Council approves zoning change for 5-storey apartment buildings

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Susan Buonsante of Glennwilde told City Council there was already too much traffic on Porter Road. [Brian Petersheim Jr.]

Maricopa City Council voted 5-2 on Tuesday to approve land use and zoning changes for the 536-unit Home at Maricopa apartment project, allowing the developer to construct multiple five-story buildings despite public opposition important.

Board members Henry Wade and Rich Vitiello opposed the changes; Mayor Christian Price, Deputy Mayor Vincent Manfredi, Council Member Amber Liermann, Council Member Bob Marsh and Council Member Nancy Smith supported the development plan.

FRONT COVER
Council is considering rezoning a large apartment complex due to traffic problems on Porter Road
Council set to act on huge apartment complex on Tuesday
P&Z speaks out to residents of Glennwilde – and the OK apartment complex

Council approved and passed a Minor General Plan Land Use Amendment to change the land use from Public/Institutional (P) and Mixed Use (MU) to Mixed Use (MU) for 25.3 acres of vacant land on the east side of Porter Road near Walmart.

It also approved and passed an amendment to the city’s zoning map to rezone these acres to the development of the Planned Light Industrial and Warehouse Zone. The apartment complex is being developed by Shelter Asset Management and El Dorado 27 LLC.

Public opposition from residents of Glennwilde – echoed by Wade, who also lives in the community – focused on road safety and congestion along Porter Road and the height of the proposed buildings. The apartment complex would consist of four 4-story and two 5-story structures and would have a maximum height of 54 feet, although a maximum height of 70 feet would be permitted.

“Deal Done”

Most residents who spoke to the council on Tuesday evening complained about traffic on Porter Road, saying congestion was already a problem, particularly during pick-up and school pick-up times. Others said they were concerned about the rezoning approval process and felt their concerns were not taken seriously.

“To us, this appears to be a done deal already,” Susan Buonsante told the board during the public comment period. “There is signage on the property and it doesn’t mean anything. But there’s a general, general concern that our voices and the direction that Maricopa is taking aren’t being heard, that our voices don’t matter.

Buonsante also shared specific concerns with more than 500 apartments under construction in an already congested part of town.

“We don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate that many high-density, multi-family housing in one area,” she said. “Home values ​​– I’m a real estate agent – ​​I can tell you that’s a real thing. Nobody wants to go back into a building. And I honestly don’t believe anyone here hasn’t already made up their minds. So we’re here to talk, but I don’t think any of us think there’s going to be any openness. Many of us moved here for the small town life and housing affordability. Nobody asks us what we want, what the people of Maricopa want, and I think we should have a voice.

Sue Van Gosen, a retiree who lives in the Elm Tree section of Glennwilde, was concerned about both the height of the proposed building and road safety.

“This area was originally zoned for single-level patio homes, and was finally approved last week for 4-5 story height,” Van Gosen said. “It doesn’t fit with everything around it. It will look out of place like a sore thumb. If we approve of that and go ahead and build this site four or five stories high, any other future development can use that as a precedent to ask for four or five stories when right now they’re asking for three. We don’t want downtown Tempe. We don’t want skyscrapers; we don’t want seven floors.

Glennwilde resident Heather Williams also lamented the zoning change.

“We moved here from Utah and I asked all the questions,” Williams said. “I was a realtor in Utah, so coming here I knew the questions to ask. Our realtor knew everything, so when we moved here she told us everything that was going on in this area. For Long story short, if I had known what’s on display now, I wouldn’t have moved to Glennwilde.

Williams also challenged the city’s policy of only notifying residents who live within 600 feet of a project of scheduled public hearings. If she hadn’t been on the Glennwilde webpage, she said she wouldn’t have known about the plan because all of Glennwilde is beyond the 600-foot limit.

“Important zoning”

The city, in its presentation by city planner Derek Scheerer, addressed the issue of traffic, saying that if zoning on part of the site had remained commercial, the resulting traffic would be significantly higher than with apartments.

He said a big-box retail entity like Home Depot or Lowe’s on the site would create up to 18,000 trips per day, compared to about 2,500 trips for the apartments and 5,700 trips for the mixed-use portion. planned development.

“Compared to what is proposed under the PAD, this is significant zoning of the site and impacts on traffic in the area,” Scheerer said. “For comparison, the Home at Maricopa project will globally create 2,500 trips per day; Porter and Honeycutt’s gas station alone is 2,280. The Walmart across the street does about 10,000 rides a day, and anything in Wells right next to Walmart is about 1,600 rides a day.

City manager Rick Horst has blamed much of the blame for Porter Road’s traffic problems on a minority of parents who fail to follow traffic rules and guidelines when dropping off and picking up their students at one of the six charter or public schools along the corridor.

He said city staff had been meeting with school staff for several months “about their non-compliance with their original traffic plans.”

He said the city had drone video of parents clogging roads and blocking private driveways while picking up their children. The video was provided to schools, which were asked to revise their traffic plans by the new school year.

“Parents are not allowed to park in lanes, obstruct traffic, steer traffic lights, park on curves while waiting for their children to pick up,” Horst said. “So we’re going to… focus on that with what we call courtesy quotes at the start of the school year – not to hit their wallet but to get their attention. And for them to solve the problem that parents are contributing to create, quite honestly.

Horst said if traffic issues persist as the school year progresses, the city will begin issuing traffic citations.

Wade: “Public safety issue”

Councilman Henry Wade told the audience that public safety was his primary concern, but noted that he also disliked the five-story height.

“I used to take my grandson to Saddleback,” Wade said. “So I’ve seen parents abuse the parking lot, abuse the front area, turn left over don’t turn left. I’ve seen all of that in the last 12 years that I’ve lived here in Maricopa… I have a problem with the fact that the road safety is not sufficient for my grandson to cross the street to go to school.

“But I have to say, if I was standing on this (public speaker) podium, I don’t want a five-story building. Glennwilde has taken the brunt of the traffic and things that have been harmful to the community and the children, and I think Glennwilde has pretty much had enough.

After the meeting, Wade said of the traffic, “People will do what they’re going to do, and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to change people’s habits and behaviors.”

“We are going to create a public safety problem with all this traffic,” he added.

Deputy Mayor Vincent Manfredi said he entered the meeting thinking he was voting no, but was swayed by information presented at the meeting about traffic figures and the effect of the reduction in traffic. height of apartment buildings. He said the developer would build the same number of flats regardless of how the council acts, but at least building higher would create the opportunity for more open space and better amenities.

“I don’t like five stories,” Manfredi said. “But it doesn’t matter what I like. This is an upscale community – no offense to the people who live in Walmart’s (Oasis at The Wells) apartments. It’s more expensive, not a generic apartment complex. I don’t like a generic apartment complex more than I like five stories. Look at the apartments on (State Route) 238, there aren’t many apartments. space between them. Looks like you could reach out the window and touch your neighbor.

“If we leave the zoning as it is today, if there’s a Lowe’s, if there are restaurants, the traffic is worse and it’s all day,” he said. . “So in reality, five stories is less traffic than three stories because people will stay there because of the amenities available on the property.”

Nancy Smith said she supported the project for similar reasons.

“We’re going to have buildings in the town of Maricopa that are 54 feet and 70 feet tall,” Smith said. “So the height doesn’t scare me given the quality of the project. And the fact that if they only choose three story apartments to get the most out of their property, you will end up with the same number of (units) and no amenities. And that doesn’t interest me at all.

Council member Rich Vitiello did not speak at the meeting before his no, but then weighed his opposition to the zoning and land use changes.

“I’ll wait and see how things go, what other information I can find,” Vitiello said. “I will talk to the planning and zoning commissioners because I talk to them a lot. I just need a little more information to make an informed decision. I’m not against apartments, I made it very clear that we need apartments because not everyone can afford a house.

“I want to see how the plans turn out,” Vitiello continued. “They (the developers) will come back with the full design and then we’ll decide. I’d rather say no now than say yes and have different numbers come out later. Could I be persuaded to be a “yes”? Yes, I could, but I want to wait for more details to come out. I’m in and out of these communities all day, and let me tell you, Gunsmoke Road becomes a racetrack with people trying to avoid going on Porter.

The planning and zoning commission and city council still need to grant final plan approval before construction on the project can begin.

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