In 2005, the development of Chandler will take the fast road via the Santan Freeway, while things in Tempe will look up as the East Valley’s tallest buildings are expected to sprout from the ground, city officials say.
As the East Valley continues to grow up and out, municipal leaders in Mesa and Gilbert will grapple with financial issues. City officials will find out the recommendations of the Mesa 2025: Financing the Future committee while Gilbert leaders will look to sales tax from coming car dealerships to pay for infrastructure.
The Tribune talked to officials in Apache Junction, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek and Tempe about this year’s priorities for their respective municipalities, and here’s what they had to say:
Apache Junction officials are looking forward to a boost in the city’s image and quality of life when a high-tech city hall, multigenerational recreation center and court complex are unveiled in 2005.
The city buildings are expected to open for business beginning in March,
allowing Apache Junction leaders to move out of the "temporary" facilities they have been working in for decades.
"So we’re going to be out of those trailers and into those beautiful new buildings," City Councilman Kris Sippel said.
Mayor Douglas Coleman said another key issue in 2005 will be the city’s continuing effort to secure lands to the south for future growth, which will require cooperation with the state Land Department, Mesa and the Gold Canyon area.
Coleman and Sippel agreed that selecting a new police chief also will be a top priority.
Sippel said he hopes the city can find someone as qualified as interim Police Chief Steven Campbell, who will not stay on because of health problems.
"We know what we want — we want someone like Steve," he said.
Transportation will be a priority in Chandler in the year ahead along with developing a build-out strategy, working with neighborhoods and continuing downtown redevelopment, city leaders said.
City Manager Mark Pentz said the city will be seeing completion of the Santan Freeway stretch of Loop 202 through the city from Loop 101 to Gilbert Road by the end of the year. He said that should reduce traffic on many of Chandler’s arterial streets and open the door to the city’s downtown area as well as the city’s airpark area.
"We know the Santan will have a significant economic impact in the city," he said. "It should also move traffic off of any number of Chandler arterial streets and should relieve congestion that’s getting worse."
Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn said detailing a buildout strategy and working more closely with neighborhoods will also be important.
"It’s going to be the year of neighborhoods, transportation and developing a build-out strategy," he said. "The issues are going to be there, and you need to address them in a positive way."
Pentz said another priority will be redevelopment efforts by the city and private developers. He said there are plans to break ground on brownstone town homes downtown as well as office and retail space.
Finding funding and finding ways to ease growing pains top the priority lists of Gilbert officials in 2005.
Mayor Steve Berman said he’d like "to get some of the auto dealers to start selling cars" this year. Showrooms at the Santan Motorplex, under construction at Val Vista Drive and Pecos Road, could start selling vehicles — and generating tax revenue for Gilbert — by the end of 2005.
"Gilbert doesn’t have any problems that money can’t solve," Berman said.
That money is needed to fund projects to support the town’s widespread growth.
Town Manager George Pettit said his priority is "staying one step ahead of the steamroller when it comes to growth." That includes making sure street improvement and wastewater service projects are completed.
Pettit said he also wants to make sure Gilbert residents are comfortable with growth.
"We’re going to try and be as open and honest as we can about where the delays are going to be due to construction," he said.
The upcoming recommendation from a committee studying Mesa’s financial future tops 2005 issues, the mayor and city manager agree.
The Mesa 2025: Financing the Future committee plans to open the discussion to the public and bring a recommendation to the City Council this year.
City Manager Mike Hutchinson said a key to Mesa’s financial future could hinge on a possible May election, when voters could decide whether the city will sacrifice an estimated $80 million in sales tax and fee rebates for the planned Riverview at Dobson retail center and its prized anchor, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World.
Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker said other important issues are the ramifications Mesa may face from immigration legislation, as well as the continued development of the Williams Gateway Airport area.
Hutchinson pointed to the scheduled opening of the Mesa Arts Center as a "great statement for the community."
Solving transportation problems, keeping neighborhoods safe and building new town facilities to accommodate rapid growth are three important challenges facing Queen Creek in 2005, officials said.
"Traffic is the No. 1 priority," Town Councilwoman Lisa Coletto-Cohen said. "We have to do a better job of planning for the traffic."
Town Manager Cynthia Seelhammer said only about 25 percent of the traffic passing through Queen Creek is caused by town residents and their related business, so officials need to work with county and state transportation agencies to develop regional solutions.
Nearly all of the major issues facing Queen Creek in the coming year relate to the area’s growth. Seelhammer said the town expects to add 4,200 new residents in 2005.
Maintaining public safety will be a high priority, Coletto-Cohen said, while Seelhammer noted that new parks and town buildings such as a proposed library and a development services facility under construction would significantly help the community.
Seelhammer also said residents can look forward to road improvements and additional traffic lights in 2005.
The development of highrise condominiums in downtown Tempe and around Tempe Town Lake will rank among the top priorities in the coming year.
In 2005, constructions crews plan to break ground on several projects, including the first of four 20-story buildings that will tower over the city. When completed, they will be the tallest buildings in the East Valley.
"By the end of 2005, the skyline of Tempe will have been dramatically changed," said City Manager Will Manley said.
Besides the construction of the towers, the city will see the a number of mid-rise condos shoot up throughout the area. As the Valley’s only landlocked city, Manley said, Tempe will need to continue building up instead of out.