PHOENIX — A lengthy hearing at Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting led the board to postpone a hearing about a Salt River Project petition to move overhead power lines underground.
After a 40-minute discussion involving a resident of a county island in the Arcadia area of Phoenix, neighbors, representatives of neighbors and several SRP staff, the board decided to reschedule the hearing.
Dave Sinovic, a resident of the 6400 block of Exeter Boulevard, said SRP told him it would have to take down a block wall and mature landscaping on his property, dig up ground, bury a line, and charge him about $37,000.
Also, Sinovic won’t benefit, as he receives power from lines that run in from the south.
“Aesthetically, sure, I guess it’s an improvement,” Sinovic said. “I would like to be excluded because I get my power from 150 feet to the south. Just go ahead with your petition and leave me out of it.”
Virginia O’Malley, an attorney for SRP, says the utility is “completely neutral and agnostic” on petitions initiated by customers.
She said neighbors got together sometime in late summer or early fall 2021 and petitioned to form an underground conversion district.
O’Malley said a 1968 state law allows for petitions of that type. However, it isn’t used often, she said, and several petition efforts stall once neighborhoods learn the cost per property owner is high.
“I think the last one of these SRP actually completed was somewhere between 2003 and 2006,” she said.
O’Malley said about 70% of the 15 affected parcel owners, or about 12, signed a second petition. Fourteen of the 15 signed an initial petition.
She said an Arcadia-area newspaper is circulating a petition as well.
Residents of the area testified at the hearing. It was unclear if it were either practical or feasible within statute and with SRP policies, to exclude Sinovic’s property from the underground conversion.
District 2 Supervisor Thomas Galvin said he’s a big proponent of personal property rights. He said he’s afraid of precedent, and while it appears there are more 70% approval, he has legal concerns.
Galvin moved to continue the petition hearing to the board’s June 22 meeting and strongly encouraged all parties to talk with each other in the meantime to work toward a solution. The motion was approved unanimously.
Another time-consuming item at Wednesday’s meeting was a debate over how to handle an item the board approved as part of the planning and zoning consent agenda.
The board approved that consent agenda, which included the Shappell Family Project and three other items. However, much later in the meeting, a representative of the town of Gilbert said he signed up online to speak on Shappell project, and after Chairman Bill Gates decided there had been a miscommunication, allowed input from Gilbert in opposition to the requested zone change from rural to commercial.
The proposal is for the change was opposed by Gilbert town staff with “regard to utilities, access, and the potential for billboards on the site,” according to a staff report. However, the zoning change also had the written support of more than one Gilbert council member.
The board voted 3-1 to remove the Shappell item from the planning and zoning consent agenda. Supervisor Steve Gallardo voted against the motion that essentially undid a formal board action, saying after two-plus years of remote meetings, most government staff should know how to use such technology by now.
Supervisor Clint Hickman pointed out that District 4, where Gilbert sits, didn’t have a supervisor at the meeting, as Jack Sellers was absent Wednesday. He moved for the item to be postponed; the motion passed unanimously.
Gates reminded everyone there is a difference between registering for board meetings as an online webinar versus requesting to speak during a meeting.
Also Wednesday, Hickman moved for a pair of hearings about a large housing development phase in the Waddell area, White Tank Foothills, be remanded to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
He issued that same remand in March, but it appears P & Z hasn’t heard the case in the past three months, and the item ended up on the supervisors’ agenda again with slightly fewer homes included in plans.
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