Smaller developments in the general area of the large Rancho Mercado master plan in northwest Surprise are popping up in city planning discussions.
During the Sept. 16 Surprise Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, commissioners heard and recommended approval for the Bonita Ranch preliminary plat, and as well as a minor General Plan amendment and zoning change for Mandou Ranch.
The preliminary plat for Bonita Ranch calls for 208 dwellings on approximately 73 acres west of 147th Avenue and just south of Jomax Road.
Bonita Ranch has 2.85 dwelling units per acre.
“It actually encompasses a couple of Rancho Mercado parcels and three of the Bonita Ranch parcels that came through a couple years ago. They’re all being integrated into one cohesive subdivision,” said Robert Kuhfuss, the city’s current planning supervisor, on Sept 16.
Surprise Community Development Director Chris Boyd stated in an email that each parcel will be subject to the governing document that establishes their entitlements., and this situation is not a common occurrence.
Bonita Ranch will be developed in two separate phases. Phase 1, a smaller area to the south will develop first, with access from 147th Avenue and 148th Drive.
The subdivision features spread-out turf areas throughout, ramadas, half-court basketball, table tennis, cornhole, tot lots and play areas.
“This area toward this northern end there’s actually what they’re calling a butterfly garden and a viewing platform. It’s very interesting and very unique. To put that in context, the area to the north is where that knoll sits between this property and Jomax Road,” Kuhfuss said.
Trails criss-cross the site, while another trail around Bonita Ranch’s western and northern perimeter will tie into a regional trail shared with Rancho Mercado.
In all, the Bonita Ranch plat features 20.47 acres total of open space.
“This plat incorporates a lot of what we like to see in a development. My hat’s off to the developers and designers. You have the open space buffers to the west and rows of houses that are not too long before there is a break in the street,” planning and zoning commissioner Matthew Keating said. “I think it makes for a nice, interesting, welcoming neighborhood.”
Mandou Ranch is earlier along in its planning process. First, the project requires a minor General Plan amendment to change its designation from an open space character area to a neighborhood character area.
Most of Mandou Ranch, on 107 acres sandwiched between the Beardsley Canal and McMicken Way, was already platted despite the open space designation. The project is north of McMicken Way and east of 147th Avenue.
Planner Sergio Angulo said this change is allowed under the General Plan, since it is less than 160 acres.
“It covers an area that’s already been zoned and platted in Rancho Mercado. There’s somewhat of an inconsistency between what’s been entitled and platted and what’s in the land use map in the General Plan,” Angulo said.
Surprise’s Major General Plan amendment in 2015 went from a parcel-based approach to changing the designation of open spaces.
Angulo said the minor plan update fixes inconsistencies in the land use map here. Approval by the City Council would allow the land owner the right to move forward on this property.
Kent Xander, and his KAX Group, is the applicant for both areas of Mandou Ranch. All but 14 acres have been platted and zoned. That 14 acres was zoned rural residential entering the planning and zoning meeting.
The commission recommended changing the zoning to residential high density with a Planned Unit Development overlay.
“It would allow for the development of a bungalow-style multi-family development. Given the medium density to the south and park and school to the north, staff believes this is a good transitional zoning,” Angulo said.
While residential high-density allows maximums up to 15 dwellings per acre, the one-level bungalows project closer to eight units per acre. Xander’s group bicycle parking requirement waived since most of the bungalows will have a back yard.
Angulo said Madou Ranch and these bungalows still need to go through final site plan and review.
A neighborhood outreach July 19 registered no concerns.
Bill Lally, attorney for Phoenix-based Tiffany and Bosco P.A., represents Xander. He said plans for these bungalows are not far along.
“Typically these bungalow projects are gated communities where there’s an intent to keep the folks in and keep those amenities for that community. Rancho Mercado was developed as a large PAD with a mixture of land uses and a mixture of housing projects. The owners are trying to preserve the right to have gated or ungated. We don’t have the builder in tow yet. Once this site plan gets a little bit formalized we’ll know whether it will be gated or ungated,” Lally said.
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