After nine months of discussions, the Queen Creek Town Council approved motions to move forward the proposed Barney Farms residential community at the north end of the community.
The council rejected requests for a continuance by area businesspeople and a local municipality, saying the latter could have discussed their issues earlier, Councilwoman Julia Wheatley said during a phone interview.
The voting took place after two public hearings during the council’s Sept. 21 meeting at Queen Creek Town Hall, 22350 S. Ellsworth Road.
Council members Craig Barnes, Robin Benning, Jeff Brown, Emilena Turley and Ms. Wheatley approved the two motions.
Mayor Gail Barney recused himself because of a conflict of interest — the land is owned and being developed by the Newell Barney Family Farms of Queen Creek. Councilwoman Wheatley, who has previously served as the town’s vice mayor, led the discussion.
Vice Mayor Dawn Oliphant was not present.
Among those requesting a continuance were Bill Jabjiniak, economic development director for the city of Mesa; Sally Harrison, president/CEO of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce; and Dawn Helms, regional manager for CRM of America.
All three have interests in the Mesa Gateway Area north of the project site. Heavy industrial and manufacturing companies such as CRM of America, CMC Steel, Fujifilm, Mitsubishi Gas Chemical and TRW all have major operations in the Mesa Gateway Area, according to the city of Mesa website.
Councilwoman Wheatley said during her interview that discussions about Barney Farms began in January with meetings with local property owners. She said public hearings had taken place during two planning and zoning commission meetings and two town council agendas in both August and September, and that the Barney Family already had made a number of changes based on discussions at community meetings and public hearings.
Barney Farms is a proposed 534-acre, 1,718-lot residential community generally bounded by Meridian Road to the east, Queen Creek Road to the south, the Signal Butte Road Alignment to the west and about 720 feet south of Germann Road to the north, according to printed materials in the council packet.
The project site has been farmed for more than 60 years by the Newell Barney Family Farms operation, which encompasses more than 720 acres within the town of Queen Creek, according to a report in the council packet. The site has been classified as employment land use on the town’s General Plan Land Use Plan since 1996.
Three lot sizes are being proposed: 687 lots measuring 45 feet by 125 feet, 567 lots at 55 feet by 125 feet and 464 lots at 65 feet by 130 feet, according to the council packet.
The packet, agenda and video of the meeting may be viewed on the town’s website.
The first of the two public hearings was for GPA16-026, a request by the Barney family for a Major General Plan Amendment for 67 acres from Employment Type-A and Recreation and Conservation to Medium-High Density Residential, which would allow zero to five dwelling units per acre.
This portion of the site is generally at the northeast corner of Queen Creek Road and the Signal Butte Road Alignment.
The second public hearing was for RZ16-043, a request by the Barney family to rezone its 534 acres from R1-5, I-1, and RC to R1-5/PAD.
Prior to the public hearings, the council excused itself to meet in a closed-door executive session to receive legal counsel regarding the Barney Farms requests.
After the regular meeting reconvened, developer Jason Barney addressed the council. He said he has had ongoing conversations with his neighbors to the north in Mesa with the heavy industrial users.
“We as the Barney family … value very much the role that they play as being a major anchor for employment, job attraction and that sort of thing,” Mr. Barney said.
“The city of Mesa is our most important economic partner, and we will remain committed to a collaborative relationship,” he told the council.
Mr. Jabjiniak was the first of several people to speak during the public hearing for the Major General Plan Amendment. He told the council about 2,000 persons already employed in the commercial corridor immediately north of Barney Farms.
“We want to protect these employers with that amount of growth,” Mr. Jabjiniak said. “Trucks carrying steel to CMC, chemicals from Fuji. We don’t want to mix those or explosive devices from TRW with vehicles. We’re talking about 17,000 vehicles being added to Germann Road.”
He asked council to continue its discussions about Barney Farms so Mesa and Queen Creek staff members and officials could meet and document how the two municipalities would deal with business owners along the commercial corridor.
Next to speak was Ms. Harrison. She told the council the chamber is committed to “improve, protect and promote Mesa businesses.”
Ms. Harrison said the chamber is concerned about residential encroachment on a commercial area. She said it could impact the quality of jobs as concerns are raised about noise abatement and third-shift employment. She asked for a continuance to allow representatives from the impacted businesses to talk to the developer.
There were no speakers for the second public hearing.
After the hearings were closed, Councilwoman Wheatley called for a vote on both issues.
Mr. Jabjiniak was disappointed with the vote, he said during a phone interview. He said the city of Mesa will continue to work with the businesses there to address their concerns.
Councilwoman Wheatley said those concerns could have been addressed during the nine months of conversations leading up to the Sept. 21 vote.
“The requests were on the agenda as action items, and we were ready to take action,” Councilwoman Wheatley said in her interview.
The Queen Creek Town Council meets at 5:30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of the month at town hall. Public hearings are not scheduled before 7 p.m. Agendas and meeting videos may be viewed on the town’s website.