Chandler residents, city oppose county-island apartments
Courtesy of City of Chandler
Realtor Lisa Ritchie was among those who spoke at a recent Chandler City Council meeting against a proposed apartment complex on a county island near Arizona Avenue and Ocotillo Road. The proposed 518-unit complex is on 25 acres near a major shopping center and Hamilton High School.
A planned development that was a hot topic at some recent Chandler City Council meetings wasn’t about any city developments at all.
The Landings at Ocotillo is the associated with a large, proposed apartment complex set to be built on a county island along Ocotillo Road, a few blocks east of both Arizona Avenue and Hamilton High School, between a shopping center anchored by a Target store, a small parcel zoned as planned-area development and the Chandler Unified School District’s bus yard.
The main objections voiced at both October and December council meetings had to do with anticipated traffic and overall density. The fact that the 518-unit plan does not meet enough of the city’s senior housing needs seemed to come up often as well.
Trouble is, the Chandler City Council and the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission don’t get to vote on anything formal regarding The Landings at Ocotillo. The county island project is not in the city of Chandler’s jurisdiction, as it’s the subject of a Maricopa County proposal.
The proposed complex was set to be heard by the Maricopa County Planning & Zoning Commission for an approve-or-disapprove recommendation at a December meeting. However, two days after a December Chandler City Council meeting, attorney Brennan Ray filed a request to postpone the hearing for case No. Z2021175 indefinitely while more public input meetings were held.
Regardless of how the Planning and Zoning committee votes on a recommendation after a hearing, applicants have the option of taking their case to the Board of Supervisors for final approval.
There are many complicated aspects to the infill plan, including water. In a letter dated Jan. 2 from Derek Horn — Chandler’s development services director — to the Maricopa County Planning and Development Department, Horn said the city can only provide enough water to meet about one-fourth of the apartment complex’s expected needs.
"Under the 2018 Water/Wastewater/Reclaimed Water Master Plan, the potable water demand allocated to the referenced parcels for employment land use is estimated at 34,376 gallons per day,” Horn wrote. “The project, a multi-family residential development, would generate a potable water demand estimated at 139,310 GPD.”
Those who came to speak at Chandler City Council meetings mostly backed up what the city has already expressed, hoping its concerns about the planned use of the 25-acre property will be heard by Maricopa County officials.
At the Dec. 5 council meeting, before a unanimous decision by council to approve a resolution opposing county approval of the development, a representative of the developer, Dominium, spoke. He said none of the 14 other sites shown to Dominium were either large enough for their plans or the owners aren’t willing to sell and cited the need for senior housing.
Others who spoke at the Dec. 5 meeting cited the need for affordable senior housing as well. However, Mayor Kevin Hartke said the reason the development is on a county island is that it “wouldn’t pass the sniff test” of more stringent Chandler requirements.
Also, Hartke said, the huge complex would be in an industrial area and within flight paths of aircraft using nearby Chandler Municipal Airport.
The developer wants to build one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments on the site. However, only 182 of the 518 proposed units would be senior housing.
Hartke said he and the city have each sent letters of opposition to the project as described in Maricopa County documents.
The site is a Maricopa County island, meaning all development applications go through the county government. Case No. Z2021175 involves the Housing Authority of Maricopa County and its developer.
Feedback to Chandler City Council
Lisa Ritchie, a Realtor and a Chandler homeowner who has worked in the city for 16 years, said she isn’t opposed to affordable housing. She said she’s not only opposed to the developer Dominium being used, she’s concerned the traffic quagmire near Hamilton High School will get much worse.
“We want every member of the council to oppose this,” she said. Minutes later, the council granted that wish. However, as Chandler technically has no jurisdiction over county island development, the resolution is mostly symbolic and a position statement directed toward Maricopa County.
Another speaker said she feels it’s the council’s obligation to stand up against plans of adjacent jurisdictions that not only make an impact on a Chandler community, but also don’t fit with the city’s General Plan or any area plans.
One speaker who submitted a card, read aloud by Mayor Hartke, added that police and fire needs for 518 apartments on a county island would likely incur new costs to the city.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors hearing date will likely be about 30 days after the Planning & Zoning Commission, regardless of the recommendation made by Planning & Zoning.
The Planning and Zoning Commission agenda and staff report is typically available on its online agenda center site, maricopa.gov/AgendaCenter, on the Fridays before each meeting. Those interested will need to monitor the agenda center site.
The commission typically meets in a virtual format the mornings of the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, but meets only once in month if there are not many hearings or cases scheduled.
The hearing, if and when it occurs, will be a hybrid in-person and virtual hearing using GoToWebinar. The registration link to attend virtually will be listed on the Commission agenda. After registering, you will receive a confirmation e-mail containing information about joining the webinar.
Board of Supervisors
Chandler is represented at the county level by District 1 Supervisor Jack Sellers, who would be one of the five board members voting on a pass-fail approval of Dominium’s application, if it gets a planning and zoning hearing.
Sellers didn't respond to questions for this story directly, but Fields Moseley, a spokesman for the Board of Supervisors, said the supervisors usually don’t take meetings or gather stakeholder feedback until the technical issues surrounding a project are resolved.
Moseley said that’s true for Sellers in the case of Domninium.
“Supervisor Sellers has not met with the stakeholders in this case, but he is aware of the opposition expressed by Chandler and a number of neighbors,” Moseley said. “I have learned the case has not been scheduled for a Planning & Zoning hearing yet because it is still under technical review by staff. The big hurdle facing this project is lack of water service. Questions regarding water service are typically resolved prior to scheduling a case for a hearing.”
Jason W. Brooks is an associate editor for the Daily independent.
He covers the Buckeye area and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Brooks is a well-traveled journalist who has documented life in small American communities in nearly all its time zones. Born in Washington, D.C., and raised there and in suburban Los Angeles, he has covered community news in California, New Mexico, Arkansas, Iowa, and Nebraska.