Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

On Tuesday, June 27, 2017, the Glendale City Council in a 5 to 2 vote approved changes to the original Stonehaven plan approved by this very same council last year.

Councilmember Ray Malnar did what a good councilmember does. I called him to thank him and to ask why he voted against Stonehaven. He explained that he waited to make his final decision until the night of the council meeting. He never declared his position publicly before the vote as others on council did. He listened to both sides on the night of the council meeting and he learned. In my call to thank him for his support he shared that it was the citizens and their comments that helped him to make his final decision. On behalf of all Yucca’s district residents, Thank you Councilmember Malnar.

I called one other councilmember because I really wanted to understand that person’s vote in favor of Stonehaven. The councilmember said that he could have voted either way. That person assumed a majority would vote for Stonehaven and decided to vote with the majority. I believe there was another on council that voted the same way. How’s that for reviewing and understanding the facts? Just put your finger up to judge the wind’s direction and vote.

So, what happened? Why were the Stonehaven proposed changes accepted on a vote of 5 to 2? I, obviously, in representation of my constituency, voted against it. Councilmember Ray Malnar voted against it for the reason cited above. Mayor Weiers, 3 weeks before the vote, publicly announced his support. Councilmember Bart Turner also supported Stonehaven by allowing his likeness and his “Barrel Bulletin” to be posted on the Stonehaven site. Two councilmembers voted for it apparently because they decided to join what they assumed would be the majority vote in favor. Only one vote remains inexplicable. However, it becomes a moot point for the die was cast and a majority had already come to a decision.

Most of us assume that each councilmember studies the facts of the situation, listens to all sides and then makes a decision based upon all of the readily available information. After all, that is what they tell you. I think it would come as no surprise to anyone that is not the case at all.

One factor determining their vote is that councilmembers, just like the rest of us, are shaped by our life experiences and make their decisions on issues in that context. They have their likes and dislikes and their internal prejudices. They swim in a sea of politics always trolling for support and donations for their campaigns and for their next bid for reelection.

Another factor that persuaded some to vote in favor was the “good ole boy” network comprised of long time residents with political ties to the now deceased John F. Long Sr. These are people who worked with Long Sr. – Diane McCarthy, former County Supervisor and founder of WestMarc; Greg Donovan, whose organization, WestMec, benefitted over the years from donations made by Long Sr.; and David Rosseau of SRP. In addition to the lobbying efforts of the Stonehaven applicants another component of the “good ole boys” network included downtown Glendale entities. Bill Toops, owner of the Glendale Star, and Robert Heidt of the Glendale Chamber, were very visible. All spoke before the city council and openly advocated for the Stonehaven changes and some called, and/or visited or lunched with various councilmembers.

Back in the day, in the early 1990s the “good ole boy” club ran Glendale. The councilmembers seated at the time represented this faction and the network wasn’t broken until Glendale residents voted for the district system of representation in 1990. It didn’t disappear until the district system was fully implemented in 1992. One might consider their current activism as their last hurrah…perhaps…we’ll see.

Not to be forgotten…they hope… were those former Glendale elected officials pursuing their own agendas while using this issue to keep themselves relevant. Former recalled councilmember Gary Sherwood appears to harbor the hope that he can be reelected. While former councilmember Yvonne Knaack appears to be clearly positioning herself for a run for mayor. Each publicly advocated for the Stonehaven changes.

Another factor, sad as it is, granted the Stonehaven proponents free access to the councilmembers. I saw Jacob Long and various members of his contingent frequently on the 4th floor of city hall arriving or just leaving after having visited one or more councilmembers. They lobbied the hell out of the city council. Because of the Arizona Open Meeting Law it never was a fair fight. I was not able to do what the Stonehaven proponents could do. I could not lobby the councilmembers because it would be a violation of the Open Meeting Law. It’s like fighting with one hand tied behind your back.

What can we expect as long term consequences of this sad and perplexing decision?

  • In a matter of a few years those 600 homes on 4,000 and 4,500 SF lots will become a sea of rental properties. Renters take no ownership in the community in which they live. Look for a rising crime rate, overcrowded schools and a local traffic mess. Never before in the history of Glendale development has there ever been such a major, intense concentration of small lot homes on such a large parcel of land.
  • The city council approval alienated many Yucca district residents questioning why they are not heard when north Glendale continually enjoys the support of council. This decision has created a great deal of anger and mistrust about local government among them.
  • Mayor Weiers may have lost tremendous support of Yucca district residents (the district of his residence) in his next reelection bid. This may become the fire union’s answer to a prayer as it supported Weiers’ opponent in the last election.
  • Bethany Home Road may be constructed earlier than expected but only if the city can find the money to pay the Long Trust $1.2 million for the north right-of-way plus the costs of constructing the north half. The city had planned to use Development Impact Fees paid by the developer per house in Stonehaven to cover the costs. Something else will have to be delayed or removed from the budget to cover the cost. However, even when completed, Bethany will not alleviate the traffic generated by Stonehaven.
  • The expectation that these new residents will be an economic boon to Westgate is misplaced and there was nothing substantial or factual offered to back up this assertion. Westgate, of its own making, has its own issues to fix to attract customers.
  • Expect to see more Yucca residents close to this project moving out of Glendale.
  • City Council, by allowing even more homes in Stonehaven, has created an ethical obligation to complete Heroes Park as soon as possible. With the lack of active amenities in Stonehaven and an estimated 1,362 families with at least 2,000 children arriving circumstances are more compelling than ever to complete this park.
  • There may never be a grocery store in the Stonehaven commercial center with Safeway and a WalMart Superstore within spitting distance. It is destined to become just another indistinguishable strip shopping center fading over time.
  • Lastly, Stonehaven does not contribute to Upgrading Glendale. Would a major corporate CEO or a Cardinals or Coyotes professional athlete live here? We all know the answer. Until Glendale takes the position that it is time to focus on residential development that will attract that kind of buyer, it will continue to remain a community of starter homes and will never be known as a premier community of choice. As one Glendale resident observed, “When you consider the income level of the folks buying these homes, they aren’t likely going to be big dollars spenders on a regular basis. This isn’t Scottsdale.”

The repercussions of this development will be felt for many years to come as it increases the demand for city services whose costs are never fully covered by its residents’ taxes. The social and economic effects will also be felt for many years.

Glendale had the chance to draw a line in the sand. It had a chance to signal the development community that it was no longer willing to settle for marginal development. This city council refused to stand up for the greater good of Glendale. For what? Money, power and privilege??

© Joyce Clark, 2017               

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