The Maricopa Planning & Zoning Commission Monday denied the application request of Lincoln Avenue Capital, LLC for a zoning change from commercial to mixed use and also approval of the site plan, landscape, photometric and elevation plans for a 228-unit apartment community planned for the Seven Ranches area of the city.
Commission chair Linda Huggins and members Jim Irving, Rachel Leffall and Dan Frank voted against the request, while Ted Yocum and Bill Robertson voted in favor. Vice Chair Michael Sharpe was absent.
The proposed project is a residential, multi-family project with nine 3-story buildings at southwest corner of W. Honeycutt Road and N. Continental Blvd., just west of White and Parker Road. The property on the corner of the main intersection is zoned commercial.
The objections from those voting against the project were two-fold: the lack of input afforded to the other property owners in the Seven Ranches area, and the single use plan for an area the developer is asking to be converted to mixed use zoning.
Ben Taylor of Lincoln Avenue Capital said the company has tried its best to work with the city to accommodate the city’s requirements.
“We want to point out that we were pretty cognizant going through this of trying to minimize the amount of commercial we’d take off of Honeycutt,” he said. “So, you can see we have limited the amount of frontage on Honeycutt to the minimum amount that we needed to have a little bit of frontage. We also wanted to leave the hard corner on Honeycutt and White & Parker just to make sure this complements both future commercial and other uses.”
Commissioner Dan Frank didn’t like the single use of the property.
“I’m struggling with calling this mixed use,” he said “The use seems pretty monolithic to me, just having another apartment complex. There is no mix to it. Mixed use should provide a true combination of uses that interrelate in design and function. I just don’t see that in this development.”
Taylor noted that Lincoln wants to see commercial development of the corner of Honeycutt and White & Parker but does not itself have plans for the corner. He did state that Lincoln believes the mix of Lincoln’s apartment community with the existing commercial zoning for the corner would provide that mix of uses.
Commissioner Jim Irving said he was under the impression that residents and landowners of land in Seven Ranches were going to have the opportunity to provide more input on what was developed in the area.
“I’ve been telling people that we were going to have a study, and they were going to have input about the development of Seven Ranches,” Irving said. “We sat right here and were asked about that. I know there’s a church there and they are all excited about giving input. But now what we’re hearing is that this is already played out and they won’t have input? That it’s been decided without them.”
Rudy Lopez, the city’s acting director of the Development Services Department, addressed the issue for the city, showing the city’s existing site plan that indicates potential high-density residential on the site.
Irving went back to the prior P&Z meeting, saying, “we sat here, and I thought we had talked about the possibility of not developing it this way, but doing something for our citizens and turning it into a park.”
Lopez said a park was an option for another area of Seven Ranches but hadn’t specifically been discussed for the site Lincoln is looking to develop.
“I guess it just really concerns me,” Irving added. “I have a meeting next week with people from the church to talk about that whole area. I think that’s the problem I’m faced with, dealing with people in the city who don’t really see us as being up front about various things. They think there is too much development, and we try to tell these people, it’s their (the landowners) land they can do what they want with it. But we do want to have a balance and I just thought we were going to have a discussion, especially with the people who live there, about the city taking over some of that and buying it (for the park). I worry about that. There’s a strong sentiment as you should know in this city, about development, period.”
Lopez reminded the commissioners that the land on the corner of Honeycutt and White & Parker is hard zoned as commercial, and they could control the area being mixed use by ensuring that zoning doesn’t change.
“The general plan does want to have this area have multiple uses,” Lopez said. “If this (the commercially zoned land on the corner) comes back as some kind of residential and doesn’t meet with our general plan as mixed use, you have the right to deny that request when it comes about. But this request is for rezoning a portion of it as residential component to meet our general plan of having a mixture of uses. And keep in mind that the corner is hard zoned for commercial zoning.”
Susan Demmitt, a land use attorney with Gammage & Burnham, encouraged the commission to consider the fact that the entire frontage of the Seven Ranches area along Honeycutt currently is zoned commercial, and that approving the change for Honeycutt Ranch would allow for the mix of uses they are looking for rather than just commercial.
Irving said he thinks the issue is greater than just a zoning change.
“We all live here in Maricopa and the city is really facing the dilemma of how to respond to the citizens about growth in this city,” he said. “The city council isn’t going to have the final say on this – the citizens of Maricopa are. There’s an election next year and I think we have a responsibility to respond to those citizens about growth in this city. The citizens are going to make some decisions and I just want to be sure we are listening and responding to their needs.”
Editor’s Note: This story was corrected to reflect that Michael Sharpe was absent, but still lives in Maricopa and remains a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission.