Tomkiewicz: A war for the future of our communities, rural lifestyle

The folks living in the unincorporated San Tan Foothills Rural Community are in the unenviable position of sharing an extended border with the town of Queen Creek and therefore our two communities must interact on a variety of issues.

Stan Tomkiewicz

The idea of working together for the greater good died a bitter death long ago when QC abandoned a good-neighbor policy for one of self-promotion at all cost. Recent projects like the Box Canyon development and the annexation of the Ellsworth Curve demonstrate that QC is no longer interested in that “small-town feel,” nor does it support the rural lifestyle.

Yes, the mayor and town council carry out a charade, but when we in the rural areas now hear “let’s cooperate” from QC, it is only in the context of what is good for QC. Its goal is to grow into the new “South Gilbert” at the expense of everyone else in the immediate vicinity.

QC employs a sophisticated publicity machine dedicated to marketing the illusion that QC is the best-run, best-managed, most-forward-thinking, child-friendly, down-home-neighborly, business-friendly, mother-loving, politically responsive and god-fearing governmental entity since Athens, Greece, came up with the idea of democracy. Like so many other institutions that rely on propaganda, the truth is very different from the reality of its actions.

Box Canyon

Box Canyon was an integral part of a buffer zone between the town of QC and the north side of the San Tan Mountain Regional Park. It was considered a special use area deserving of “sensitive” development to maintain the rural area and to function as a transition zone to the park.

However, in 2012 the QC General Plan was amended to change the home density in the canyon. In 2017 the town council rezoned the area to create a suburban development complete with high-volume traffic, high-density homes and flooding issues.

Box Canyon also includes commercial development along Empire Road which will then justify building wider four-lane roads to handle the congestion. All this driving folks from established rural neighborhoods and replacing them with the city folk who tolerate what can only be called an “intended mess.”

Ellsworth Curve

The “Ellsworth Curve” was designed to ease the traffic flow between Hunt Highway and Ellsworth in unincorporated Pinal County.

As part of that agreement to address traffic congestion, the rural community supported rezoning the property on the northeast side of the curve to a very specific type of low-impact commercial zoning with strict stipulations that would protect the rural community. Everyone involved understood the deal – neighbors, property owners, Pinal County and yes QC.

To its credit, Pinal County stood its ground when approached by Amerco (U-Haul’s parent), which purchased the property and wanted to change the restrictions. The county was protecting the rights of those in the rural areas to get what they were promised in the original deal.

So Amerco and QC worked out an arrangement of annexation into QC with the stipulations being thrown out. Their goal was to build an intensive commercial project on the curve.

QC chose to abandon their commitment to the rural foothills to the south. The curve is their front yard and is now to be drenched in bright lights, studded with electronic signs and jammed with commercial development that goes along with an Earnhardt car dealership and a U-haul storage/rental facility.

East-west commercial corridor

Following that disaster, more properties west of the Ellsworth Curve were annexed into QC. The conversion of those properties from residential to commercial will further damage the existing rural areas along Empire.

The surrounding residents were promised by the QC of bygone days that this was a place where they could build homes in a rural setting and live that lifestyle. That promise is conveniently forgotten as QC fosters an east-west commercial corridor for businesses QC does not want in their downtown, but still want those tax revenues.

The heavy traffic from Box Canyon and all the commercial development will necessitate bigger, faster roads (no surprise) with traffic routed through the rural communities all along that way. The impact will be devastating to the rural communities. Let’s not forget that this will also become the view for those visiting San Tan Mountain Regional Park. So much for protecting the park.

Some say “All this is inevitable with development.” I would argue that it is simply one model and a bad one at that. The model works well for the development industry but is devastating to established rural neighborhoods. It shows a lack of imagination that results in the “look-alike towns” throughout the Valley.

This formula is predicated on having dependable puppets in the local government who value the property rights of those who propose development in any manner to make money but not for long-time residents who expect the property around them will be developed as it was presented to them when they moved in.

Government should be expected to value citizens and their lifestyles and not be completely lured to the hog trough by those in the development industry and businesses looking to expand. After all, the citizens elect these representatives to government to protect their lifestyles. Betrayals fuel the cynicism and confirm the present-day attitudes we have about government.

We all know development is going to continue, but the shame is that there are areas to the north of downtown QC where suburban residential developments like Box Canyon and commercial developments like the Ellsworth Curve would have fit in and been welcomed without betraying the commitment to the residents of the rural areas. All this is avoidable carnage as both communities could coexist if QC desired to live up to any of the press images the town puts forward, not to mention their past promises to the rural community.

For most of us in the rural community, Pinal County is our local government and we desperately need our board of supervisors and the county departments to recognize QC for what it has become – a self-serving, politically treacherous adversary, the enemy.  In that light we need Pinal County to be as hard-nosed toward QC as QC is towards its neighbors and the rural community.  Does that sound like a border war? Well it is certainly a war for the future of our communities and our rural lifestyle.

QC loves sending out an email just about every other day explaining the newest award it has just received. I think it is time to award QC a well-deserved new accolade or two more fitting to the reality of the new QC- “The Worst Municipality to Live Next to Award” or the “Town Mostly Likely to Sell Out Its Residents Award” as both are appropriate.

Just a note to those of you who have not been sold out last week or this week, there is always next week. Your time will come because this is the nature of QC today. The villains we face are not the people who live in QC but the people who have hijacked the town council and only the people of QC can change that at the voting booth.

Stan Tomkiewicz
San Tan  Foothills Rural Community

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