Glendale City Council is considering whether to annex an 865-acre property that would be the city’s second-largest addition in 25 years, but several on Council have reservations about proposed plans for the property.
Glendale has already annexed 417 acres of property and if it continues plans with four properties going through the annexation process, that number will rise to 763 acres. But the 865-acre Allen Ranches property, which is west of Loop 303, bordered by Bethany Home Road to the north and Camelback Road to the south, would more than double that total to 1,628 acres or more than two and a half square miles.
Nearly all of the newly-annexed property or property under consideration for annexation is in Glendale’s “New Frontier” near the Loop 303. The 1,337-acre annexation added in 2017 for the Woolf Logistics Industrial Campus, east of Reems Road on either side of Olive Avenue, is the only property Glendale’s added since 1995 larger than the Allen Ranches property.
While City Council told staff to move forward with the annexation properties, as it did with all five properties it reviewed late last month, several on Council had reservations on adding Allen Ranches to the city.
Council members objections around the property were that it includes plans for a residential development, could have a higher density of homes than Council would like, and would create a “city island” community of residents surrounding mostly by county land, miles away from the city and from most city services.
“I’m just not sure that this is going to make long-run sense to the city,” said Barrel District Councilman Bart Turner.
The Allen Ranches property plans to use 615 of its acres for industrial businesses and 250 acres for a housing development. City Council has largely prioritized businesses over homes in recent years when choosing which properties to annex because they bring in to the city’s take revenue rather than drain it.
Also, much of the property in Glendale’s “New Frontier” are near Luke Air Force Base and therefore restricted by Luke Compatible Land Uses, an intergovernmental agreement between the county and cities near the base to determine what can and can’t be near the base, namely due to noise from jets. Mostly, the Luke Compatible Land Uses restrict homes and high-traffic retail close to the base and prefer industrial warehouses where fewer people would be.
A noise contour line runs through the Allen Ranches property. This shows how much jet noise an area will receive and dictates which land uses can exist in an area. The land owner plans to use the entire area west of the 65-decibel designation line to build homes, because there are no land-use restrictions west of that line.
Under its current zoning, the land outside of that noise contour line is approved for 2.5 homes per acre, but some on Council thought that was too dense.
“I think this is one case where being relatively close to Luke, they should stick with low density at 2.5 (units) to the acre,” said Yucca District Councilwoman Joyce Clark.
Ms. Clark and some others on Council didn’t like the idea of adding any homes to the city.
“Council’s goal is to encourage and promote job opportunities in our ‘New Frontier.’ I am not pleased to see this applicant come in with a mix of industrial and residential,” she said.
Ms. Clark asked staff to explore the option of adding only the industrial portion of the Allen Ranches property and excluding the residential portion.
Vice Mayor Ray Malnar of the Sahuaro District, said he’s not opposed to their being residential property as part of the annexation but agreed with Ms. Clark that a lower density would be better for the area.
When land is annexed into Glendale, by law its zoning transfers to the Glendale zoning designation that most closely matches what its zoning was under the county. Cholla District Councilwoman Lauren Tolmachoff noted that Allen Ranches already has the authority to a 2.5-home-per-acre density under the county. The property is seeking a rezone to create a Planned Area Development, but would most likely not agree to change to a lower housing density, Ms. Tolmachoff said.
Mr. Turner noted that while the housing development would pay for all of its internal roads, when it was time for those roads to be maintained, that cost would fall on Glendale taxpayers.
Ms. Tolmachoff also said she was concerned about the annexation because she was not excited about taking in the residential property.
“We’re having enough of a difficult time with our pavement management without bringing in more responsibility where we’re essentially going to be getting one-time money out here with the industrial,” Ms. Tolmachoff said, while calling into the March 24 meeting.
City Manager Kevin Phelps noted that this property does not need to be annexed into the city. The developer can build the planned warehouses and homes while remaining under county jurisdiction. Mr. Phelps noted that in this case, Council would lose any control over the housing development and it could theoretically get approval from the county to add density or to switch to land uses that Glendale wouldn’t like.
Mr. Phelps also pointed to the things the property would add to the city that Council does prioritize — a lot of industrial businesses.
“When you have a situation like that, sometimes there’s a little bit of you get to have 100% of what you’re looking for,” Mr. Phelps said. “What I’ll tell you is this: this is our single largest proposed density of industrial/manufactural/commercial space on the entire Loop 303. The developers have proposed 11 million square feet of commercial development and they’ve also included a willingness to do a fair amount of construction before having tenants lined up. And that’s somewhat unique as well.”
Mr. Phelps also noted that the proposed housing development, on the Allen Ranches’ western edge, would create a buffer to the existing housing development on county land to the west.
Lastly, Mr. Turner and Ms. Tolmachoff raised concerns over creating a “city island” of homes. Glendale is rapidly annexing land in the area, but there has been no residential property.
“You’re going to be generating 3,000 residents, probably at least, maybe more, that are completely detached from the city public safety and city services,” Ms. Tolmachoff said. “So, I’m not excited about the residential either.”
Mr. Malnar asked staff to study and report back on the positives and negatives that such a city island would create for those residents.
“Does it really matter?”, he asked. “Does it just provide a different type of lifestyle for people to be away from the city a little bit further, and is it going to really cause any problems with the rest of the citizens in the city?”
The next steps for Allen Ranches and all under properties under consideration is for a blank petition to come before City Council before it is sent out to property owners on the land up for annexation to sign. A 30-day waiting period must be observed before the signatures can be collected. Then City Council would vote on whether to annex the property.