The town of Queen Creek, percentage wise, is the fastest growing town in the Phoenix metro area, if recent figures are correct. It's been discovered by thousands, and more people are still coming. I've been a resident since 2008. It's a fabulous place to live, but the secret is out. People want to live in Queen Creek, and that speaks well for those who fostered the growth building schools, bringing some nice restaurants and increasing places to shop.
However, the town council and planning and zoning commission have made a horrible decision. Unfortunately, the town voted to swap town-owned property between the Post Office and car wash on Ellsworth Loop Road for the current Circle K at Ellsworth and Ocotillo. Thousands of vehicles travel Ellsworth Loop headed both north and south every day. With growth to the south, these numbers will only increase in the future.
Anyone watching traffic at Ellsworth Loop and Ocotillo knows traffic speeds through that intersection, likely exceeding the 45 mph speed limit. They are sailing before reaching the Post Office, especially if that light is also green. Traffic entering and leaving the Circle K will create the absolute worst traffic hazard of any road in Queen Creek. Without a doubt. While the town, county or state could not provide me with the traffic or accident counts on Ellsworth Loop, it is likely 20,000 to 40,000 each day. Whatever the number, it is in the thousands, and moving fast.
I have sent emails to all council and planning commission members regarding this matter. They were not concerned enough to respond. So, the town continues to negotiate with Circle K about its plans. Hey folks, that's not nice to a taxpayer. Your attorney did send me a letter. As I understand, Circle K is supposed to pay the town $500,000 for the land swap. Unfortunately, Circle K did not respond to my calls or emails after an initial phone discussion. Maybe it's because the town had their attorney send me that letter.
Several years ago, the town notified residents in Will Rogers Equestrian Ranch (WRER) where I live of a possible rezoning of the town property now intended for the new Circle K. I attended that meeting along with some residents. Town employees told us that plot of land would be rezoned for low vehicle use, such as for doctors or attorneys. That was the last we heard until learning of the Circle K swap when a council member was on Facebook celebrating the transaction.
I contacted town employees and discovered the town rezoned the property in 2018. One big problem required by law: they did not notify WRER residents. When notified of this, a town employee said WRER residents were notified. Even sent a list of names, including WRER's former management company. But certainly not names of all the residents in 2018. Simply, WRER, which runs to the back of the Circle K property, was not notified. I have not found one WRER resident who received a meeting notice. They did publish a legal in the Arizona Republic. Your guess as to how many read it in the Republic. Should have placed it in The Independent mailed free to residents. The town perpetuated a terrible injustice to residents for lack of notification. Maybe they were too excited about the present Circle K location. Maybe they felt we would object, which most of us do — I found that out when gathering petition signatures.
Negotiations apparently continue with Circle K about the building and layout. The one time I did speak with a Circle K representative he said the fuel tanks gas pumps would be in front of the property and no danger to WRER. I was also told Circle K will have charging stations in the rear of the store, and that they want to connect with the road behind the car wash and other two businesses. Traffic could then go onto Ocotillo behind Popeye's. This would create an additional traffic hazard, with eastbound Ocotillo traffic, especially when they attempt to cross three lanes to make a left or U-turn. Talk about creating a mess on busy Ocotillo.
I sent emails to council members and planning imploring them to stop this immediately. They will likely have blood on their hands when accidents follow. Traffic attempting to enter the Post Office often has cars stacked. They have also used that lot for parking in the holiday season. The Circle K will make use of the Post Office difficult, if not impossible, at times.
To move forward, Circle K must get a conditional-use permit if they want to sell gasoline. The town is supposed to notify WRER for a meeting prior to this going before planning. I urge the town to place notification in the newspapers and on the town website for this and any meeting for the conditional-use permit. WRER has already submitted a petition with over 160 signatures against granting this permit.
WRER is a unique equestrian community. The town property already creates erosion issues for WRER property. Homes and stables are close by and would be impacted by a Circle K.
This decision will impact all Queen Creek residents, and I encourage the town council to reconsider this poor decision. Return to the negotiating table and reject the Circle K for the good of the community. Again, residents were not properly notified after earlier assurances were made for this property's use. Do what's right on this matter for the citizens. Most WRER homeowners strenuously object, and the horses would, too, if they could vote. Queen Creek is known as an equestrian community and such a business in this location will have a lasting negative impact.
John Shields is a writer and former journalist.