Development

Rezone for Bungalows at Mountain Vista Ranch OK'd

Council votes 5-2 despite opposition to road extension

Posted 8/31/20

A controversial road extension that would give Bell Road a second entrance into the Mountain Vista Ranch subdivision appears on track.

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Development

Rezone for Bungalows at Mountain Vista Ranch OK'd

Council votes 5-2 despite opposition to road extension

Posted

A controversial road extension that would give Bell Road a second entrance into the Mountain Vista Ranch subdivision appears on track.

The Surprise City Council on Aug. 18 agreed 5-2 to approve a zoning change from commercial to residential for 11 acres south of Bell Road between Sarival Avenue and Sunrise Boulevard to make way for the Bungalows at Mountain Vista Ranch project.

But the project also comes with the likely extension of Sunrise to the east of it. City officials want a 700-foot extension of the road into the housing development despite outspoken opposition from some residents in the Mountain Vista Ranch HOA, including the HOA’s president.

“There’s been a lot of consternation about Sunrise,” said the district’s councilman, David Sanders, before casting one of the two dissenting votes along with Mayor Skip Hall.

The City Council ultimately decided to vote for the rezoning change that the Surprise Planning and Zoning Commission also somewhat reluctantly passed two weeks prior.

The one-, two- and three-bedroom rental units will make up the entire lot of nearly 30 acres now that it’s all zoned high-density residential.

The rezoning issue brought out several residents to two outreach meetings earlier this year. Ten attended an in-person meeting in March before COVID-19 conditions stopped public gatherings, while another more than two-dozen logged on to a virtual meeting in July.

The concern was the same in both meetings: Sunrise Boulevard’s extension.

“Some thought it would be too dense for the neighborhood,” City Planner Hobert Wingard told the city council. 

The extension would include one of two entry points into the Bungalows project. The other is planned for either the north or west sides.

“The one item that keeps popping up is Sunrise Boulevard,” Mr. Wingard said. 

Mr. Wingard said city staff has designed it to go from a collector road to more of a neighborhood street.

The two-lane street would include an eight-foot-wide sidewalk on one side to accommodate families walking together

Long road ahead

The road extension on Sunrise has been in the planning stages for more than two decades.

In 1997, it was designed to be extended with an emergency gate for only emergency vehicles to access.

By 2007, a full extension was part of the Castellina Condos project, which was going to bring three-story apartments to the area. 

At that time there was also a commercial project planned for land the council just proved to be rezoned, but this was before the Great Recession killed those plans.

At the time, nearby residents lobbied for a stipulation that Sunrise would not be extended for vehicular traffic but would be opened up for pedestrians.

“Making this a pedestrian-only connection, it’s going to be a 700-foot hallway through there that is not easily monitored by police,” Mr. Wingard said. “So, there are concerns of safety in that respect.”

If it ends up being built, the road will add a fourth access point into Mountain Vista Ranch. Residents currently enter and exit on Bell Road to the north, Greenway Roads to the south and Paradise Avenue to the east.

The new extension will give residents a second access point on Bell to help relieve the current most-used access point.

“I would actually think Mountain Vista Ranch residents would favor this road,” District 3 Councilman Patrick Duffy said. “This would be an alternate way for residents to avoid that morning and afternoon traffic.”

But Wayne Tuttle, the HOA president of Mountain Vista Ranch, told the city council the extension brings several problems, adding it would create more traffic than it would alleviate. 

“The city over 20 years hasn’t found way to connect this last 700 feet of road or do anything, but they want to put that traffic in there,” Mr. Tuttle said.

He also said the south part of the road is dark and has a “blind corner,” making it a safety hazard.

Mr. Wingard, however, said the proposed road opening would help decrease emergency response times.

Project approval

While the road has been a sticking point, the project itself is getting good reviews from nearby residents and the city council.

“The majority did not mind the project,” Mr. Sanders said about the views of residents he heard from. “They know they could have a three-story apartment building there with people looking in their yard. If a project were to go in there, they preferred that one. The sticking point was Sunrise.”

Mr. Wingard said the city worked with the developer to deal with the concerns. They agreed to reduce the road size, or even if needed, the developer was OK with no road at all.

“We do recognize the issues with that road,” Mr. Wingard said. “Those all will be taken into consideration when the site plan has gone through.”

District 4 Councilman Ken Remley said voted for the zoning change, but not before questioning the city’s wisdom at making certain decisions.

“Our previous council, our city fathers, thought it was pretty cool to have about half of that there as commercial,” Mr. Remley said. “Why do we not need it to be commercial today? That question we’re not even addressing.

“Wasn’t there a plan for this in the first place when we designated this commercial?”

Mr. Wingard said it’s been advertised as true commercial space for years “without any bites on it.” He said not having true frontage on Bell Road puts the space at a disadvantage for commercial development.

“Don’t we know what we want in our city?” Mr. Remley said. “Can’t people make up their mind what they want with the property? It isn’t just who’s the buyer who happens to come up this week.”

The council’s rezoning approval also featured development standards. One of them is a maximum height of 26 feet, which is considerably lower than what three-story apartments would have been.

Editor’s Note: Jason Stone can be reached at jstone@newszap.com.

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