Vice Chair Sharpe resigns from P&Z Commission


Michael Sharpe, who served for a year as vice chair of the city Planning & Zoning Commission, resigned during Monday’s meeting. He had been on the commission for seven years.

He served as chair Monday meeting, succeeding Linda Huggins, who City Councilmember Henry Wade replaced with Jim Hughes.

Sharpe said he is leaving due to time constraints that came from a new career opportunity.

“I have some professional challenges I’ve decided to take on that will restrict the amount of time I can dedicate to public service,” Sharpe said. “This was not something that came easy. It was a very difficult decision. The reality is that I think it’s a good thing. I think we have reached a good point after my seven years on the commission and it’s time to pass the torch and get some fresh perspectives. I’ve been told I brought an interesting perspective to the group, so I hope that continues.

“I had a frank, heart-to-heart discussion about it with my wife and we determined that with the new position I just wouldn’t be able to give everything I needed to the P&Z Commission.”

Sharpe said he considered trying to stay on and participate remotely, but ultimately decided that was not the best course.

“I think post-pandemic we need to get back to doing things in person,” he said. “We’ve become too reliant on Zoom, and it is becoming a negative.”

Sharpe is a commercial-insurance underwriting leader and said he recently took on a project for Chubb, a large national company. The new role entails significant travel and Sharpe said he was concerned about not being able to attend enough meetings to be effective.

Mayor Nancy Smith appointed Smith to the board and lauded his service.

“I appreciate and thank P&Z Commissioner Michael Sharpe,” Smith said. “He served on P&Z as my appointment for seven years and did a fabulous job. He brought excellent balance to the commission. He was selected vice chair in January 2022 and served as chair in his last meeting in December 2022. He’s on to different endeavors, but when he finishes, I hope he returns. Michael is a long-time resident that cares deeply about our community.”

Michael Sharpe & Mayor Nancy Smith at Monday’s P&Z Meeting [Mayor Smith]
Smith said despite the progress made in recent years the city still faces growth challenges.

“Short term, the biggest challenge is traffic,” he said. “That’s the low-hanging fruit, but it represents the single-biggest thing I hear about in the community. And we have to deal with things that are out of our control, like (State Routes) 347 and 238 and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

“In the medium term, I think acclimating the community to the multi-family push and absorbing that new population and their habits. That all ties back to the traffic. As long as we have that work-force housing for people like teachers, police, firefighters and health-care workers, if we can use that housing to get some of those folks to stay in town rather than commuting, that would be a huge step forward.”

Despite the challenges, Sharpe believes that the city is well positioned for the future.

“Maricopa is quicky becoming one of best cities in the Valley,” he said. “Personally, I think our location away from the Valley is an asset. We don’t want to replicate Tempe. We want Maricopa to be unique and create a Maricopa sense of place. Those are the opportunities we have in front of us  — if we can our get hands wrapped around the traffic issues and handle these multi-family opportunities.”

He said Maricopa has always faced a chicken-and-egg problem from developers.

“We have always pushed for a Home Depot and Lowe’s and big retailers like that,” Sharpe said. “But it comes down to population versus retail, and to when those retailers believe there is enough population to ensure they will be successful. Tractor Supply is a good first step. Once we get some retailers like that here, then other developers can look at Maricopa as its own entity, not an extension of the Valley.

“At this point, we need real, bona fide projects to come here to push people up the employment ladder. We need industry, not just jobs, because industry will create positions where people can live and work in Maricopa and stop commuting out of town and taking their money with them.”

Sharpe said he enjoyed his time on the commission, finding the work enjoyable and stimulating.

“I enjoyed the spats we’d get into while discussing issues because it made us come up with a better product,” he said. “We were fighting to make sure we were not a rubber stamp. We pushed the applicants. There were a number of times we said no and told an applicant to go back and give us something better. Then when future applicants saw that, they gave us more from the outset because they knew we would not settle for less.”

Smith said she will name Sharpe’s successor at a January City Council meeting.