On the evening of January 11, 2017, the applicants, John F. Long Trust (property owner) and Pulte Homes (proposed builder) held a neighborhood meeting at Sunset Ridge Elementary School at 6 PM. I want to thank all of the citizens who took the time out of their busy schedules to attend. The final count of  citizens who attended 72. You rock! Thank you!

Residents attend Stonehaven meeting

Be advised you will have to repeat that night’s attendance again when the applicants’ Minor General Plan Amendment request is heard before the citizen Planning and Zoning Commission and also before the city council.

The meeting room had boards ringing the room depicting the proposed development. Various Pulte and John F. Long Trust personnel were stationed at each of the presentation boards. Did I ever mention how much I hate this type of meeting presentation? It’s a travesty. It’s designed to talk to small groups making it less difficult to sell a project. It’s so much easier to pick people off and convince them of the wonderfulness of a project this way.  If a citizen is not savvy enough to ask the right questions, the person never is told the complete story about the project.

I was pretty darned angry. So I talked (maybe talked forcefully) to the Pulte people and advised them that citizens would be placing chairs in the center of the room where everyone would sit and wait for a presentation from them. That way everyone would hear the same information at the same time and could ask questions or make comments to the presenter(s). Here’s the result of our polite but forceful insistence (resistance??).

The presenters were Jim Miller, John F. Long Trust attorney and Susan Demmitt, Gammage & Burnham attorney representing Pulte Homes, and Greg Abrams, VP of Land Acquisitions for Pulte Homes. The neighborhood meeting was required because the applicants are asking for a Minor General Plan Amendment changing the land use on 65 of the 300+ acres from Medium Density (2.5 to 3.5 homes to an acre) to Medium-High Density (5 to 8 homes to an acre).  The result of this change, if approved by the citizen Planning & Zoning Commission and the City Council, would result in some lots as small as 3,000 square feet. What on God’s green earth will this single family, detached home look like? How about a cracker box?

One of the citizens commented that he was familiar with a similar project in another Valley city where 3,000 square foot lots and small homes had been allowed. The homes could not be resold and so the area became a mass of rental properties. We all know what happens to rental properties and generally, it’s not a pretty picture.

Another citizen commented that there was every possibility that the close proximity of these tiny lots and tiny homes to the University of Phoenix stadium (approximately a mile away) would make these properties extremely attractive to investors who would purposefully buy them as rentals to accommodate football fans, especially for events like the Super Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.

One of the presenters commented that this type of lot size and home would be purchased by millennials. Excuse me, but aren’t millennials living at home with their parents because they can’t afford to buy a home? And many of them simply don’t want to buy a home… period.

Think about it. I live in a 2, 964 square foot home. I suspect some readers of this blog have homes the same size as mine or larger. I have been trying to image a lot size the same size as my home. I can’t do it.  It literally boggles the mind. Glendale has never allowed 3,000 square foot lot sizes…anywhere, at any time. They should not allow them ever and certainly this residential development should not become a guinea pig for such a lot size and product.

Equally as discouraging, was Pulte’s reduction of lot sizes adjacent to Missouri Ranch (a subdivision of 10,000 square foot lots). Originally the lot sizes adjacent to Missouri Ranch and south of the Grand Canal were supposed to be 8,000 square feet. In this new proposed Minor General Plan Amendment these lots sizes shrink to 7,000 square feet.

The presenters, when asked, shared that the number of homes under the presently approved plan of development was about 1,100 homes. This request for a Minor General Plan Amendment, if approved, would increase the number of homes to over 1,400 homes. Mr. Miller also confirmed that they did not have to submit a design plan for the construction of Bethany Home Road until the 200th home building permit was pulled and did not have to start building Bethany Home Road until the 400th home building permit was pulled.

I went back and reviewed the Bethany Home Road Agreement between the John F. Long Trust (JFLT) and the city approved by the city council on April 26, 2016 (as well as the original Stonehaven Planned Area Development [PAD] allowing 1,100 homes). The following was agreed by both parties with regard to Bethany Home Road : “The Parties acknowledge that the Bethany Home Road Extension will be completed and accepted on or before January 1, 2022.” That’s 5 years from now.

In Section 3.4 of the agreement, JFLT (John F. Long Trust) will have final plans and specifications for the Bethany Home Road Extension completed by the civil engineer and approved by the Parties prior to the City’s issuance of the 275th home building permit for the Residential Development Parcel (subject to Force Majeure Events and any mutually-agreed extensions).” It is safe to assume that it will be several years before the Long Trust even has to turn in a design plan for Bethany Home Road to the city.

Under Section 4.2 it states, “JFLT will cause the general contractor to commence construction of the Bethany Home Road Extension prior to the City’s issuance of the 400th home building permit for the Residential Development Parcel and to achieve completion and acceptance within one (1) year thereafter (subject to Force Majeure Events and any mutually-agreed extensions), but in no event later than the Outside Completion Deadline (January 1, 2022).” How long will it be before the 400th home building permit is issued? Several years probably. In the meantime Stonehaven residents will have limited access to their newly created subdivision. It will certainly put even more pressure on the traffic flow on Camelback Road which is already a mess with the development of the D.L. Horton subdivision on the north side of Camelback Road at approximately 93rd Avenue.

Of even more concern and precedent setting was council’s approval within this agreement of a $1.2 million dollar payment to the Long Trust for the right-of-way needed for the proposed city construction of the north side of Bethany Home Road between 83rd Avenue and 91st Avenue. When a developer builds a subdivision the developer is responsible for paying for and constructing the roads that will serve its planned community. If it’s a major arterial road, such as Bethany Home Road, then the developer will dedicate the necessary right-of-way for the entire road but only pay for construction of its half of the road with the city being responsible for paying for construction of the other half of the road.

Not so in this case and that is what is precedent setting. A senior staffer, part of a “city team” that negotiated with the John F. Long trust, acknowledged that the city had asked Long for dedication of right-of-way for the north side of Bethany Home Road and that the Long Trust refused.  Having been refused its request, the city rolled over and negotiated a payment of $1.2 million dollars to the Long Trust for the right-of-way for the north side of Bethany Home Road. This is precedent setting. I know of no other instance where the city had to pay a developer for right-of-way for a major road that would serve a planned residential development.

Why didn’t the city team decide that if the trust was unwilling to make the necessary dedication for Bethany Home Road that perhaps the entire residential project should not be approved?  The city could have decided that if the trust was unwilling to make the necessary dedication precluding the full construction of Bethany Home Road that the proposed residents of the project would not have adequate ingress and egress from the project. Under that scenario, the Long Trust eager to sell the land to a developer, would have had to dedicate the right-of-way for the north side of Bethany Home Road, if it wanted to approval for Stonehaven and thus successfully complete the purchase of the land by a developer.

Stonehaven currently comprises over 300+ acres and proposes over 1,100+ homes. It looks nothing like Rovey Farm Estates, another planned area development. Rovey Farm estates had approximately the same acreage but only 800+ homes ranging on lot sizes from 7,000 square feet on the west side of the project to one acre lots on the east side of the project. It also contains 3 gated communities within it. If this Minor General Plan Amendment is approved instead of 1,100 homes on 300+ acres, it would be over 1,400 homes on 300+ acres.

Just as the city council listened to a neighborhood and denied the Bio-Life application at its January 10, 2017 meeting, let us hope that they will continue this practice and listen to a host of neighborhoods opposed to these applicants’ request for even greater density and the downsizing of lot sizes in this project.

Glendale has many, many starter homes and mid-level homes throughout the community. Isn’t it time to demand upscale, upgraded communities on the vacant parcels it has left? Shouldn’t the goal be to upgrade Glendale rather than build to the common denominator of what’s already there?

How does this Minor General Plan Amendment serve the best interests of Glendale’s existent residents and the soon-to-be new Stonehaven residents?

© Joyce Clark, 2017        


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