VERDE VALLEY – Verde Connect representatives spoke to a full Camp Verde council chamber for more than an hour Wednesday.
Before the presentation, Mayor Charlie German said that folks in opposition of the county’s plan for a road that connects Cornville Road and SR 260 would have time to present their position at council’s April 17 meeting.
But that didn’t stop council member Joe Butner from challenging the plan, which is being spearheaded by Yavapai County and Jacobs Engineering.
Butner, a longtime Camp Verde resident, told the county’s assistant director of public works and the engineering firm’s senior project manager that the connector road “will bypass our main commercial corridor.”
“This road is going to be a bypass road from Cottonwood, it will cut over Cornville Road, will bypass the section of I-17 that includes Camp Verde,” Butner said.
“You do realize this would create a bypass?” Butner then asked Yavapai County’s Roger McCormick, as well as Troy Sieglitz from Jacobs.
“I don’t live here,” Sieglitz told Butner. “I don’t think I can answer that question … [the connector road] gives options.”
Before Mayor German thanked Verde Connect for its presentation, Council Member Buck Buchanan told McCormick and Sieglitz that he “hope[s] due diligence will come to the forefront.”
“Most of the [suggested] routes come through Camp Verde,” Buchanan said. “Camp Verde should have a significant voice.”
Engineers behind Verde Connect are visiting communities around the Verde Valley and presenting changes to the project since receiving a $25 million grant to fund the plan.
Representatives from Jacobs Engineering, the company contracted to consult on the project, have been presenting findings across the valley.
According to a Yavapai County staff report, this new route involves adding a two-lane roadway and bridge across the Verde River to connect Camp Verde and the northern portion of the Yavapai-Apache Nation to the SR 260 corridor.
Verde Connect was the only project in Arizona to receive this multimillion Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) award, according to Yavapai County staff.
Since receiving the grant the project study transitioned into an environmental assessment process as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
‘We like the solitude of that area’
Middle Verde resident and cattle ranch owner Zach Wolfe said his ranch is along Verde Connect route. He raised concerns about the project during a regular city council meeting in Cottonwood Tuesday.
“We moved to Middle Verde because we like the solitude of that area,” said Wolfe, who with his wife Shannon owns Plowing Ahead Ranch, a small cattle business located at the end of Mahoney Road in Middle Verde.
“The people of Middle Verde, and I speak for the majority of them out there – not everyone but the vast majority – we chose that commute,” he said. “We chose to be in an area that was removed from the traffic and all of that and we’d like to keep it that way.”
Wolfe said after researching some transportation plans dating back to 1999, he believes that widening Cornville Road would eliminate the need for Verde Connect.
Wolfe noted that as a cattle ranch owner with irrigated property, the river is a crucial resource for him. He took issue with the idea of looking at the river as a barrier rather than a resource.
“It’s still an untouched corridor for wildlife ... between all of our towns. Do we want to disrupt that?” Wolfe said.
Not able to talk to Camp Verde’s council on Wednesday, Wolfe did email town staff a letter he planned to read.
Wolfe said that while he has “great respect for our county representatives as well as the good people at Jacobs Engineering, I am in opposition to this project.”
“What is the point of progress,” he asked, “if it costs us what made us great to begin with, a peaceful rural agricultural community?”