Controversial Litchfield Park rezone delayed again 

Fate of 'The Thomas' development to be decided November


The city of Litchfield Park has once again delayed its decision regarding what has become a contentious and controversial rezoning request involving a sitting city planning commissioner and a church on Old Litchfield Road and Villa Nueva Drive.

The decision was tabled several times during the past five months before it made its way to the last city council meeting, where it was delayed once more for further consideration.

The project is called The Thomas and seeks to adaptively reuse — though retain the existing structures — at 447 Old Litchfield Road.

The building is owned by Vástago Epicentro Phoenix, a church serving nondenominational, primarily Spanish-speaking Christian. But if applicant Brian O’Connor’s request to rezone the church from public facility to neighborhood commercial is successful, that space could be used for things like office space, a cafe and boutique retail.

Since the project’s first public meeting in May, the city has been flooded with messages opposed, and some in support, of the proposed redevelopment. Many have condemned the loss of one of Litchfield Park’s four churches. But O’Connor is adamant the church, as well as all parish buildings on the property, will remain standing, and he has negotiated for the current congregation to retain use of the church for the next five years.

The congregation has expressed its support for the project in a letter sent to the city by Rev. Roberto Romero, senior pastor at Vástago.

O’Connor works for local real estate company Tri West Realty and also serves on the city’s planning and zoning commission, though he has recused himself from matters related to the project in his capacity as a commissioner.

When the rezoning request made it before Litchfield Park City Council last week, councilwoman Ann Donahue seemed ready for the Vástago rezone to come to a resolution.

“In my six years, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Donahue said.
The project “has been talked about in five public open meetings…“I’m a little bit surprised that our developer hasn’t left us, quite frankly,” she said, adding she hopes the council can come to a decision in November.

Mayor Thomas Schoaf reassured the council and the community that a decision would be made at the next meeting. The Thomas development can move forward if the council votes to approve the project.