Saying Queen Creek residents oppose denser housing allowances, Councilman Craig Barnes was the sole holdout in votes regarding a request to allow increased housing units per acre in the proposed Meridian Crossing subdivision.
During their Nov. 2 regular meeting, members of the Queen Creek Town Council voted 6-1 in separate votes to approve a Major General Plan amendment and a Planning Area Development rezoning request that would allow an increase to the number of houses that could be built in the proposed residential subdivision.
Present at the meeting were Mayor Gail Barney, Vice Mayor Dawn Oliphant, Mr. Barnes and council members Robin Benning, Emilena Turley and Julia Wheatley. Councilman Jeff Brown participated in the meeting by phone.
Prior to the vote, the council unanimously approved P16-0019, a request for the annexation of 13 parcels on 428.6 acres on the southwest corner of Gary Road and the Riggs Road Alignment, the site of the proposed Meridian Crossing subdivision.
As a result of the annexation, the subdivision would be eligible to receive sewer, water, refuse disposal and fire protection by the town of Queen Creek. Police protection would be provided by the town through its contract with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
The request was made by Westcor Queen Creek LLC, represented by Jason Barney. It is one of four companies involved with the proposed subdivision. The others are GemJen Investment Services Inc., Canyon Oaks Estates LP and Westcor/Queen Creek Medical LLC, according to the meeting agenda.
There was no council discussion of this item at the meeting prior to the vote.
The meeting agenda, council packet and video can be viewed online at www.queencreek.org.
Meridian Crossing is a 1,208-unit residential subdivision generally on the southwest and southeast corners of Riggs/Combs and Meridian Roads.
The requests for the Major General Plan amendment and PAD rezoning were pulled from the public hearing consent agenda by Councilman Barnes for further discussion at the Nov. 2 meeting.
GPA16-027 (Resolution 1106-16) was a request by Westcor Queen Creek LLC to change the zoning of the 433 acres generally at the southwest corner of Gary Road and the Riggs Road alignment from Medium Density Residential — 0-3 dwelling units per acre — to Medium-High Density Residential — 0-5 du/ac.
The second request from Westcor Queen Creek LLC — RZ16046 (Ordinance 619-16) — would rezone a 415-acre site in that same area from R1-43 to (PAD)/R1-5. It would allow the density of homes to be increased from 0-3 du/ac to its proposed density of 3.37 du/ac.
“So knowing that our General Plan was 0-3 (du/ac), and this is just now coming in front of us, and they figured they would build 3.37 houses per acre, and our GP says 3, knowing they cannot do that, so they’re coming and asking us to change it, and again,” Councilman Barnes said during the meeting.
He said he has spoken to thousands of residents who oppose an increase in density.
“I’ve knocked on every door in Cortina, every door in Sossaman Estates, half the doors in Montelena, everyone in my neighborhood, and I’m hearing that and seeing that on Facebook and constantly. So I’m wanting everyone to know I’m hearing a lot that they don’t want any more density in Queen Creek.”
Councilwoman Wheatley asked if a town staff member or the applicant could clarify what the process would be if the applicant were to request another change in the future. Chris Anaradian, development services director for the town, told the council they were voting on two distinct requests, according to the meeting video. He said Major General Plan amendments can be submitted only once per year.
A super-majority vote of two-thirds of the council is needed to approve a Major General Plan amendment, Fredda Bisman, the town’s legal counsel, said during the meeting.
A PAD overlay request for more than 10 percent of what is approved for must go through the approval process and can be ruled on at any time, he said.
Councilwoman Wheatley said she also has heard complaints about density. However, she said the developer’s private capital investment in infrastructure outweighed the increased density, adding she considered the increase from 0-3 du/ac to the proposed 3.37 du/ac “negligible.” She said she would have a hard time approving anything greater.
Councilwoman Turley called the subdivision a “beautiful project,” saying the nearby agritainment area provided an opportunity for more density.
“I know we all want Queen Creek to retain that small-town feeling. In a lot of ways our foundation is built around that. But we need more (housing) diversity in the community,” she said. “People ask where is my mother going to live? Where is the guy who works there going to live?”
She said the subdivision will build infrastructure in the area and bring economic growth to the town.
Vice Mayor Oliphant said she was sensitive to the residents’ needs. When discussing density, she said, she looks at each project and its value to the town.
Councilman Barnes said he will continue to fight increased housing density.
“The developers don’t care what the General Plan says,” Councilman Barnes said during a phone interview Nov. 3. “When the General Plan was approved by the citizens, they said stop doing this (increasing density), and I’m listening to them. I’ve heard a lot from residents that they are tired of the increased density. That’s why I voted the way I did. My fellow council members can vote the way they want. We have seven different opinions on the way things should go.
“Several times a developer has told us they can’t sell an acre and so they ask for 0-3 du/ac. Then they ask us for 0-5. Pretty soon the developer says we need to make the lots narrower and longer, we need to go 5-8 until we’re building eight houses per acre.
“We’re getting too dense,” he said during his interview. “We would need more police on the streets, there will be more crime, more taxes, and we’re already facing a bond to build more schools for our increased student population.”
In other business, the council voted unanimously to approve a recommendation for an application for a new Series 12 restaurant liquor license for Lucky Lou’s American Grill, 23706 S. Power Road Suite 101 in Queen Creek. The application was submitted by Amy Nations on behalf of her client.
The Queen Creek Town Council typically meets at 5:30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of each month at the Queen Creek Town Hall, 22350 S. Ellsworth Road. No public hearings take place prior to 7 p.m. To view agendas and commission packets, visit the town’s website at www.queencreek.org and click on the Calendar.
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