Schnepf Farms annexation, agritainment rezoning approved

By Richard Dyer
Twitter: @RHDyer
Posted 6/1/20

Approximately 99 acres at the northwest corner of Riggs and Rittenhouse roads, at Schnepf Farms, has been annexed into the Town of Queen Creek.

A companion 225-acre rezoning to agritainment …

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Schnepf Farms annexation, agritainment rezoning approved


Approximately 99 acres at the northwest corner of Riggs and Rittenhouse roads, at Schnepf Farms, has been annexed into the Town of Queen Creek.

A companion 225-acre rezoning to agritainment planned area development and general commercial was also approved to allow future development of the existing Schnepf Farms property.

“It is one of the few properties within the town that has that special Agritainment District on it that really gives it the flexibility to maintain the ongoing activities that Schnepf Farms is famous for,” Interim Planning Administrator Erik Swanson said to the Town Council May 20.

“What the request does tonight is bring in the remainder of Schnepf Farms into that designation, with the exception of those two commercial corners,” he said of Combs and Rittenhouse roads and Combs and Signal Butte roads.

The Town Council on May 20 voted unanimously to approve the annexation in a consent agenda with other items and later separately on the rezoning. On the dais were Vice Mayor Julia Wheatley and Councilmembers Jake Hoffman and Robin Benning. Meeting by WebEx were Mayor Gail Barney and Councilmembers Jeff Brown and Dawn Oliphant. Councilmember Emilena Turley was absent.

“I’m very anxiously awaiting what their future plans and development will be with the agritainment flair that the Schnepfs always bring, and happy to say they have my full support,” Vice Mayor Wheatley said prior to the vote on the rezoning. “Looking forward to this project,” she said.

“The Schnepfs are a welcomed participant in this community,” Councilmember Hoffman said prior to the vote on the rezoning. “They have been running such a great shop over there and their contributions to our town have been tremendous.”

The Schnepf Farms PAD rezone was a request from Sean Lake, Pew and Lake PLC, on behalf of Mark Schnepf.

“Schnepf Farms is a unique jewel to the Town of Queen Creek,” Mr. Lake said by WebEx. “This zoning district is to bring it into the Town of Queen Creek and place a zoning district to allow it to continue to go.”

The applicant did not request a formal site plan or building design approval, Development Services Director Brett Burningham, Mr. Swanson and Senior Planner Kyle Barichello said in a memo to the council.

“Rather, the purpose of this application is to establish an agritainment PAD to conceptually outline its theming, design guidelines and overall vision that will shape and inspire its future development,” they wrote in the memo.

Farming since the 1940s

Schnepf Farms started in Queen Creek in 1941 when Jack and Maude Schnepf purchased 640 acres of desert land and sent their oldest son and daughter-in-law to start farming the property. What started as a cotton farm expanded to be more than 5,000 acres by the early 1970s, growing about 20 different crops from grapes to potatoes, Mr. Burningham, Mr. Swanson and Mr. Barichello said in the memo.

Downsizing of the farm started in the late 1970s when the farm economy turned south. Downsizing continued through the years and the farm today is approximately 250 acres, they said.

“In the 1990s Mark and Carrie Schnepf, the current owners of Schnepf Farms, began to transform and reinvent the farm from the production of only traditional crops, to one of the largest agritainment venues in the Southwest,” according to the memo.

“Agritainment is a relatively new word coined in part by the Schnepfs. As the name implies, agriculture is combined with entertainment to create interesting, educational, and entertaining farm experiences for guests of all ages. The farm is currently home to wedding venues, concert stages, U-Pick orchards, a ‘glamping’ area, bakery and farm store,” the memo states.