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Heritage District

Still in early stages, a proposal for a Dutch Bros. Coffee store, with drive thru, came before the Heritage District Committee on Thursday.

Dutch Bros. Coffee is proposing a store in Maricopa, and the Heritage District Citizen Advisory Committee received an early look at plans Thursday.

That’s because the committee gets an opinion on any development in the Heritage District. Dutch Bros. Coffee’s proposal is on the north side of Fast & Friendly Car Wash.

City planner Rudy Lopez said the project still has to go through site plan review and meet criteria currently under discussion. Developers are also seeking a variance.

The project uses an existing access from John Wayne Parkway, but Lopez said there is an easement on the frontage.

“It’s like a no-build zone,” Lopez said, “so they’re going for a variance.”

Project Manager Michael Oakleaf of Archicon Architecture & Interiors said the current plans make sacrifices to fit into the area. That included abandoning some elements and using a color scheme that would “blend in” with the neighboring car wash.

Oakleaf said those concessions are unusual.

“We’re giving up a lot,” he said.

In what Chairman Brian Foose called “a formality,” the committee unanimously voted its support for the project.

An example of a house being used as a business and not necessarily a home.

City officials revealed a plan at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that could allow homes in the Heritage District to more freely be used as small businesses.

“What we’re trying to achieve here is that you don’t have to live in the home anymore to consider it to have a business in there.” — Rudy Lopez

The “Adaptive Reuse” Plan, Maricopa senior planner Rudy Lopez said, will allow for homes with fewer than 5,000 square-feet to operate “low-impact professional office or appointment base business [sic].”

Examples of potential “mixed-use” uses are insurances offices, accounting offices, hair salons, barber shops and coffee shops.

“A lot of cities across the metro Phoenix area, and even Pinal County as well, are using this type of tool to reinvest within older portions of town,” Lopez said.

As part of the Adaptive Reuse plan, the city will streamline the permitting process by modifying parking, landscaping and mechanical-screening standards allowing for minor developments to support the businesses.

The current city code, Lopez said, already makes room for “home occupation.”

“What we’re trying to achieve here is that you don’t have to live in the home anymore to consider it to have a business in there,” Lopez said.

This allows for the property to possibly even be leased to another small business without anyone living at the property.

“The biggest thing we are trying to get out is that business can now have signage,” He said. “They can expose their business.”

These types of businesses would still have to abide by nuisance regulations that prevent sight obstruction, loud noise and harsh smells.

Examples of other cities doing similar things are Phoenix, Chandler and Gilbert.

Council will likely vote on the matter in the coming weeks.

Heritage District map

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City floodplain manager Josh Plumb (standing) talks to the Heritage District Citizens Committee about the floodplain. Photo by Ethan McSweeney

By Ethan McSweeney

Maricopa’s Heritage District doesn’t have too many options when it comes to addressing floodplain issues without a region-wide effort, according to a presentation to the district’s citizen advisory committee last week.

Josh Plumb, floodplain manager for the city of Maricopa, gave the Heritage District Citizen Advisory Committee an overview of the floodplain situation for the area and what would need to be done to find a solution to the issue.

Maricopa’s Heritage District has a 1 percent chance of flooding in any given year, also called a 100-year flood, as a result of being a low-lying area from the Santa Rosa Wash and the Vekol Wash. This means that the area has been designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a floodplain.

As a result of this status, if any redevelopment to a property within the Heritage District equals or is greater than 50 percent of the value of that property, then the property would need to be brought up to floodplain standards. It also requires that any homeowner in the area purchase flood insurance.

“The challenge to the area is that it limits what can be done in terms of redevelopment,” Plumb told the committee at its monthly meeting.

One couple who purchased a home in the Heritage District recently learned they would have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in order to bring their home up to floodplain standards.

Brian Foose, chairman of the Heritage District Citizen Advisory Committee, didn’t agree with the decision by FEMA to designate the area a floodplain.

“Unfortunately, the people in Washington who are looking through their satellites and their satellite imagery say that’s a lower area, that’s a floodplain,” Foose said.

Don Pearce, a member of the advisory committee and a long-time Maricopa resident, also didn’t believe that the floodplain status accurately reflects the situation, citing past experiences with flooding in the Maricopa area.

“This is ridiculous this floodplain,” he said. “I can’t see where they get this from.”

Plumb said any possible solution to the larger issue of limits to development in the floodplain would need to be addressed at a regional level with Pinal County, Pima County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Santa Cruz River, from which the Santa Rosa and Vekol washes are tributaries, flows from Mexico through Santa Cruz and Pima counties north to Pinal County.

Some options that could help the Heritage District include a drainage project or a flood-retention area that would divert potential flooding.

“Obviously, funding is a major issue in terms of trying to do a regional solution for this,” Plumb said.

Nancy Jones stands at her unique 1957 home in the Heritage District. She and her husband were “devastated” by the demands of a floodplain permit to improve the house. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa wants to revitalize the Heritage District.

The Heritage District is in a floodplain.

The impasse that creates for homeowners wishing to improve property can be frustrating and expensive.

A solution will be a long time coming.

Bill and Nancy Jones live in Senita but found a 1950s house on Condrey Avenue with “tons of potential.” They discovered it on the real estate website Trulia. A victim of foreclosure, the house had been empty five years.

Of course, empty is a relative term. Clearly animals and humans had made use of it. The entire quarter-acre property was full of trash.

As Washington snowbirds, the Joneses are do-it-yourselfers who saw the many challenges the home presented. But they did not even know about the biggest challenge.

What they knew about the property was that it was mid-century modern and had been in foreclosure.

“The bank foreclosed, sent the owners the paperwork, but they never followed through, so it went to a tax sale,” Nancy Jones said. “The people we bought it from bought it on taxes, and then we bought it off of them. So there were no disclosures. They didn’t know anything about the property, and we didn’t know anything about it.

The Joneses knew they had an expensive challenge in restoring the home on Condrey Avenue but were unprepared for the floodplain permitting process. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
The Joneses knew they had an expensive challenge in restoring the home on Condrey Avenue but were unprepared for the floodplain permitting process. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

“If we had, we never would have bought it.”

Bill Jones said they hauled off 12 tons of trash from the house, the front yard and the back yard. The kitchen and bathrooms had already been stripped out. The Joneses took down all the sheetrock and plaster.

“It looks ugly, but there is nothing wrong with what we’ve got for a base,” Nancy said. “We’re working with an architect who has fabulous ideas for us. Until we get the floodplain permit, we can’t do anything.”

That has put the brakes on all of their plans.

In working with city planners on issues like setback waivers and variances, the floodplain issue came up. The Joneses were in contact with the Pinal County Flood Control District, which delivered the devastating news.

Engineer Chris Wannamaker told the Joneses the 1957 home on property that had not been surveyed since 1956 was built 26 years before the first floodplain map went in to effect. It is in a floodplain now, requiring a floodplain permit before any construction can be done, and that work must follow the “substantial improvement rules.”

“These rules state that if the cost of the improvements (including materials and labor) are more than 50 percent of the current value of the structure then the entire structure needs to be brought into compliance with the current floodplain regulations,” Wannamaker said. “In the case of this home, it would very likely mean elevating the entire structure.”

Half of the value of the Condrey house is about $16,000, a fraction of what their construction improvements will be.

“That’s the roof,” Nancy said. “We can’t get homeowners insurance because of the roof.”

They were able to get commercial insurance, which Bill said is $500-$600 per year.

“We’re out now about $55,000, and it just keeps adding and adding and adding,” Nancy said.

“I’d like to see the city of Maricopa get off their tushes and get that flood-retention area built that they need.” –Nancy Jones

That’s well beyond the full value of the home, so the work automatically requires the floodplain permit. That means before they can do anything else to the house, the Joneses must do one of two things.

“The only thing we can do right now is get a company to come in, burrow underneath the slab, lift it up two feet, backfill it with gravel, and then put the house back down,” Nancy said. “Or tear the whole thing down. At a minimum that would cost $15,000 to $20,000. Then we have to start from scratch.

“It’s a solid-built place. It’s disgusting to think that to do anything, we have to destroy it.”

For Maricopa, the option to help everyone in the Heritage District floodplain is to construct a flood-retention area or drainage project.

Joshua Plumb, a floodplain manager at City Hall, said a study to do a design for drainage is more than five years away. Then any plan must get approval from Pinal County at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. His best guess is six to seven years at the earliest before Maricopa has a project.

“Nobody’s taking a serious stand,” Bill Jones said.

“I’d like to see the city of Maricopa get off their tushes and get that flood-retention area built that they need,” Nancy Jones said. “Until the city gets their act together, anybody that wants to do anything in this area can’t.”

It is even a complicated situation for the city, which has property in the Heritage District it plans to develop. Plumb said an outside option is the opportunity for a development company to create its own drainage plan that meets FEMA requirements for much of the area.

“We’re always looking for development,” he said.

Nancy Jones said city planners were “wonderful” and very supportive of what the couple wanted to do with the house. The Heritage District Advisory Committee, too, heard their plight with compassion.

“We are sympathetic to what you have to go through,” said Brian Foose, committee chairman. “The whole 347 corridor is constrained because of the floodplain.”

“My heart goes out to you people,” committee member Renate Chamberlin said.

“My heart goes out to the neighbors,” Nancy Jones replied. “We want to get going on it.”

She called the situation “devastating.”

Plumb said the city tries to inform the public about the demands of being in a floodplain. It is considered one of Maricopa’s top three issues. While a city solution for the Heritage District is a long-range goal, potential homeowners wanting to improve the oldest section of town are forewarned.

“You have to know what you’re coming into,” Plumb said.

This story appeared in the April issue of InMaricopa.