Pictured: The 69-acres of land near Jenny Lin Road and the I-17 that could potentially be developed into 299 single-family homes.
Photo courtesy of Tara Alatorre/Staff
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299 homes proposed for development near I-17 and Circle Mountain Road

03/28/18

Tara Alatorre
Staff
ANTHEM – Approximately 75 residents attended a neighborhood meeting on March 19 at the Anthem Community Center to voice their opposition to a proposed development on approximately 69 acres of land on the northeast corner of the Interstate 17 and Circle Mountain Road.

The purpose of the meeting was to inform the community about the request to rezone the entire parcel from commercial to residential zoning, which would allow a developer to potentially build 4.2 homes per acre for a total of 299 single-family homes.

“I don’t want to hear your pleasantries, because I don’t want your development!” one woman stood up and declared.

Locals grew more skeptical as many questions went unanswered by the meeting facilitator Jorge Villasenor, because he either lacked specific information or was interrupted by the upset crowd with questions or comments.

All the while the community continually accused the city of intentionally hiding the March 19 meeting notice sign behind desert shrubs to thwart community involvement.
“We actually don’t have to post one [sign] at all,” said Villasenor in response to repeated comments about the sign being hidden.  “It was not the intent at all, despite what these gentlemen said.”

The nearly 69 acres in question is located on the I-17 Frontage Road south of Jenny Lin and north of Circle Mountain roads and it borders state trust land.  The city stipulated that a point of connection would need to be built for public access to the state trust land, which would likely be through Circle Mountain Road.

The proposed gross density of 4.2 houses per acre is in the range of what the Phoenix General Plan supports, which is up to 5 homes per acre, but the surrounding area of New River and Desert Hills is much less dense about one house per acre.

“Where are these kids going to school?” another woman asked with sincere concern at the meeting after she hushed the crowd at the meeting.

If the development were approved the new students would be a part of the Deer Valley Unified School District attending New River Elementary, Gavilan Peak Elementary and Boulder Creek High schools.

"We have heard from Deer Valley that they were at capacity but that has not affected our recommendation," said Angie Holdsworth, a spokesperson for the Phoenix Planning and Development Department.

DVUSD anticipates the development would bring about 100 new students and Boulder Creek is currently already over capacity, but this development alone is not enough to warrant building more schools in the area, according to Jim Migliorino, DVUSD Superintendent of Fiscal and Business Services.

“Due to our high school student capacity concerns and the limited information we have to date, we have expressed a concern to the City of Phoenix about this rezoning case,” he said.  “Ultimately it is the City Council that makes these final determinations.

The biggest concerns from residents at the meeting were mainly about water resources, traffic and losing open space.

The parcel of land was annexed into the City of Phoenix after New Hamburg Land Company requested the amendment and the city council approved the request on October 4, 2017. The annexation into Phoenix means the proposed residences would be provided city water and sewage services.

“We got serious water problems here,” said one resident at the meeting.  “We have to pay $75 a load, how do I know my water costs won’t go up?”

The fact that the new homes would receive city water especially stung residents after their water hauling services were recently cut off from accessing Phoenix fire hydrants, causing the community to secure drinking water through the private utility company EPCOR.

Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates of District 3, who represents the unincorporated communities near New River, said that he was only recently made aware of the development. He believes there are many unanswered questions about traffic impacts, development impacts and emergency response, he said in an email to The Foothills Focus.

“While Maricopa County has no jurisdiction or authority over the city of Phoenix, I understand the community’s concerns and I am working to set a meeting with Phoenix Councilwoman Thelda Williams who now represents the recently annexed property,” he said.

The Rio Vista Village Planning Committee will schedule hearings regarding the proposal, but the dates have not been set yet.  The committee will forward a recommendation to the city’s planning commission. The commission will then move the proposal onto the Phoenix City Council, which will ultimately decide whether to approve the request or not.

Concerned residents should send emails to kaelee.wilson@phoenix.gov or call 602-534-7696.  Or write the City of Phoenix Planning and Development Department, Zoning Section, 200 W. Washington Street, 2nd Floor, Phoenix, Ariz., 85003 referencing the case number Z-9-18-1, and your letter will become a part of the case.