Gold Canyon Golf Club

Hole No. 4 on the Dinosaur course at Gold Canyon Golf Club.

FLORENCE — Gold Canyon needs a comprehensive plan to guide its growth, but the new effort is already experiencing some skepticism and pushback before it begins.

Pinal County Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, said Wednesday there’s nothing in the upcoming study by Arizona State University graduate students that’s binding to Pinal County. He added he hopes the people who came to the meeting to speak about it end up participating. Miller wished “best of luck” to those doing the study, and said Pinal County should be happy to help.

Board Vice Chairman Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, said there’s already been misunderstandings and misinformation surrounding the process. But he said this Gold Canyon study can build on a similar effort the county did a few years ago in San Tan Valley.

Goodman said those doing the study must work for community buy-in, holding a lot of meetings and “continuously reaching out and listening.” He said they mustn’t forget the State Land Department, which also has a big stake in Gold Canyon’s future. Goodman concluded, “I commend you for your efforts, thank you.”

The board heard a presentation on the Gold Canyon Community Plan Student Project, a partnership between the nonprofit community group Gold Canyon Community Inc. and ASU. Graduate students will work in Gold Canyon as part of a course, toward a master’s of urban and environmental planning degree.

Students will come to the project with undergraduate degrees in areas such as architecture, planning and economics, “and this is a place where they experiment, and do something constructive and applied at the community level,” Sarbeswar Praharaj, assistant professor in ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, told the board.

“… This project that we’re going to do, with your support and cooperation, is the perfect example of a living laboratory. … This course is designed in a way that students go out to the community, they study the community,” Praharaj told the board.

“This is the fundamental difference we’re trying to bring to this course: interaction with planning leaders. We want our students to come and interact with all sorts of leaders in the community” and learn their vision for Gold Canyon, Praharaj said.

Gold Canyon Community Inc. will release a survey to the community in October in preparation for ASU’s study. Four Gold Canyon residents expressed reservations about the survey to the board Wednesday.

Pam Burks of Gold Canyon asked the board to “take a pause” on the survey until local residents and organizations can take part “for a better product.”

Bunny Butler asked what is the supervisors’ vision for Gold Canyon and why a survey “with so many intrusive questions” was being conducted without the input of community groups.

“The people of Gold Canyon were never involved in the beginning processes. Never,” Glenn Walp, president of the group ADOBE, or Association for the Development of a Better Environment, told the board. He said there should have been multiple meetings with full-time residents and winter visitors.

A woman reminded the board that the people elected them “to make the right choices for all of us, not just a particular group.”

Dave Coward, GCCI board member and treasurer, responded that the group has held monthly meetings for more than two years, these meetings have been publicized, and “there’s no reason for people not to know what we’ve been doing.” He said ADOBE was invited to participate from the beginning.

“We’re not trying to force anything on the community. We’re just trying to gather information and be a conduit to improve the community.” He said GCCI has consulted other community groups in creating the survey.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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