Council approves plans for more homes in north Surprise

General Plan amendment switches area from commercial to residential


One major narrative in Surprise throughout 2021 has been developers rushing to put together projects north of Grand and 163rd avenues as the real estate market booms.

The second-to-last City Council meeting of the year, on Dec. 7, ensured this trend will continue into 2022. The council unanimously approved a major general plan amendment switching the designation of an area from commercial to residential, plus the rezoning of another development for more housing and approved four preliminary plats for three residential projects in the area.

The general plan amendment changes 190.54 acres located south of Pinnacle Peak Road, east of 163rd Avenue, and north of Grand Avenue from commerce and office character area to neighborhood character area.

Tied to this change is an agreement to widen the current one-lane northbound 163rd Avenue to its long-needed three lanes.

“Roadway improvements will likely be addressed at the time development of the property is proposed. However, the city is also exploring and pursuing funding alternatives that may possibly accelerate some of this construction ahead of development,” Community Development Director Chris Boyd stated in an email interview.

While in the city’s planning area, 93.97 acres of this land still needs to be annexed into Surprise.

Boyd stated the filing of the blank petition to annex is scheduled to be heard by the council on Dec. 21. A subsequent council meeting scheduled for Jan. 18 for the presentation and action to annex the county land.

As of now, Boyd stated, no specific developer has been named for that roughly 94 acres. Thus far only the amendment, zoning change and annexation have been submitted to the city for review.

“This area primarily sits outside the city limits today. It is within the county. One of the major reasons for the request is that primarily access into the site. Everything the staff’s heard and what the applicant presented shows that only having one full turning movement for that area restricts how that could develop for commercial in the future,” said assistant director of community development Lloyd Abrams.

Councilwoman Aly Cline pointed out that on the west side of 163rd Avenue is a huge amount of commercial property with better access.

Deputy City Manager Mike Gent stated the estimated costs in today’s dollars to fully build out 163rd Avenue between Grand Avenue and Jomax Road is a bit more than $20 million.

“This will expand and build out 163rd. Right now, when you turn right at Grand, 163rd kind of cuts in right away because we used to have the fire department at that location, and we have the tree farm. Then it goes out to where the other properties are built, so you have this thing that goes in and out. This will facilitate the complete widening of this area,” Cline said.

The road expansion will be more of a necessity in coming years. Three of four other developments with projects approved by the council are east of 163rd Avenue.

In general that is where most of the new homes will be, as the Asante and Desert Oasis neighborhoods west of 163rd are built up and filling in. On the east side, projects such as Escalante and Rancho Mercado are early in development. Others, like Paloma Creek and Tierra Verde, do not have houses yet.

The only preliminary plat approved Dec. 7 west of 163rd was in the active adult community of Heritage at Asante.

The most different planned developments is Bonita Place, on more than 27 acres east of 163 Avenue and south of Happy Valley Road.
These bungalow-style rental units are made possible by the council’s approval of the rezoning from rural residential to R-3, a higher density designation.

In the future, the Bonita Place site plan will go back to the Surprise Planning & Zoning Commission. Early plans for the rezoning include a transition/buffer area to south and east of the property. Plans also call for one-story units only in areas closest to older developments.

“Along with that, there is also a transition in density. It’s going to go from the south the low residential and the east the rural residential. The applicant is proposing no more than 7.5 dwelling units per acre, then transitioning it back to a higher density as it goes to the Northwest,” Abrams said.

The council approved two preliminary plats of the Paloma Creek development next to homes in Maricopa County that were opposed by most of those residents.

The preliminary plat for Enclave at Paloma Creek I and II is on nearly 10 acres and includes 2.86 acres of open space.

“Lot categories include a minimum 45-by-115 lot size. The majority of the subdivision is under that lot category,” said city planner Trever Fleetham.

Larger lots in the north provide a transition for those two enclaves plus the Paloma Creek Phase 5 and Enclave III preliminary plat. Most of the linked streets come from the remainder of Paloma Creek to this northern area. Emergency access is available from the north.

Ellen Ranch, on the northeast corner of Happy Valley Road and 163rd Avenue, is just south of Paloma Creek and linked to that larger development in several ways.

Ellen Ranch will feature lots either 45-feet or 50-feet wide and all 90-feet deep. Most of the southwest portion of this plan is set aside for future development.

“Ellen Ranch is going to have the amenity for the overall Paloma Creek subdivision. It is a clubhouse and community pool,” said the development’s applicant, David Hughes with Tempe-based EPS Group, Inc,