Residents from Mesa neighborhoods near the proposed site of a Lowe’s Home Improvement Center won their first battle against the “big-box” store Thursday as the city’s Planning and Zoning board voted against the proposal.
In a 4-2 vote, the board recommended that the City Council reject the proposed store, which developers hope to build off Country Club Drive near Kiowa Avenue.
The City Council will soon consider the board’s recommendation and decide whether or not to grant a council use permit to the large store.
While providing some conditions for the project, city planners had approved the store whose building would span 138,000 square feet and have a garden center that covers 32,000 square feet. But the store has encountered resistance from the Rancho del Mar and Hunter’s Ridge neighborhoods who have listed concerns on various issues from noise and traffic to fears that a Lowe’s would become a magnet for day laborers and crime.
After Thursday’s vote, Laurie Buckles, a neighborhood leader, said she felt her group prevailed.
“I was hoping we wouldn’t be sacrificed for sales tax,” she said.
The Lowe’s controversy began last year when the store requested to build on an industrial-zoned, 24-acre lot south of Baseline Road. Initially, city staff raised concerns about the building’s close proximity to homes. In response, Lowe’s unveiled a new plan last month that shifted the building northeast, creating an additional 155-foot buffer zone that would be designed to reduce noise and nuisance with special landscaping, fencing and walls.
Lowe’s attorney Ralph Pew hoped the buffer would demonstrate a good faith compromise with the residents. But they rejected the new plan and instead, sought assistance from a professional planner and organized a series of speeches against the project.
The company’s decision to shift the property only made it harder for several Planning and Zoning Board members to make their decision Thursday.
Jared Langkilde acknowledged that plans for the site fulfill technical requirements, but said: “If I put myself in the neighbors’ position, I don’t know if I can go along with it.”
The grass-roots efforts of these residents will likely be closely watched by residents on the opposite side of the city opposing a proposed Hurricane Bay nightclub. The leader of that group, Dawn Teo, showed up Thursday to watch the Lowe’s opponents, and even helped several of those residents hone their speeches.