Proposed subdivision that straddles New River near west Anthem scrutinized by community for safety issues

By TARA ALATORRE

Pictured: A rendering of the proposed housing development Riverview, which if approved would bring 170 new homes to 43rd Avenue and Circle Mountain Road. Photos by Tara Alatorre/Staff
Pictured: A rendering of the proposed housing development Riverview, which if approved would bring 170 new homes to 43rd Avenue and Circle Mountain Road. Photos by Tara Alatorre/Staff

ANTHEM – The developers of Riverview, which is a proposed housing development straddling New River on a Phoenix-annexed parcel of private land near west Anthem, announced last week that it will present information to a City of Phoenix committee on April 9, to begin its pursuit in rezoning a portion of the parcel to make way for 170 new homes.

If the rezoning request submitted by El Dorado Holdings is approved, the requested 55.25-acres located near 43rd Avenue and Circle Mountain Road will go from low-density farming residential (S-1) land, to single family residential (R1-6), with a density of three homes per acre. The Scottsdale based developer has promised to preserve the remaining 104.75-acres of the parcel, which is mostly located in a floodplain.

Pictured: Ed Bull, a representative for the developer El Dorado Holdings, who facilitated a community meeting regarding the intent to rezone a private parcel near west Anthem for a housing subdivision.
Pictured: Ed Bull, a representative for the developer El Dorado Holdings, who facilitated a community meeting regarding the intent to rezone a private parcel near west Anthem for a housing subdivision.

Neighboring residents that attended the community meeting at Canyon Springs Elementary on March 25, claimed the development would cause safety issues for the community, obstruct views and mooch Anthem’s amenities that residents pay for with homeowner association (HOA) fees. 

Flooding

The biggest concern of the evening was about potential flooding in west Anthem because part of the subdivision will be built in the New River wash, which could displace water downstream.

However, El Dorado Holdings claims that the subdivision is engineered to withstand a 500-year flood event. Also, federal approval will need to be obtained before they can begin to build in the floodplain, ultimately assuring the community that there will be no flood risk caused from Riverview.

Ed Bull, who represented El Dorado Holdings and facilitated the meeting last week, told residents there are only 13-acres of the development located in the New River wash, and the floodway would be revised with the approval of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in what is known as a Letter of Map Revision (LOMR).

“The foundation is being set at about the 500-year floodplain, and they won’t have to pay for flood insurance if approved ultimately by FEMA once mitigations occur and we submit a LOMR,” Bull said at the meeting.

However, despite the posters, graphs and experts on hand assuring residents that the development would not increase the floodplain and have no impact to the wash, residents – especially west-side Anthem residents present at the meeting – were still disapproving of Riverview.

“I feel really sorry for the people you build homes for that will lose everything when the floods come wash it away,” Deborah Harper said, an Anthem resident who lives in Arroyo Grande, which borders the southwest side of the Riverview property. “This wash gets running devastatingly, and you’re going to build 170 homes and that’s really sad.”

She went on to say that in the last 10 years she has already seen flood waters crest the 10-foot retaining wall between the Riverview property and west Anthem, so it is hard for her to believe that new and existing homes won’t be affected when the next big flood happens.

“The volume of water has to go somewhere,” Harper said passionately. “Ultimately you’re changing the natural flow.”

But a Riverview engineer explained that the developer owns both sides of New river on the north and south boundary of the parcel, with the natural flow of the river being the west bank, which is the portion being undeveloped. The part of the wash that Riverview will be built on is not the main channel of the river and is very shallow.

“We expect for there to be a small increase – not in feet – maybe two to three-tenth-inches maximum. The natural tendency for the floodplain is to move that way,” the engineer said as he pointed to the west corner of the Riverview property away from existing homes, insisting that it would not increase the downstream flow of the river.

But it wasn’t just flooding that the community was upset about.

Traffic

Another contentious topic discussed by residents at the meeting was traffic impacts, especially due to the location of the potential development, which is essentially landlocked and only accessible by 43rd Avenue. 

Residents were concerned that the 170 new homes would bring traffic issues to the neighborhood and said it would be especially compounded because Caurus Academy will be opening a new campus next fall on the southeast corner of 43rd Avenue and Circle Mountain Road.

“That’s 500 additional cars going down 43rd Avenue,” said one resident about how the school is a charter without busses and every student attending will be driving or getting dropped off. “Which you guys didn’t even know about until recently!”

The developer has conducted a traffic impact assessment (TIA) for the area that did include an additional 585 students driving on 43rd Avenue for school, but it was not shared at the meeting. 

At the time this was written, The Foothills Focus had still not received a copy of the TIA that was requested.  The developers said that they were revising the TIA based on the public input from the meeting.

Many other residents expressed concerns about emergency vehicles limited accessibility entering and exiting the area too, especially because Riverview is landlocked by the I-17 and a one-way Frontage Road on its east border.

Fire and law enforcement

The community was also upset that residents living in Riverview would not be paying their fair share for emergency services provided by the Daisy Mountain Fire District, which is funded by local property taxes.

“We have a line item on our taxes and its nothing to sneeze at,” said one resident. “We’re funding the fire support for this community [Riverview].”

Because Riverview is on property annexed into the City of Phoenix, those residents will pay Phoenix property taxes that don’t contribute to Daisy Mountain Fire District.  However, since Daisy Mountain Fire and Medical is the closest fire department to the subdivision it will likely be dispatched to the Riverview due to Maricopa County’s mutual aid response procedures.

“So, what happens when my house catches fire and Daisy Mountain is over there putting another one out!” said an upset woman.  “Now your taking away from services we pay for.”

Bull responded by telling residents that Phoenix has a new fire station potentially planned to increase emergency services to the North Valley, and that the fire departments are in constant communication. Also, that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Black Mountain Precinct Commander Tom Van Dorn did not believe that Riverview would negatively impact response times for the area.

“I’m not the judge of what is fair and what is not fair,” Bull said. “But it is a common procedure [mutual aid response] and overall, from a fiscal perspective, it does work well.”

Other concerns were that response times for law enforcement and fire would become increasingly slower due to continued, unchecked population growth in the rural area.

Anthem amenities and views

Residents of west Anthem are also upset that the Riverview development has two-story homes planned, saying that it will ruin the views for existing homes, therefore reducing their property values. 

One resident requested that the developers only build one-story homes on the south lot to avoid obstructing the line of sight into the open desert.

Anthem residents were also suspicious that Riverview developers were relying too much on Anthem amenities and services for its future homeowners. 

Riverview will have two park areas with grass and playgrounds, but some are skeptical it will not provide enough recreation for the 170 new residences, causing Anthem amenities to be used by people not paying the HOA fees and become overcrowded.

“How do you plan on compensating Anthem Community Council for an overload use of its services?” Anthem resident Ron Jerich asked.  “You have done nothing to facilitate recreation and they will go to Anthem as a result.”

Linda Cheney, the Vice President of El Dorado said that in the beginning they tried annexing Riverview into Anthem so it could become a part of the HOA, but Anthem declined.

“We’re still open to annex into the Anthem HOA, but not if they are just going to tell us no,” Cheney said.

However, the ACC says it has never been approached about annexing Riverview into Anthem, and they are not interested either.

“The ACC is very concerned about the negative impacts that adding 170 homes at this location will have on west-side traffic flow and circulation, public safety response times, and other quality of life issues,” Anthem’s Community Executive Officer Neal Shearer said. “If such concerns are not adequately addressed by the developer or the City of Phoenix, the ACC will actively oppose the Riverview rezoning case.”

Timeline of events

The next steps in the planning and approval process for Riverview are:

  • April 9, at 6 p.m. is an informational meeting only for the Phoenix Rio Vista Village Planning Committee at the Goelet A.C. Beuf Community Center, 3435 West Pinnacle Peak Road (agenda subject to change) regarding the request to rezone.
  • May 14, at 6 p.m. El Dorado Holdings will ask the Rio Vista Village Planning Committee for a recommendation to rezone at the Goelet A.C. Beuf Community Center, 3435 West Pinnacle Peak Road (agenda subject to change).
  • June 6, The El Dorado rezoning request for Riverview will go to the City of Phoenix Planning Commission for action.  If the commission approves the rezoning request it will move forward for final approval (dates/agenda subject to change).
  • July 3, The Phoenix City Council will decide to whether or not to give final approval for the rezoning request (dates/agenda subject to change).
  • After final approval from city council, the developers will still need to seek a LOMR from FEMA to start building in the floodplain.

For more information about the Riverview development or the meetings contact Rio Vista Village Planning Committee at: RioVistaVPC@phoenix.gov. Or call Kaelee Wilson the staff planner at 602-262-6949 or email Kaelee.wilson@phoenix.gov.