Mesa group questions building heights - East Valley Tribune: News

Mesa group questions building heights

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Posted: Saturday, March 8, 2008 3:49 am | Updated: 12:10 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Plan No. 1,000 or something like it. That's what it feels like for the developer who submitted revisions Tuesday for a 51-acre mixed-use parcel in an upscale east Mesa neighborhood.

But one Las Sendas neighborhood group is still skeptical about parking and quality issues and will raise questions at the city's next planning and zoning meeting.

Greg Marek, representative of the LS 51 Residents Committee, said the developer's latest plan looks better overall, but a six-story parking structure "simply would not gel" with the existing architectural landscape in Las Sendas.

Nor would the proposed four- to six-story office buildings.

"That maximum height will definitely cause some tension," Marek said. "It's a very urban design in a low-density suburban area."

Ideally, the group would like a three-story parking structure, or four at the most.

"Otherwise, such high buildings will take away our wonderful view corridors," Marek said.

The group also wants to ensure that the proposed resort hotel fits the neighborhood and is not a "motel something."

Chris Arnold of JCA Holdings, the developer that owns the parcel, has grown tired of all the griping. He said he has tried long enough to appease the community's wishes by adding more residential space and less commercial and parking space.

He said the compromises have cost him the city's support.

"There will always be a small faction of people who'll be opposed, no matter what you present them with," Arnold said.

His attorney, Reese Anderson, said the parking structure height issues are borderline nonsensical.

"If it's not that, they would be mad about us coming up with massive fields of asphalt," Arnold said.

He said keeping the group happy is nearly impossible. He has incorporated architectural features such as a meandering wash and Tuscany-style villas, but Arnold will now focus on the city's feedback to keep the project closer to its zoned intent as a business park.

As a result, the new plan has less residential space. Next week, Arnold will turn in an alternative plan, with office space replacing the resort.

Arnold said he hopes to get the City Council's approval on both, in case they're unable to attract a resort developer.

Nick Camillone, president of the Las Sendas Homeowners Association, said the group is still poring over the plan and will use resident feedback to determine its opinion.

The LS 51 group also will host two meetings to get the word out.

Attorney Kay Bigelow, representing the homeowners association, said there's been discussion with the developer about the type of resort that would be acceptable, although citing a star rating may not be the approach.

"What we're looking for is to describe it more in terms of amenities rather than the star rating system," Bigelow said.

She added that many residents would be happier with offices instead of a "lesser class" resort.

Adjacent to the Las Sendas neighborhood, the mixed-use parcel, called Desert Creek at Las Sendas, is broadly divided into condos, offices, retail space and a resort.

City officials, meanwhile, have asked Arnold to conduct a traffic impact study based on the new plan. Alan Sanderson, the city's acting deputy transportation director, said the study is necessary because the previous plan showed a connection on Red Mountain Driveway, which served only the residential section. The new plan serves the entire area.

There's also a significant amount of office and retail development planned along the south side of the site, which puts pressure on McDowell Road as a major access point, Sanderson said.

In January, the planning and zoning board rejected the previous site plan.

Built within the nearly 2,500-acre Las Sendas community, the parcel lies in the northwest corner of McDowell Road and Ridgecrest.

The new plan, designed by architectural firm Berkus Design Studio, is based on the City Council's directive to come up with a high-quality layout, accompanied by a detailed project narrative.

A legal protest filed with the city by the LS 51 group means that the plans will require a supermajority approval from six of seven council members.

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