With construction on the Hwy. 179 Improvement Project in full swing, traffic is moving slowly along the corridor, particularly in the Village of Oak Creek where four-way stops have replaced the stoplights at the intersections of Bell Rock Boulevard and Jacks Canyon Road.


Although traffic slows to a crawl at Back o? Beyond Road?s intersection with Hwy. 179 — where the cement barriers are in place — Southwest Asphalt Paving construction workers contracted for the project are managing to keep things moving — for the most part.


The alternate route issue has weaseled its way back into the spotlight with the Sedona City Council?s approval of yet another study aimed at addressing traffic concerns in Sedona.


The Sedona Fire District responded to an electrical fire that destroyed a $2.5 million home in the Back o? Beyond gated community early Saturday morning.

Fire crews arrived on the scene at 1:02 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14, just 12 minutes after dispatch received the report.

A neighbor called 9-1-1 after smelling smoke and looking out the window to see flames.

Another neighbor also called moments before crews arrived.

According to SFD Fire Marshal Will Loesche, the fire started when an exposed outdoor electrical outlet shorted during a rainstorm.

Nobody was home at the time.

The outlet was exposed because the home, located on Primrose Point, was in the process of being refurbished.

The outer layers of the home had previously been stripped off to deal with a mold issue caused by a leaky window.

The mold had been removed and the contractors were in the process of putting the outer layers back on.

The home was scheduled to be re-stuccoed this week.

?It takes the complete walls to give it that protection [from fire],? Senior Fire Inspector Gary Johnson said.

When crews arrived, the primary fire was in the attic.

?Those are one of the hardest types of fires to fight,? Loesche said.

With flames sandwiched in the space between the exterior roof and the interior ceiling, firefighters had to poke holes in both to get to the fire.

?It?s a very difficult maneuver to do,? Loesche said.

According to Johnson, attic fires are hard to fight and the outcome normally isn?t good.

The fire burnt the majority of the roof off the home, ruining an estimated $500,000 worth of the home?s contents, bringing the final amount of loss to $3 million.

Only approximately the top ¼ of the house was burnt, with little actual flame damage affecting the rest of the home.

Once the fire was put out, firefighters could see that the exposed ceiling rafters were burnt only on the top, with the bottoms looking brand new — which is characteristic of attic fires.

Areas that were hit by the flames were charred due to the intense heat produced by the fire.

The heat also caused the interior paint to bubble and run down the walls.

Roof and ceiling debris blanketed the floor, combining with the rainwater to create a soggy marsh for firefighters to trudge through.

The end of active fire time was determined to be 4:15 a.m., but firefighters were still dealing with hot spots as late as 8:45 a.m.

The owners, whose primary residence is in Chicago, flew in after they received the news.

A private investigator from the owners? insurance company will also conduct an investigation.

By Chelsea DeWeese
Larson Newspapers

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality released a newly revised draft aquifer protection permit Sept. 28 regarding a proposed wastewater treatment plant near Oak Creek.

State water officials are broadcasting what they call is its highly protective nature.

?In this situation, we are taking extra steps to ensure concerns raised by the public are addressed,? ADEQ Director Steve Owens said. ?We view this as a very important permit.?

The revised draft permit, for the proposed Bella Terra Wastewater Treatment Facility, comes after public comment caused ADEQ to revisit a draft permit issued for the facility

earlier this summer.

?It?s really kind of the totality of the comments to ADEQ that has influenced the agency to ... toughen the standards,? Owens said.

The proposed Bella Terra Wastewater Treatment Facility is planned as a wastewater treatment plant for the Bella Terra on Oak Creek subdivision, which is yet to be built.

The subdivision is approved as a 106-unit development on 53½ acres bordering Oak Creek south of Sedona, off Upper Red Rock Loop Road.

At build-out, the Bella Terra Wastewater Treatment Facility would process 24,910 gallons of domestic wastewater per day.

The treated wastewater, called effluent, would then be disposed of via an underground  drip irrigation system on three separate

?disposal fields? for evapotranspiration.

Initially, the draft aquifer protection permit for the Bella Terra Wastewater Treatment Facility included only one disposal field with a backup, both located near Carrol Canyon Wash on the eastern boundary of the Bella Terra


Carrol Canyon Wash empties directly into Oak Creek, a state-designated ?unique and

scenic? waterway with special

environmental protections.

In addition, three drinking water aquifers, the Oak Creek Alluvial Aquifer at 20 feet, the Supai Aquifer at 150 feet and the Redwall Formation at 300 to 400 feet, are located under the Bella Terra property.

During a public hearing regarding the first draft permit, an overflowing audience turned out to express concern that Oak Creek and the aquifers could potentially become polluted by the effluent disposal field, especially since the ?disposal rate? was high in their opinion, at 0.74 gallons per square foot per day.

Numerous public commentators, including a Northern Arizona University professor brought in by neighboring residents to look into the matter, expressed concern that the disposal field could become super saturated and effluent could seep laterally into Carrol Canyon Wash and then into Oak Creek.

The newly revised draft aquifer protection permit seeks to alleviate those concerns, ADEQ representatives said, by adding two more disposal fields on the property — opposite Carrol Canyon Wash — reducing the overall disposal rate to 0.366 gallons per square foot per day.

In addition, the new permit allows for a ?reuse site,? where effluent can be used to water Bella Terra landscaping, which will use another 10,000 gallons per day, further reducing the

disposal rate, to 0.219.

Other changes to the draft

permit include stricter effluent classification — at A+, the strictest level in the state, considered to be ?drinking water? standard — and the use of ultraviolet instead of chlorination for disinfecting, largely believed to have less health and environmental impact.

Also new, the ADEQ is requiring an on site well that?s continually monitored for nitrate levels to ensure surface water is protected, with a ?toughened? nitrate discharge maximum of 7 milligrams per liter, compared to the standard 8 milligrams per liter.

According to Owens, of ADEQ, this draft aquifer protection permit is ?precedent setting? in terms of having such strong provisions and conditions — especially for such a small-scale facility.

He emphasized his agency does not take the health of nearby residents or of the Oak Creek riparian environment lightly.

?This is the most protective permit for a facility of this size [in the state],? he said.

?These are tough provisions,? Owens continued, ?but they?re certainly provisions the applicant can meet.?

Bella Terra on Oak Creek developer BySynergy can appeal provisions once a final

permitting decision is made.

BySynergy Chief Executive Michael Zito was unavailable for comment Wednesday, Oct. 3.

However, he has so far been publicly supportive of the stricter provisions.

James Gundelach, who works in design and construction for BySynergy, said the newly issued aquifer protection permit takes into account all technical issues raised during previous ADEQ public hearings.

?We?re comfortable with where we?re at,? Gundelach said. ?We feel we?ve addressed all the [public?s] concerns.?

ADEQ senior staff will hold a public information meeting regarding the revised draft aquifer protection permit for the Bella Terra Wastewater Treatment Facility at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1, at the Sedona Red Rock High School campus.

A public commentary meeting will follow.

Following that, a 30-day public comment period will be in effect. ADEQ officials will then review public comments and issue a responsiveness summary.

A final permitting decision is anticipated to be made sometime in late November.

To view the revised draft aquifer protection permit visit or Sedona Public Library, located at

3250 White Bear Road, West Sedona.

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