The developers of Maricopa Stonegate, a proposed “village” of homes, shops and restaurants on 47 acres of land along Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, heard a prominent voice of support for their project on Monday night.
The Planning & Zoning Commission recommended a minor amendment to the General Plan, but developers were not asking for a change in zoning, at least not yet.
Aware of public interest in the development of about 47 acres of land along Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, staff made a point of explaining the purpose of the General Plan and the details of the request.
“We are only setting up the framework so that in the future we can do a mixed-use development,” said Randy Carter of Sketch Architecture Company in Mesa.
The mixed use includes residential and retail in a “village” concept. The details have shifted over time with changes in the market and society. Carter said the original idea was for a big box store with a large parking lot. Now that has been reimagined as a medium box store in one corner of Stonegate.
In the current General Plan, the Stonegate property is listed as “employment” on the land-use map. That could include warehousing and large retail. The requested amendment changes the map to “mixed use” to allow more flexibility.
Rodolfo Lopez, deputy director of the city’s Economic and Community Development Department, said the 15-year General Plan is a visionary tool to guide decision-making.
“We’re seeing the adaptability of our society in terms of our commerce as well. So, having the ability to look at amendments in our general plan is what gives us as a city the opportunity to look at revisions when it’s needed,” Lopez said. “It’s not a rigid document.”
Commissioner Michael Sharpe said the Maricopa Stonegate plan for mixed use is “well laid-out and well-articulated.” While some residents are demanding a big retailer like Home Depot, the idea for a big box store may be over the hill, he said.
“The era of big box retail is over,” Sharpe said. “With Amazon and other larger retailers going to more of a distribution model, there just isn’t a need for big box. You can go to various Valley cities and … see them decline. So, the idea of the village concept, the mixed use, is important. It does still incorporate employment. It’s that model of live, work and play.”
Carter said development is in five phases:
- Phase 1, single-family homes, is a near-certainty. He said the idea is for small, second homes for winter visitors.
- Phase 2 may involve multi-family housing, like apartments. But that will be market-driven and may turn into offices instead.
- Phase 3 is the medium box store, which also could change into different retail.
- Phase 4 on the southeast portion of the property would be retail and restaurants along a new street.
- Phase 5 would involve infrastructure. To be pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, the property is conceived with trails that would link to surrounding subdivisions Glennwilde, Senita and, south of MCG Highway, Santa Rosa Springs.
Carter said one of the goals is “to create a more Main Street-type of idea” with residential on one side of the development and support services, offices and small-scale retail on the other. A hotel is also envisioned.
“It was really refreshing to see your discussion on traffic,” Commissioner Ted Yocum told Carter. “With the variety of uses you’re going to have here, you’re going to have off-peak hours, so it’s really not going to have the intense implications on traffic that we sometimes see with some of our other projects.”
The area was zoned for residential and then for light industrial/warehouse as the recession hit.
“That has been 12 years, and in 12 years what we still have is dirt,” Sharpe said. “The reality is no developer has looked at that site and said, ‘This is going to be a good economic opportunity.’ Any developer that comes in is going to take this exact same approach. They’re going to have to split the parcel up and make it a little more mixed use, make it a little bit more friendly, make it what we’re seeing in other parts of the country, frankly.
“Yes, we had a recession in 2008, and that was a major recession. But we’ve come roaring back, and that is still dirt. And that is exactly zero dollars in property taxes. I would much rather have something like this come into play where we will have some employment.”
Monday’s meeting of the P&Z Commission included a public hearing, and the airing of several comments opposing multi-family housing from social media.