Queen Creek agritainment pursuit gets $63K tax subsidy for street lighting, median design

The design of Rittenhouse Road improvements from 213th Street to Riggs Road is at the 60 percent progress stage and include widening Rittenhouse Road towards the east side to provide two northbound and southbound lanes along the 2-mile stretch. (Town of Queen Creek graphic)

A $63,506 contract for street lighting and median hardscape designs for the agritainment district was approved recently in a 5-2 vote of the Queen Creek Town Council.

Voting to approve a professional services design contract with J2 Engineering were Queen Creek Mayor Gail Barney and council members Robin Benning, Dawn Oliphant, Julia Wheatley and Jeff Brown. Voting no were Vice Mayor Emilena Turley and Councilman Jake Hoffman.

Queen Creek’s agriculture/entertainment destinations include Queen Creek Olive Mill, Schnepf Farms, Hayden Flour Mills at Sossaman Farms and The Pork Shop, according to queencreek.org/community/community-guide/agritainment.

Southbound Rittenhouse Road, at Cloud Road, will serve as the gateway entrance into the agritainment district as approved by the council in previous North/South Specific Area Plans, Troy White, public works director, said in a memo to the council.

“Town staff is requesting that J2 provide the town with 3-4 conceptual thematic designs for monuments, streetscape, median icons and streetlights that would be specific to the Agritainment District,” Mr. White said.

“The purpose would be to establish an aesthetic difference that would set this area of town apart form our typical roadway design standards,” he said.

The professional services design contract with J2 Engineering was on the Oct. 17 consent agenda, but was pulled by Vice Mayor Turley for discussion and a separate vote.

“This item is related to more of an upgraded hardscape and the design fee of a little over $63,000, that’s for the design alone?” she asked during the public hearing.

“For monuments, upgraded streetscapes, median icons, streetlights and things like that to denote the agritainment district, while I appreciate that and I think that would be beautiful, I think it is more of a matter of needs vs. wants for me, personally. And so, in a time that we are growing and we have so many projects going on, for me this isn’t the time to spend that. I’d rather wait,” Vice Mayor Turley said.

“So, it sounds really cool, but we don’t need it,” Councilman Hoffman said.

“We’re going to take money from the people who live in Cortina and who live in Sossaman Estates and all over town, people who won’t be impacted by this and receive no tangible benefit from it, simply to make the street signs on the streetlights prettier, right? Talk about bad government,” he said.

The agritainment area designs are needed and make the community different and special, Councilman Benning said.

“One of the things that has helped Queen Creek to grow as much as it has, that has brought business and that has encouraged families to move here, is the fact that we have taken the time and we’ve made careful decisions to help make our community different and special. We don’t just build roads, we’re building a place, we’re building a community,” he said.

Tourism such as agritainment is an important part of Queen Creek’s economic development plan, Councilwoman Wheatley said.

“Agritainment: This is one of our industry clusters in our economic development strategic plan, so it is something that we’re focusing on,” she said.

“I mean, it’s tourism. Tourism is big money. It drives hundreds of thousands of our visitors to here as well as our own residents, so it does benefit our community and with that we see an incredible amount in sales tax,” Councilwoman Wheatley said.

J2 will be the prime consultant, providing overall project coordination, conceptual and final design for the median accent icons. Wright Engineering, a sub-consultant, is to assist in the lighting design, Jeff Velasquez, J2 principal landscape architect, said in an Aug. 22 letter to Charlene Montgomery of the Queen Creek Public Works Department.

Other work has begun in the area of the agritainment district. The design of Rittenhouse Road improvements from 213th Street to Riggs Road is at the 60 percent progress stage by Kimley-Horn and Associates. Improvements consist of widening Rittenhouse Road towards the east side to provide two northbound and southbound lanes along the 2-mile stretch, Mr. White said in the memo.

Editor Richard Dyer can be contacted via e-mail at rdyer@newszap.com or at twitter.com/rhdyer or facebook.com/RichardDyerJournalist

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