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Resident outcry leads to revamp of rezoning proposal

Posted 2/11/17

Following an impassioned turnout by residents , the developer proposing a rezoning and development similar to town homes on the corner of Reems and Waddell roads is revising its original proposal to …

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Resident outcry leads to revamp of rezoning proposal

Following an impassioned turnout by residents , the developer proposing a rezoning and development similar to town homes on the corner of Reems and Waddell roads is revising its original proposal to Surprise.

The proposal to change the zoning of the 11-acre parcel from commercial to high-density residential touched off an outcry from neighboring Sanalina residents. Eleven spoke for a larger group during the call to the public at the Jan. 17 City Council meeting and more than 100 attended a Jan. 26 community meeting with the developer and city officials.

NexMetro Communities plans to build 133 units on the site and vice president Brian Rosenbaum said the majority will be detached single family homes, similar to town homes, priced to rent at $1,000 or more a month.

“We received some valuable feedback from residents and are working on revisions to the original proposal. We look forward to sharing details on these revisions in the coming weeks directly with residents,” Rosenbaum said.

While the style and price range of these “casitas” likely allayed fears of low-rent apartments from some Sanalina residents, two other prime concerns remain. And one cannot be avoided if the development moves forward.

Several of the residents in the small Sanalina HOA bought a decade or so with expectations of a fairly quiet surrounding area and some business nearby. A few, like William Tomsa, bought within the last year.

“I’ve got to say that if we had known that parcel was going to be rezoned into a high-density situation, we very likely would not have bought the house we’re in now. It came as quite a shock,” Mr. Tomsa said.

Expectations aside, most Sanalina residents speaking out said excessive traffic is their major concern. Larry Pighini, one of the original Sanalina owners, said he moved here from North Scottsdale because of traffic in that area.

“It’s going to be a lot more traffic in our neighborhood and we’re such a small HOA. I think it would also devalue our houses. But safety is the main concern here,” resident Janet Vallery said.

Councilman John Williams represents this area and said traffic is already a headache nearby. Waddell Road narrows to one travel lane in each direction just west of Reems.

Sanalina and the NexMetro proposal are both north of Waddell and east of Reems. To avoid the intersection, many drivers use Ludlow Drive to the north and then are forced to take 153rd Drive south to Waddell. Both intersections are in the center of the community.

“That, to me, is the core issue here. Ludlow is a cut-through for a lot of folks,” Councilman Williams said.

During the council meeting, resident Lisa Terror said she and neighbors have already met with the planning and zoning commission and council about cut-through traffic.

She also said there is a bus stop in the area, which means more people will be crossing Ludlow, which would be the back entrance to the new development. Overflow parking, already an issue on Ludlow, would increase, she said.

“Through some basic research, I’ve yet to find an apartment complex located directly on a hard corner. They’re usually offset from the corner. If this project is approved, it will certainly set a precedent for future projects,” resident Joe Carlie said.

Original plans from NexMetro had pedestrian access from the rentals to Sanalina, specifically to their playground and common areas. The HOA recently spent $6,000 on the playground equipment, Councilman Williams said, and several residents raised concerns with the equipment being broken.

There was clearly no identified playground within the rentals, though NexMetro said there could be the potential to add it in or around the complex recreation facility.

At the community meeting, Sanalina residents wondered if the developer can capture its target market given the local job market.

“The developer described looking for young professionals who didn’t want a yard. Or 40 and 50 year olds who are getting closer to retirement,” Councilman Williams said.

Mr. Rosenbaum said the community will be gated, homes will have luxury finishes and all will be single story with private back yards. The company also believes the traffic counts would be greater with commercial as opposed to residential.

Originally, council members talked about possibly hearing this project in March. That timeline has decelerated and another community meeting is on deck before the rezoning goes before the planning commission, let alone the council.

“We are committed to communicating with the residents and will host another neighborhood meeting within the next 45 days. Subsequently we would present to the City (Planning & Zoning, and City Council),” Mr. Rosenbaum said.

Some concerns about the nature of the apartments are gone and Councilman Williams said he appreciates the developer’s flexibility. But were there a vote on the zoning change and project at this point, he said he would be against it.

And for now, many of the Sanalina residents to speak remain leery.

“It shocks me that they’re trying to build apartments here when they have land zoned for apartment buildings just down the street where it’s brand new and they can build additional schools,” resident Cali Figliola said.