A series of applications designed to improve economic prosperity in Cochise County have been approved by the Board of Supervisors.
As a result, the County will become the home of a new solar energy plant, its wine industry will receive a boost, and an agricultural site may be replaced by residential properties.
Developer Soventix USA has chosen a 135-acre parcel in Benson to build its solar energy power plant. The project, located near the intersection of East 4th Street and Benson Airport Road, will bring up to 200 construction jobs to the region, and employ three to five people once completed.
The Board approved an application by the company to have the site rezoned from residential to light industry. It is also the County’s intent to rezone an adjacent 202-acre property, currently used as a cattle farm, so that it will be in keeping with the immediate area.
“This is an appropriate way to look at this,” commented Supervisor Ann English. “It looks to me that this has been well thought out.”
An application to extend an assurance agreement for a planned subdivision near Sunsites was also approved by the Board.
Ed Curry is currently farming the 433.5 acres, located on State Route 191 and Birch Road, which were approved for residential development by the Board of Supervisors in 2012.
Due to the economic downturn the site, known as Morning Star Airpark, has yet to be developed and the original assurance agreement, which preserves the entitlements granted by the approved final plat, lapsed in April 2017.
Recognizing that the economy has been slow to improve in the region, the Board agreed to extend the assurance agreement by eight years, to include the lapsed period.
Curry told the Board, however, that he feels there are signs of improvement, particularly with the expansion of the local wine and nut industries, that indicate the housing market could turn around.
“It’s more probable now than it has been in the past,” he said.
Supervisor Pat Call voted against the eight-year extension, saying he would prefer the process be reviewed every three years. Supervisor Peggy Judd and Supervisor English agreed eight years was more appropriate.
Finally, the Board officially approved a $475,000 grant awarded by the Arizona Commerce Authority to help improve Robbs Road and Arzberger Road near Willcox. Both routes serve the burgeoning wine industry and will lead to the expansion of vineyards, new tasting rooms and supporting businesses, as well as an increase in tourists.
“This is a great opportunity for Cochise County to help with the expansion of the area,” said Public Works Director Marty Haverty, adding the project aligns with the Board’s strategic plan, which highlights economic development as its top priority.
The grant was approved unanimously.