measure of retail store opening potential, but German believes other factors may help sway major chains. “Most of the time we’re not at that [population] point, but obviously we’re in the process of developing that economic corridor,” he said, adding that his desire is to see retail Strategies make a presentation about how the improved corridor increases Camp Verde’s attractiveness to retailers.
“That’s something that’s on my agenda because I don’t know how much the council knows about it.”
Most area residents seem on board with development, if done wisely, but lament the impact of projects like SR 260 in the meantime. Like Patterson, they don’t want to be inconvenienced on their way to work or, worse yet, have their businesses negatively impacted by construction.
“I do understand the impact out there,” Ayers said of Patterson’s and other business owners’ concerns about access.
Ayers invited anyone experiencing negative impacts from construction to contact him at 554-0007 or steve.ayers@ campverde.az.gov. He said ADOT is working with the town throughout the process and is well versed in addressing such concerns from business owners.
“ADOT is in the business of talking to people. It’s what they do,” Ayers said, adding that ADOT is willing to evaluate whether signs need to be placed along SR 260 in order to alert customers of a businesses location, hours or alternate access routes.
According to Ayers, the town is not about to let potential go unfulfilled, either with existing businesses or ones coming down the pike. The 260 improvement project was okayed by the Arizona State Transportation Board not only because the modern highway would increase safety, but because the board believed Camp Verde has room to grow along the SR 260 corridor:
Those two unnamed roundabouts at roads that currently don’t exist aren’t there for nothing. “These roundabouts will lead off into nowhere for a while, but I don’t think that’ll last long,” Ayers said. “It’ll get there. It won’t happen overnight, but we’re doing everything to ensure it does.”