Western desert in Surprise getting attention

With Surprise’s City Center and northern areas becoming filled in with more residential and commercial development, the city’s far western desert, north of the White Tank mountains, is also getting some loving.
The City Council voted Jan. 7 to approve the rezoning of Mesquite Mountain Ranch for a project that could bring in 652 single-family lots over nearly 202 acres in the far northwestern part of Surprise.
The land is north of Sun Valley Parkway, bordered by Beardsley Road and 219th Avenue and the not-yet-created 227th Avenue.
Mesquite Mountain Ranch was first approved as a planned area development (PAD) in 2006. Surprise annexed the area for multiple potential projects over the years, going back to the 1990s.
The new plan calls for a little bit higher density than before (3.2 dwelling units per acre, from 2.7) but includes more open space than is required and widened lots to include 20-foot wide driveways.
“The open space is what really excites me,” City Planner Hobart Wingard told the City Council before it voted 6-1 to approve the rezoning. “They really put a lot of thought into this.”
Councilwoman Nancy Hayden was the only council member to vote against the change, but she didn’t express reasons for her opposition before the vote was taken.
Mr. Wingard said every home would be within 1/4-mile of walking distance to a park, each of which will have its own theme.
“How far is the nearest school? 20 miles?” Mayor Skip Hall asked, half-joking.
The housing units would be close to Buckey’s Festival Ranch, and children at Mesquite Mountain Ranch would go to Festival Ranch Elementary School. Sometime in a future, developers say a need for a new school in the north part of Mesquite Mountain Ranch will require the Wickenburg School District to take on the project.
City Councilman Ken Remley questioned why no community pool is in the plants even though it has more than 60 homes planned -- the city’s current minimum for a developer to build a community pool.
Mr. Wingard said the plans were made before the pool issue became more focused in the last few months. The city has been approving several home projects that have a waiver for the pool requirement, and Mr. Remley has been an outspoken critic of too many waivers.
“This was zoned well before that issue came up,” Mr. Wingard told Mr. Remley. “My read is the pool [rule] is there to accommodate the type of projects that really can accomodate pools in the yards.”
Mayor Skip Hall expressed concern about wildlife corridors coming out of the White Tanks, but Mr. Wingard said planners were mindful of that.
“We’re still keeping that corridor open and the public can travel through that,” Mr. Wingard said.
A citizen review meeting in May was lightly attended before the Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend the zoning change in June.
Phase 1 of the project will create a paved 227th Avenue and Beardsley Road. 219th Avenue is paved in that stretch north of Sun Valley Parkway.
Editor’s Note: Jason Stone can be reached at 623-445-2805, on email at jstone@newszap.com or on Twitter at @thestonecave. Visit yourvalley.net.