Kim Clark

Kim Clark reviewed her notes before voicing opposition to Homestead at Lehi, a plan for an apartment complex that the P&Z Board rejected. 

Final score: Neighbors 1, Developers 1.

At a marathon Planning and Zoning Board meeting last week, residents of two neighborhoods less than 10 miles apart lined up to protest commercial plans they insisted would wreck their lifestyle.

Lehi neighbors emerged victorious after convincing the board to vote down an apartment complex that threatened to invade their “equestrian neighborhood.”

But those living near Power Food Park left the meeting disgruntled after the board narrowly approved plans for it to not only continue, but expand.

While the food truck operation on Power Road near McKellips percolated at a previous public meeting, the latest neighbors-vs.-developer showdown emerged Wednesday over The Homestead at Lehi Crossing near McDowell Road and the Loop 202.

The developers insisted they have been listening to neighbors’ concerns, reducing heights and density of an apartment complex and a planned roundabout to replace a stop sign intersection.

Neighbors countered with a list of too’s: Too much traffic, too many people, too much potential crime, too high building.

The locals gave a big raspberry to the roundabout and added: Don’t mess with our horse riding near the canal.

The developer asked for a change to multiple residence zoning to allow for apartments. The area currently has R-43 residential, which allows only for single-family homes.

The area previously had historic protection as one of the first areas in Mesa settled; on June 1, the Historic Preservation Board approved the developer’s request to remove the historic overlay.  

Attorney Adam Baugh of Withey Morris represents Sweetwater Companies, the developer of the proposed 222-unit, three-story multi-family residential development on 9 acres at the southeast corner of Gilbert and McDowell Roads.

Baugh said the developer met with neighbors repeatedly over the last year, signing a compromise agreement.

“As a result of these meetings, (Sweetwater) initially reduced the number of proposed units from 320 to 300 in our pre-application submittal,” Baugh said. “In its Feb. 16 formal submittal, the units were then reduced to 262. Finally, in its most recent submittal, and subject to the written agreement with the neighbors, the development has been reduced to 222 units, three stories and reduced height among other key items per the neighbor agreement and Good Neighbor Policy.”

Three residents signed the agreement.

Those who submitted comments or waited to speak said they were not part of the agreement and want no part of an apartment complex and roundabout.

According to Morgan Roberts, one neighbor, “the residents might be unknowing about a resident, rural, equestrian community,” 

She was concerned newcomers would not know how to drive around horses: “This should not be a risk anyone is willing to take on animals that depend on us as well as children. People “specifically chose the area” to get away from apartments, she added.

Marilyn Crosby agreed: 

“I don’t see anything that resembles any part of this development in the nearby R-43 community...This area has been so encroached upon, taken one piece at a time.”

Another called the proposed roundabout “a death sentence.”

“Would you like it in your backyard?” another woman asked the board.

Kim Clark presented a petition with 150 signatures opposed to the project.

As Clark summarized in an email, “We are totally opposed to that development. We think it should remain as RS43 zoning with single family lots or single family lots with horse property only.”

The developer knew about zoning, Richard and Christiane Snodgrass wrote, but “is acting solely out of greed and completely disregarding the quality of life of the neighboring property owners.”

 Michelle McCroskey wondered about a potential traffic nightmare.

“One of the biggest concerns I’ve heard about this project is traffic congestion on McDowell when 400 cars try to exit the complex onto McDowell road. I’m curious why they decided to manage that with a roundabout -- what studies pointed them to proposing a roundabout was the best solution?”

Bauth said ADOT made the call.

“The roundabout was not our choice,” said Baugh.

 

Board rejection

The apartment complex received little support from the P&Z Board.

Deeana Villanueva-Saucedo said the project was contrary to the neighborhood plan for 

“what they want the look and feel to be of their neighborhood.”

Tim Boyle said the proposal was “pretty” and functional “but I worry about the precedent this would set in the Lehi area.”

“The part of Mesa I live in,” Boyle added, “one apartment complex came in and then another and another...The day of that happening in Lehi might come, but I don’t there we’re there yet.”

Shelly Allen said she grew up in the Lehi area. “I don’t think the density is right for this neighborhood,” she said.

And board chair Jessica Sarkassian said “ADOT may just be trying to get the developer to pay for it—they may go in and put in a roundabout anyway.”

The proposal was rejected by a 5-2 vote.

However, the Homestead at Lehi may move on to Mesa City Council, which has ultimate authority to wave the development on or stop it in its tracks.

 

Food trucks roll

After nearly three hours of Lehi, the board took a 5-minute break before moving to an even more hotly-contested project.

Two weeks earlier, the Mesa Board of Adjustments earned the applause of neighbors when it upheld Planning Director/Zoning Administrator Nana Appiah’s interpretation regarding Power Food Park: “The current activities on the property do not conform to the Zoning Ordinance definition of Parks and Recreation Facilities.”

But the food truck park did not give up, looking for rezoning that will allow them to continue and expand.

Popular with patrons, if not neighbors, the food truck mall is on Power Road between Halifax and Hobart streets, just south of East McKellips Road. It is the only commercial operation in a neighborhood of single-family homes.

Sean Lake, representing owners Ray Johnson and David Darling, said they are trying to find a solution “that addresses compatibility with the community.

“This is something that’s unique and attractive,” he added. “We think it’s a good thing. But we think it’ll be even better, because this plan will address some of the concerns.”

A key addition, he said: An 8-foot-wall to provide a “buffer” for neighbors.

The attorney said he was confident differences could be worked out, drawing groans from neighbors in attendance.”

“There’s been animosity on both sides,” the lawyer for the developers admitted.

Hobartians and Halifaxers formed a convoy to protest the trucks they say are bringing traffic, bright lights, noise and trash to their formerly-sleepy streets.

A sampling of written comments:

“After a 6-0 vote (by the Board of Adjustments), this is an illegal operation. Why hasn’t the city shut this down?

“Our quiet neighborhood is being overrun.”

“It’s damaging my property value.”

After comments were read, one after another neighbor in attendance begged the board to reject the food truck park.

David Sloan said “it’s like living next to a rock-and-roll party six nights a week.”

But, he said, “with more work, common ground can be reached.”

“Every night, it’s noise, generators, a complete lack of concern,” Roger Jenkins, who lives next to Sloan, agreed.

Craig Vossler called it “an operation that should never have been allowed in the first place.

“When do the little guys win?” he wondered.

Patricia Vessnick, 78, said when she went to the property to ask about “an environmental concern,” she was kicked off the property by one of the owners, who called the police on her, she said.

The board received a petition signed by 74 people, stating, “In addition to being opposed to the request for rezoning, we the undersigned are opposed to the current Power Food Park and the increased traffic that it brings through our neighborhood. We are also against the increase in noise, lighting, and smells that currently emanate from the Power Food Park.”

 

The board votes

Several board members said they had mixed emotions about the food truck operation.

“This is a unique animal,” Villanueva-Saucedo said, echoing a term from another board member. “Is it compatible up against residential properties?”

Sarkissian grew emotional, fighting back tears. 

She said the developer’s plan itself was not the problem for her.

“My frustration is they didn’t follow the process...I don’t believe they’ve done everything on the up and up. I believe the neighbors,” she said. “I’ve driven down the street. I’ve seen the obscene parking lights that shine (on neighbors). It’s absurd.”

The board chair was torn, she said, as the plan “fits on that corner….But I really do feel upset about what the neighbors are going through.”

The P&Z Board narrowly approved the Power Food Park rezoning request by a 4-3 vote, shortly before ending five-plus hours of meeting.

The Power Food Park plan next goes to a future Mesa City Council meeting, where neighbors will have one last chance to stop the trucks and their thousands of fans.

As Cassandra Romney, one of those Facebook fans, put it:

“We love Power Food Park!” 

(1) comment

USCitizen411

How much was the board paid to make this pass? There is nothing attractive about a bunch of trucks in a parking lot, and this definitely is not a park. This is Mesa being greedy again. If these neighbors were as wealthy as the folks in Lehi, would this still have passed?

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