North Surprise annexation fight gets more heated

A Central Arizona Project canal goes right through the proposed Lone Mountain Ranch development in north Surprise. [Jason Stone/Independent Newsmedia]

By Jason Stone, INDEPENDENT NEWSMEDIA

Surprise’s attempt to annex around 1,100 acres of land for two home subdivisions is moving full-steam ahead despite a continued fight from residents who already live in the area.

The Surprise City Council fielded complaints from multiple residents at a June 4 hearing, which was the next step in the annexation process.

Two days later, the Surprise Planning and Zoning Commission heard from many of the same people but decided to approve rezoning of the disputed area anyway, which paves the way for the next step in the development of around 4,000 homes.

“When is enough enough?” resident Jacqueline Carroll asked the City Council at its meeting. “There are no studies. There are no reports. They are required to perform before annexation, not after.”

Both boards listened to angry residents list off the reasons Marisol Ranch and Lone Mountain Ranch developments are bad ideas for the area northeast of 163rd Avenue and Jomax Road.

The lists include problems with traffic, wildlife, water sources and crime.

To help counter these points, Mayor Skip Hall requested the Community Development Department prepare a report to counter all those points.  Late last month the department released details about transportation, water service, flooding and other concerns.

“I see this as nothing more than a veiled appeasement,” Ms. Carroll told the council. “It’s to try to make everybody feel a little bit better that you’re listening to our concerns, but you’re not.”

The Marisol Ranch project, which is north of the Lone Mountain proposal, has been zoned on Maricopa County land and on the books for more than a decade.

Mr. Hall said that project is coming regardless, and it makes more sense for Surprise to annex it and provide services to that neighborhood.

The Council has already passed a pre-annexation requirement that the developers must improve 163d Avenue as part of the plan.

Proponents like Ms. Carroll, however, said the Marisol project would only make sense to developers if it’s paired with Lone Mountain, along the Central Arizona Project canal that runs through it.

They say that’s the part the city can stop.

The City Council appears poised to keep the annexation train running, considering most agree that’s the only way road improvements will happen in that area anytime soon, if ever.

The complaining residents don’t think that’s good enough, however.

Some of them are even accusing the mayor of making it personal.

When Ms. Carroll rose to approach the Council as the first speaker last week, Mr. Hall was heard on an open mic, saying sarcastically, “Oh boy. Here we go.”

Mr. Hall said the comment wasn’t sarcastic, nor was it offensive.

“It’s not even reallly that bad,” Mr. Hall said. “I was just saying, ‘Here we go.’”

Planning and Zoning commissioners looked at the issue for nearly 3-1/2 hours last week.

Before the hearing even started, however, P&Z chairperson Matthew Keating gave a warning to those about to speak after the raucous discussion at the City Council meeting that included some booing from the crowd.

“This is supposed to be a safe space where people can come from the public,” Mr. Keating told the audience. “Presenters are doing their jobs. We’re doing our jobs. We want to hear from you, and we have to hear from you, but we have adhere to the rules of conduct because I don’t want any intimidation in the room.”

P&Z commissioners were able to hear more details about the two home projects that could drastically change the look of what was once open desert.

Transportation Plan Manager Martin Lucero said a traffic signal is planned for Jomax and 163rd.

Widening plans would also be in the workds for Happy Valley Road and 16rd Avenues. Mr. Lucero said eventually the transportation connection would allow more than a couple ways in and out of the area, which is already a top concern for residents.

Tim Keenan, a partner of Montage Holdings, which is spearheading the Marisol project, told the P&Z commsion if everything went smoothly it’s still a good 2-1/2 to three years before any homes would be built.

“If it doesn’t move forward with Surprise, we’re already in the process of taking it forward with the county,” Mr. Keenan warned the commission.

Two of the commssioners — Mr. Keating and Ken Chapman — voted against rezoning the two property areas to fit the proposed developments.

“I dont think it fits in with the character of this area,” Mr. Keating said. “The reason I believe that is it’s this little pocket up here in the corner, surrounded by the mountains Everyting around it has been identified as Rural Residential.”

Now that the area has been rezoned and a public hearing held in front of the City Council, the next step in the annexation process comes June 18 with another public hearing in front of the Council about the P&Z’s decision to agree to the rezoning.

Raymond Grim, a resident of nearby Desert Oasis to the south of the projects, was the person who got booed at the city council meeting.

“We want development to come out that way,” Mr. Grim said. “We want the roads widened. And how does that happen, but development?”

Editor’s note: Jason Stone can be reached at 623-445-2805, on email at jstone@newszap.com or on Twitter at @thestonecave.


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