SUBSCRIBER EXCLUSIVE

Surprise staring at another annexation

Latest area, Windstone Ranch North, fits in space in northern boundary

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The next proposed annexation into the city of Surprise boundaries does not stick out like a sore thumb. Instead it fits into the city’s northern borders like a missing puzzle piece.

Windstone Ranch North is proposed on 20 acres of unincorporated Maricopa County land north of Happy Valley Road. This proposed development would align with the northern end of Tierra Verde East on the west and the a project dubbed Saddlehorn Ranch on the east. Tierra Verde East is also south of Windstone Ranch.

Surprise Community Development Director Chris Boyd stated in an email that the applicant is Kent Xander — KAX Group LLC — on behalf of the property owner Farhad K. Shokoohi.

North of the property is county land, this annexation effort has the potential to have similar opposition from county residents as the embattled annexations of Mr. Xander’s Paloma Creek development into Surprise.

“Yes, the north property line of Windstone Ranch North is bound by one-acre lots, some of which have homes,” Mr. Boyd stated.

According to the June 15 Surprise City Council packet, the annexation proposal is for 1 parcel consisting of 19.9 acres of unincorporated land within Maricopa County zoning district Rural-43. If annexed, the property will assume the similar zoning district of rural residential as outlined in the Land Development Ordinances, and the owners will request a rezoning for residential low density, one lot per acre.

The packed also states applicant held a hybrid — in-person and virtual — citizen review meeting on May 17.

Advertisements were posted in a local newspaper and three signs were posted within the subject property. Neighboring residents attended to express their concerns about the compatibility with their residences.

“Should this approve down the road, we would have the county rural residential zoning adopted at the city equivalent zoning,” Surprise planner Joshua Mike said during the June 15 council meeting. “There is a concurrent rezoning case with this similar to the Enclaves. However I am proud to say this will be the first full rezone which is all LDL related. Windstone Ranch North, if approved, would have R1 zoning. There would be no PUD overlay, it will be standard zoning.”

Mr. Boyd stated Windstone Ranch is the neighboring development, approximately 60-acres, that is going to the Surprise Planning & Zoning on July 15 for the preliminary plat, incorporating portions of Tierra Verde East, Saddlehorn Ranch and Windstone Ranch rezoning projects.

Jane Peiffer has emerged in recent months as the unofficial spokesperson for Maricopa County residents opposed to this wave of annexation and denser housing developments in Surprise just south of their neighborhood of one-acre lots.

During a May 18 council meeting she mentioned Surprise’s General Plan 2035 is to be updated soon and she wants rural residents to have a greater voice. Those residents will have different concerns than people already living in Surprise.

One common concern for everyone living north of Grand Avenue is increasing traffic on 163rd Avenue.

“I already go the long way. I go Jomax to 147th down to Happy Valley. Then I can catch the 303 either way. I can’t stand going down 163rd, especially at 3 p.m. and with the traffic coming in off the 303,” Maricopa County resident Karen Cote said in a May interview.

County resident Mark Graham said traffic backs up on 303 trying to turn on to Grand and then turn north onto 163rd. Also there are railroad tracks just north of the intersection and the train comes by 10 times a day.

He said connecting Happy Valley Road to Peoria will help but it is only lane in each direction. Jomax Road also is — in his estimation — bursting at the seams.

“I understand that you can’t make a jurisdiction that is not yours do what you want. But you also don’t need to approve 8,500 more houses in the affected region, with everybody there haing two cars that 16,000 cars through the three same one-lane roads with three choke points. Jomax is at capacity, 163rd is above capacity and access to 163rd Avenue is above capacity,” Graham said.

Councilman Roland Winters represents Surprise residents in this area. He said he is just starting to look into this project, but on a map, the annexation proposal seems to fit well.

Winters said growth in the area will move up the timetable for needed road outlets and other services — that county residents also benefit from.

“It seems like a logical step,” Winters said. “It is not all negative. We have a fire station up there that’s new and the biggest one in the city. 163rd Avenue has sidewalks now.”

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