Itching to annex: Peoria hoping to bring more than 1,200 acres into city

By Philip Haldiman
Independent Newsmedia

Peoria is taking a serious step toward shaping the future of the northern part of town.

The city wants to annex more than 1,200 acres of state trust land within its boundaries.

Planning Director Chris Jacques said Peoria has been working with the Arizona State Land Department to reach this goal, and the annexations have been an important long-standing objective of the city, particularly as many of them are along the strategic Loop 303 corridor.

The land department is an important partner and part of the city’s future, so collaboration and relationship are critical moving forward, Mr. Jacques said.

“We’d like to see these areas developed in a manner that is consistent with our economic development objectives and our design considerations,” he said.

There are more than 35,000 acres of state trust land within the city’s planning area, making up about 25 percent of Peoria’s planning area.

There are seven parcels the city is targeting including one 462-acre parcel at Loop 303 and Happy Valley Parkway designated for mixed-use business park, office and high density residential, and a 304-acre parcel near Loop 303 and the El Mirage Road alignment designated for office, commercial and residential use.

Finding a home for a large business or development at either of these sites could be a big contributor to economic growth and stability in the area, bringing high-paying jobs, hotels, retail and residential development.

But Peoria has not yet spoken to any prospective buyers, Mr. Jacques said.

The process

Mr. Jacques said every municipality has a planning area or area outside its municipal boundary where it engages in long-term land use and infrastructure planning, and these areas are anticipated to someday be part of the municipal boundary.

State trust land is one type of land within Peoria’s planning area.

ASLD manages 9.2 million acres of trust land within Arizona to enhance value and optimize return for 13 beneficiaries, with about 90 percent of land sales going to K-12 public schools.

Leases and land sales are performed through public auction.

Over the past 10 years, annual average sales have been about 5,000 acres statewide.

City Attorney Vanessa Hickman said annexing ASLD land begins with approval from the State Land Commissioner and then the State Selection Board, which is made up of the governor, attorney general and state treasurer, and meets only when needed. Prior to a board meeting earlier this year, the last State Selection Board meeting occurred several years ago.

Ms. Hickman, a former state land commissioner, said the board does not annex the parcels, but rather grants authorization to be annexed. Next, the parcels would move through the city’s annexation process, including a public hearing, and to a final annexation adoption hearing.

For this process ASLD has requested that final annexation not occur until the proposed zoning entitlement has been identified and accepted by the land commissioner. Certain parcels may be aggregated together to effectively auction them in a concept known as land banking.

Department spokesman Mark Scarp stated in an email that Peoria and ASLD will work together on the annexations.

“This will be a collaborative rezoning, one where we look at mutual interests,” he stated. “The specifics of exactly what the city of Peoria will give us hasn’t been formalized. It’s an ongoing conversation, one we are looking forward to continuing.”

A model

Earlier this year, Fortune 100 company Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. bought 134 acres of state trust land on both sides of Loop 101 near Hayden Road in north Scottsdale known as Crossroads East.

The company paid $83 million for the land with plans to open a regional headquarters expected to bring thousands of jobs to the area.

Nationwide was the top bidder for the land at a Sept. 5 auction.

Peoria Economic Development Director Rick Buss, said the collaboration between Scottsdale, ASLD and Nationwide could serve as a model in moving forward with the annexations in north Peoria.

Mr. Buss said a lot of work goes into the process, but the idea is to use Peoria’s resources as an extension of ASLD’s resources. This approach has been very well received by ASLD, he said.

“If we are doing a lot of the work for them, then invariably we will have a lot of say in what that looks like. Why is that important?  Because we have some ideas as to where we want to see this city go and the kind of prospects we want to bring in from an economic development  perspective,” Mr. Buss said.

An opening on the Nationwide project has not yet been set.

Scottsdale spokesman Kelly Corsette said collaboration began in January 2016, and Nationwide became involved as a potential buyer early in the process, collaborating with Scottsdale and ASLD along the way.

He said the state land process often responds to interest from a potential bidder or buyer by preparing a particular state land parcel for auction.  One component of that preparation is to establish a development framework within which acceptable conditions of sale are worked out, including commitments on how the property would be developed, he said.

“Anyone can then bid on the property at the auction provided that they are willing to accept the conditions of sale that were established,” Mr. Corsette said. “In this instance, Nationwide showed interest in getting the property to auction and worked with both the city and the state to understand what development commitments they would have to meet if they were the successful bidder, which they ultimately were.”



Possible annexations

76 acres at Calle Lejos and 101st Avenue

  • Designated Estate Residential

1 acre near Lake Pleasant Parkway and Avenida del Sol

  • Designated Estate Residential

189 acres near Deer Valley Road and 109th Avenue

  • Designated Low Density Residential

175 acres at Loop 303 near Bard Ranch

  • 840-foot wide anomaly strip
  • Largely in flood channel
  • Designated Parks/Open Space, Water & Estate Density Residential

462 acres at Loop 303 and Happy Valley Parkway

  • High priority intersection
  • Designated Mixed-Use Business Park, Office and High Density Residential (15+)

304 acres near Loop 303 and El Mirage Road alignment (two parcels)

  • Separated by Padelford Wash
  • Requires assembly to annex

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