Surprise planning commission calls for traffic light

Continued growth of North Copper Canyon makes Grand, Deer Valley intersection more dangerous


New homes are starting to dot a previously sparse area of northwest Surprise west of Grand Avenue and north and south of Deer Valley Road.

As the April 15 Surprise Planning and Zoning Commission meeting made plain, many more houses are coming soon. That accelerates commissioners’ concerns for residents trying to get into — and in particular out of — North Copper Canyon.

Residents’ link to the rest of Surprise is to head south to Deer Valley Road and out to Grand Avenue. Right now the intersection of Grand and Deer Valley lacks a traffic light or even an acceleration lane in either direction.

“I don’t know how many accidents we have to have, but I do know the ingress and egress is very limited on Deer Valley. I don’t think you can make a left-hand turn onto Grand because of traffic. It’s one of those things that concerns me about the development at this time,” commissioner Mitchell Rosenbaum said during a presentation regarding 590 more lots in North Copper Canyon.

Grand Avenue — really more of the open U.S. Route 60 at this point as it nears the city boundaries — is operated by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Commissioners Ken Chapman and Dennis Smith recently had a harrowing experience at North Copper Canyon. Mr. Chapman said there is clear and present danger turning both left and right, particularly with so many 18-wheel trucks using Grand.

“I was there about 15 minutes and scared Mr. Chapman because we made a left-hand turn. We made it. But we need to somehow get the city to petition ADOT to at least add an acceleration lane where you can make right-hand turns,” Mr Smith said. “We don’t need to wait until we kill a resident to take some action. We really need to look at an acceleration lane. I looked and it looks like there is enough easement there to do so.”

Bill Alley of Tiffany & Bosco PA in Phoenix represents the developer. During the meeting he said wheels are in motion for a traffic signal at Grand and Deer Valley.

“The developer has submitted a light signal design for Deer Valley. It is in the queue with ADOT and is being reviewed now,” Mr. Alley said.

The development is reaching a tipping point where its residents are using the intersection frequently enough to justify the signal. And more than 1,000 lots are under review or have been approved recently.

Last week the commission recommended approval of preliminary plats for three more parcels that will total the 590 lots on the area of the development south of Norwich Boulevard and north of Pinnacle Peak Road.

Several trails go through the area including a regional trail on the property’s southwest edge. Open space in these parcels is 7.7 acres of a natural wash area.
By the rules of this planned-area development, the 20-acre school counts as open space because it will be shared with residents.

“My understanding is it has to do with the campus not being a 24-hour closed campus. So there’s a cross-use. When school is not in session, it’s open to the public,” Surprise planner Robert Kuhfuss said.

A park is proposed in the middle of this plat, with a basketball court, pickleball courts, two grass fields and a playground.

Soon enough, residents will be heading north to Deer Valley to get out of the area as well.

The commission approved the preliminary plat for Hometown Surprise at Austin Ranch II, which is southeast of North Copper Canyon. This unrelated development is south of Deer Valley and east of Citrus Road.

The plat is on 60.47 acres with 195 lots, all of which would be 40 feet wide. About 41% of the parcel is open space and nearly 72% of that is natural open space, mostly a wash area on the northwest corner.

This parcel originally was zoned for 484 lots on same acreage, and those homes were much smaller.

Given all the wash area, the density of the main area of developable land is higher, more than 5 houses per acre, compared with the overall density of the project which is just above three houses per acre.

“About 40% is open space so that leaves us about 35 acres to put the houses on. What is the density of those 35 acres with 160 houses?” Mr. Smith asked.