Ballots due May 15 for Queen Creek’s General Plan mapping out town’s future

Mohammed Youssel, transportation engineer manager for Queen Creek, gives a presentation on proposed changes to help improve traffic flow, which is a constant source of frustration for legacy and new Queen Creek residents alike. (Independent Newsmedia/Richard Dyer)

Queen Creek’s General Plan was nearly two years in the making, with input from dozens of citizens and neighboring municipalities and meetings totaling hundreds of hours to map out a plan for the rapidly growing town’s future in the southeast Valley.

The town-led effort to map out the town’s future now is complete.

With the needs of the town and residents in mind, the General Plan addresses the priorities and needs of the town as Queen Creek looks toward continuing smart growth while preserving its agricultural and small-town character in a well-traveled area between Mesa and San Tan Valley.

Currently and up to the May 15 ballot, voters have a chance to cast their ballot to approve the General Plan that focuses on transportation, zoning, downtown development, residential, natural resources and “agri-entertainment” needs. This is an all-mail election, but residents have until May 15 to drop off their ballots at Queen Creek Town Hall, 22350 S. Ellsworth Road.

If anyone missed out on attending any of the General Plan meetings or public hearings, visit www.QueenCreek.org for more information and type in General Plan in the search area of the town’s website.

The General Plan is not a bond or a levy seeking additional funds or requiring residents to pay more taxes. The town is seeking voter approval for a plan that is conceptual for how the region would like to see the town grow.

What is a general plan?

In Queen Creek’s case, it is a visionary document that was shaped by a group of town planning managers, commissioners and neighboring municipalities in all major areas for growth and development.

The General Plan process was done in conjunction with a number of planning documents that each included public input, including the town’s Transportation Master Plan, Economic Development Strategic Plan, Law Enforcement Strategic Plan, Parks and Recreation Master Plan and the town’s Water and Wastewater Master Plans.

A view of members of Queen Creek Town Council with Mayor Gail Barney front and center.(Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

State law requires cities and municipalities in Arizona to have a revised general plan in place every 10 years. When a general plan is revised and approved, it comes at no extra cost to the taxpayers.

The General Plan also will serve as a document in helping to guide the town council in its decision making. It is the voice of the citizens to council and staff, so all can have a common vision for town development and services.

“The Queen Creek General Plan serves as the town’s road map to guide development, appropriately manage growth and effectively conserve natural resources,” said Chris Anaradian, development services director for the town of Queen Creek, who worked with Brent Burningham, the town’s planning administrator, on the plan.

“Because it is the guiding document for the town’s future, it is crucial that residents provide input on what their vision is for the community. Transportation and public safety are also high priorities in Queen Creek, and those areas must work in tandem with growth. The General Plan provides the guidance for all of these concerns as the community continues to develop,” Mr. Anaradian said.

“One of the goals of this General Plan was to simplify the land-use categories so existing residents and future residents can understand where they live and what is going to happen around them over a long period of time,” Mr. Anaradian added. “While increases in density can only be approved through an extensive, public rezone process, simplified land use categories make it easier to understand the future use of land in the community.”

In addition to extensive outreach for each of the contributing master plans, the General Plan incorporates feedback from the community and integrates town planning documents. Community input was gathered during the General Plan process through the following methods:

  • Social media
  • Surveys
  • Workshops
  • Interviews
  • Public hearings

Queen Creek residents want their city to be an exciting place to live with family oriented amenities such as strong neighborhoods featuring a walkable downtown, parks and recreation opportunities.

Queen Creek is a young town. It incorporated in 1989, but the town of Queen Creek has rapidly grown and is well-traveled from all directions. Queen Creek had about 2,500 residents in 2000, 26,361 residents in 2010 and currently about 33,649 residents, according to the U.S. Census.

Buildout of Queen Creek is projected in 2050 with about 100,000 residents.

In its early years, Queen Creek organized four General Plans – one every five years. As the town has progressed, its planning and zoning commissioners have pretty much completed zoning the town, said Steve Sossaman, a planning commissioner for Queen Creek. Transportation plans show north-south roads being made through streets going to State Route 24.

Steve Sossaman

Mr. Sossaman has served on the town’s planning and zoning commission for more than 15 years and has been involved in the implementation of all of its General Plans.

He said that simplifying the town’s zoning codes, transportation, providing quality parks and recreation choices and entertainment opportunities while maintaining Queen Creek’s agricultural character were priorities in the plan.

The town’s Master Parks Plan was revised and includes five parks. Right now, two parks are in Queen Creek – including the completion and opening of Carter Mansel Oasis Park at Octotillo and Sossaman expected in November.

“This General Plan process was more of making it user-friendly to see how the town is going to grow,” Mr. Sossaman said. “Before the General Plans were piecemeal, but this one is very cohesive. There’s been a positive feeling about the General Plan, and we plan to see a good voter turn-out for its passage. The town has done a good job of community outreach and sought input from other neighboring towns.”

Another aspect of the General Plan was putting in place an infrastructure and sewer plan for future commercial and light industrial growth. Queen Creek does not have extensive infrastructure in place or newly constructed buildings where companies could set up shop. But town leaders see that coming in time.

As traffic has increased through Queen Creek, transportation plans were a priority, Mr. Sossaman said.

The town also recently annexed Fulton Ranch on Ironwood, expanding Queen Creek to more than 42 square miles, which is projected to increase traffic.

“There’s San Tan Valley and more than 100,000 people to the south of us,” Mr. Sossaman said. “There’s been more and more commuters coming through our community.”

The term “agri-entertainment” was implemented in this General Plan, meaning to balance Queen Creek’s agricultural character with entertainment opportunities in addition to events at Schnepf and Sossaman farms.

Gail Barney

A Hampton Inn and Suites will be coming to town at Ellsworth Loop and Rittenhouse Road. A groundbreaking is planned for this summer with an opening projected by late 2019.

Queen Creek Mayor Gail Barney’s sentiments about the General Plan echoed Mr. Anaradian and Mr. Sossaman.

“A lot of work and hours went into this General Plan,” Mayor Barney said. “It’s a conceptual plan that does not affect taxes or revenue. It’s a plan that can be changed or expanded any time. We also included a little more room for commercial growth than non-commercial along Hunt Highway.”

“As far as what has kept Queen Creek growing?,” Barney said. “I wish I knew. Good people seem to keep liking our community, amenities and lifestyle. In order for us to keep it up, we need to have a plan in place that guides us that is a road map to smart growth. We hope it continues.”

Editor’s note: Mike Sakal is a freelance journalist at the Queen Creek Independent.

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