Conceptual plans have been submitted to the city that describe how an essentially untouched swath of desert auctioned off by Mesa would eventually turn into an upscale community with big lots for close to 300 homes.
But the plan for the gated community — dubbed Reserve at Red Rock by developer Blandford Homes — is only a first draft for a 132-acre site once set aside for development of a park in 1998.
Now it will be home to “a high level gated, resort lifestyle residential community,’’ according to the plan submitted to Mesa planning and zoning officials.
The conceptual plan outlines three lot sizes ranging from 5,600 to 9,100 square feet and a community similar in size and density to adjacent Red Mountain Ranch at Recker and Thomas roads in northeast Mesa.
Sean Lake, Blandford’s zoning attorney, said his client’s goal is a community that blends with the natural desert features and also is a good fit with Red Mountain Ranch.
He said Blandford looked at the smallest lots in Red Mountain Ranch and made sure their lots were larger.
“The subdivision is designed around the terrain, to minimize disruption,’’ Lake said. “I would say 90 percent of our lots back up to open space.’’
He said developer Jeff Blandford — who has built Las Sendas and a series of other luxury developments in northeast Mesa — is following a similar approach to his Mountain Bridge, another large resort-style development at McKellips and Ellsworth roads.
While the typical subdivision has about 10 to 15 percent of open space, Reserve at Red Mountain is anticipated to have 52 percent open space, Lake said.
Lake’s submittal does not list the number of homes because the rezoning process is in such an early stage, but he said the tentative plan is for 295 units, depending upon the outcome of the zoning cases. The submittal lists a density of 2.25 to 2.5 units per acre.
The undulating, cactus-studded site includes a wash that snakes through the property. The wash would be preserved as open space and aid drainage during storms.
“Special attention was taken during the design process to create as many premium home sites as possible, taking advantage of the natural desert setting and mountain views,’’ the conceptual plan says.
The site also offers some stunning views of Red Mountain.
The plan somewhat fits Mayor John Giles’ vision when the city auctioned the land: a “Las Sendasque’’ community with public access.
But that access appears limited to a large buffer zone on the property’s northern border with defense contractor Talley Industries.
Giles said at the time that he envisioned a “win-win’’ scenario, where the city was able to auction off the land at a profit but still develop some hiking trails and other low-key recreational facilities.
Lake said Blandford is working to accommodate a balance between private and public uses. He said the large buffer zone includes more than 27 acres, or 20 percent of the property.
He said the buffer zone is anticipated to include a system of trails open for public use.
“We will try to preserve a big chunk of that land for public use,’’ Lake said.
Christine Zielonka, Mesa’s development services manager, noted that the City Council was adamant that there would be public recreational opportunities, such as hiking and biking trails, when it voted to accept Blandford’s bid of $21.1 million.
City Manager Chris Brady also has pledged to use $4 million from the land sale, the price the city paid for the property in 1998, to build additional recreational facilities at other locations in northeast Mesa.
The property sat vacant for more than 20 years after voters rejected two park bond issues in 2000.
“We are absolutely at the very beginning stage,’’ Zielonka said, with the plan serving a way of starting discussions about how the property will be developed. “None of it is finalized yet.’’
She said Mesa is quite aware the site is special in many ways, because it has been owned by the city for more than 20 years and because of its topography.
“It’s probably the last big piece of land in northeast Mesa that has these features,’’ she said. “We are a long way from figuring out what this is going to look like.’’
Zielonka said there will be ample opportunities for public comment on the property. She added that officials also will update a page on the city’s website that lists documents describing the site’s history going back to the ’80s.
Zielonka estimates that the Reserve at Red Mountain probably won’t come before the city’s Planning and Zoning Board for about nine months and before the City Council for about a year.
Blandford has put a substantial down payment on the property, but needs to complete a site plan, a minor general plan amendment and all other necessary zoning approvals before it can complete the sale.