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Parkside Board of Directors considering repurposing request for Anthem home

2/24/2016

Elizabeth Medora
Staff

ANTHEM – The Parkside Board of Directors has been asked to approve the repurposing of a Parkside home near Boulder Creek High School for use as an LDS church seminary. For this use, Maricopa County will also have to approve a Special Use Permit. No date has been set for the decision.

Residents gathered at the Feb. 18 Parkside Board of Directors meeting to learn more about the Special Use Permit and how it would be used. Church leaders presented information on the background of an LDS seminary and why they desire this particular location.

“This is just a great opportunity for us,” said Terry Bradshaw, who spoke on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Feb. 18 meeting. Bradshaw said that the seminary program allows high school students to attend a religious class during school class time: students leave the high school campus and walk to a seminary class, which lasts about an hour. Since students walk to the LDS seminary, Bradshaw called it “important for us to be able to locate a facility close enough to the high school.”

In Anthem, the LDS church is asking for approval to repurpose the house at 3605 W. Memorial Drive, located at the southwest corner of Gavilan Peak Parkway and Memorial Drive. Bradshaw said the church has this house “under contract.” Approvals from both Maricopa County and the Parkside HOA are necessary to repurpose the home.

Bradshaw said that most LDS seminaries do not require additional parking to be built; parking is needed only for 1-3 teachers and a receptionist/secretary. Students are to park at the high school and walk to the seminary. Approximately 120 students, 20-25 kids per class, would be attending.

“It is not our intention to change the exterior of the property at all,” Bradshaw said, adding that the church may place a “small sign on the side or front of the building indicating it is an LDS seminary.”

Two Boulder Creek students addressed the board regarding the proposed seminary, stating what seminary classes mean to them. Currently, they attend morning seminary classes at 6 a.m. at the Anthem LDS church.

Kyler described seminary as “a place where I can go learn more about God” and to learn to “be a better person and be a better member of my community.”

Holly called seminary a “safe haven for me.”

Bradshaw declared that the LDS church does not intend there to be any other uses of the house than as a seminary, saying that the plan is to be an “insignificant, quiet neighbor.”

In a follow-up email to Parkside representatives after the Feb. 18 meeting, The Foothills Focus requested further details on what will happen if another organization requests to repurpose an Anthem home in future and if a precedent will be set by the Parkside board’s decision in this case.

“The Anthem Parkside Community Association (APCA) Board is regularly asked for variances,” Bettye Ruff, Parkside board vice president responded via email. “It is the responsibility of the APCA Board to do our due diligence when considering a decision that may have future implications for the residents of Anthem Parkside. Any request is considered in regards to the impact on the value of the Association, neighborhood and property and unique issues that arise.”

At the Feb. 18 meeting, Parkside board member Doug Sutherland asked that a county hearing be held in Anthem, if possible. This request is in process. Sutherland also asked who would ensure that the property was kept up and was told that a professional cleaner would be coming in to take care of the landscaping and building interior.

Board member BJ McIlnay asked if this had been done in communities similar to Anthem and was told there is a seminary near Basha High School in Chandler. A church planner noted that the Chandler home looks no different than the rest of the neighborhood and also said the home is exempt from HOA dues.

Board vice president Ruff said in an email to The Foothills Focus, “In the case of Anthem Parkside, the home is being considered for an allowance to be used for non-residential purposes. In all other respects, the owner will be expected to abide by the community documents (CC&Rs) including paying assessments, fines for violations and abiding by the Use Restrictions.”

At the meeting, Parkside community manager Mary Beth Zahn read an email from a resident who could not attend the meeting. The resident asked why the LDS church needed a separate house for this use, stating that other congregations they were aware of used their own facilities.

Bradshaw responded that the church does not have an “appropriate facility.” The church is considering only structures within a 5-minute walk of the high school.

Anthem Community Council board member Tim Fyke spoke as a resident, saying he as a Council member had had occasion to work with the LDS church, calling them “extremely patient.”

“I hope you guys grant this,” he said, addressing the Parkside board. 

When asked about the timeframe of the repurposing, Bradshaw said that the property cannot be used without Maricopa County’s approval. Bradshaw added that they would like to get a decision from the board as soon as possible but that he would be happy to visit Anthem again for additional meetings.

In a Feb. 22 phone interview, Maricopa County Planning & Zoning representative Glenn Bak stated that the Special Use Permit request has not yet been scheduled for a hearing, calling it “early in the process.”

Bak verified that should the LDS church sell the home at some point, it would retain the Special Use Permit for the same type of use.

“Special Use Permits in general are pretty common,” Bak said, noting that neighbors of the Anthem home would be receiving letters from the church regarding the proposal.

At the Feb. 18 meeting, board president Loren Linscott specified that there would be subsequent meetings to address residents’ questions and concerns.

“Given the scope of this request, we’re definitely going to have additional meetings,” Linscott said.

The next scheduled Parkside Board of Directors meeting is April 21. Additional meeting dates will be announced when they are available. Keep updated on this and other Parkside issues at onlineatanthem.com/anthem-parkside-community-association.