SUBSCRIBER EXCLUSIVE

Group opposing Dominium plan will pack Surprise council meeting

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The Voice of Surprise group in opposition of the Dominium Inc. Truman Ranch Marketplace plans to show up in force Aug. 16 when the Surprise City Council decides on the affordable housing development’s Preliminary Development Plan.

Quintus Schulzke, Sierra Montana HOA board member and unofficial group spokesperson, sent an email to Surprise Deputy City Manager Aug. 1 predicting an overflow crowd at the meeting.

As of Aug. 9, a page on voiceofsurprise listing the number of people planning to attend lists 137 RSVPs bringing 255 guests for a total expected crowd of 392.

“I know you have some overflow capacity, but a group of concerned citizens is also plan on making phone calls this week and next to the many who signed petitions on the corner last year--the numbers I have in my possession from those signed petition sheets (which I’ll be scanning and sharing shortly, as well as bringing the originals on Aug. 16) is at least 500 people, so it has the potential to get higher very quickly,” Schulzke wrote in the email.

In addition to a smaller retail component and four townhouses, Truman Ranch Marketplace features affordable housing apartments with a larger, more spread out area of 384 units for families and individuals, and a smaller, more vertical age 55-plus community with 213 units.

Barb Berrafato, a Surprise resident opposed to the project since the earliest community meetings about it in 2021, said she is not opposed to affordable housing in Surprise and agrees with Mayor Skip Hall that the city has a dearth of low cost apartments available.

She also believes adding 601 units to the area south of Waddell Road between 171st and 175th avenues, will push traffic on strained Waddell and 175th Avenue past its breaking point. Truman Ranch Marketplace would be one of seven residential developments on the parcel, and most are not near build out yet.

“I know Skip Hall wants to leave a legacy of Surprise being an affordable place to live,” Berrafato said. “We are very much in favor of helping those who are less fortunate. This is a very poor location and is a very poor choice of a developer. They are not a good neighbor.”

She said Dominium’s history with similar properties shows some examples of the developer cashing in on the building of a community, then passing off the responsibility of running it shortly after building it.

Owen Metz, Dominium senior vice president and project partner, rebuffed that claim, stating in an email that the Minnesota-based developer’s proposed community in Surprise will be owned and managed by Dominium. He said Truman Ranch Marketplace will have a staff dedicated and on site daily for at least 15 years, and likely 30.

“Dominium has been in the business of providing affordable housing for 50 years. We are a long-term owner and operator and will not be passing off any responsibility on our development in Surprise. In fact, once built we will own and operate the two apartment communities in Surprise for a minimum of 15-years, much longer than typical market rate developers,” Metz stated. “We also opened a new regional headquarters here in Phoenix almost two years ago and have a dedicated team, including myself, working across the Valley to provide high quality affordable housing. We are invested for the long-term.”

The Dominium.news page on the Voice of Surprise website includes links to a YouTube story about two St. Paul-area residents of a Dominium community and their problems following a fire in their unit and a complaint about mold in a ventilation unit at an older unit and the Houston area. Another link involves copy of a class action suit accusing the company of double dipping by diverting tax credits.

“As the third largest owner of affordable housing in the country, including one who houses 70,000 people at any given time, we are involved in litigation from time to time. While we cannot discuss ongoing litigation with regard to the class action lawsuit, Dominium continues to assert and defend that this lawsuit is baseless and stems from faulty analysis and a lack of understanding of the affordable housing program,” Metz stated.

Dominium requested a continuation on its original plans for this project at an August 2021 meeting. A changed overall project was resubmitted in April as Dominium withdrew a proposed amendment to the Truman Ranch Marketplace PAD and work within the existing development rights — hence the shift to the PDP.

Metz stated that the height allowances are determined by the current zoning and require the higher buildings to be on the west half of the parcel.

The senior living area would have two, four-story interlocking towers. And these 50-foot-high buildings are next to the ranch house where James Truman lives — on the 15 remaining acres of Truman Ranch.

“They have no desire to listen to the Trumans. I was so disappointed for the Truman family. For this bully developer to put a 50-foot tall building there ... James Truman is now going to look at this building instead of the mountain views this area is known for,” Berrafato said.

In June, Truman sent a letter to the commission listing his issues with the project.

Metz stated that conversations with Truman and his family are ongoing, including most recently at the end of July.

“Our initial proposal to amend the existing property rights was met with intense and organized NIMBY opposition. In response, we elected to work within the existing zoning as previously approved by the city,” Metz stated. “Regarding the decision on height, that was made by the city in 2008 with the approved PAD.”

During the June 16 planning meeting, Deputy City Attorney Ellen Van Riper said each individual use in the Truman Ranch Marketplace proposal will have its own site plan, which will be considered individually in public hearings.

However, Voice of Surprise members believe council approval of the PDP essentially puts Dominium in the driver’s seat for the development, with only fairly minor tweaks to future site plans left to be negotiated.

“I’m hopeful that our City Council will tell Dominium that they want something better there,” Berrafato said.

Truman Ranch Marketplace, Dominium, Voice of Surprise