neighborhood

Despite emotional pleas by neighbors, the Planning and Zoning Board approved an “industrial development” at Thomas and Val Vista Drive, snug up against the Loop 202. At a neighborhood meeting and a P&Z meeting last week, neighbors complained the industrial buildings would not fit in their residential neighborhood, would ruin views and create traffic hazards. 

Home owners: “We don’t want this development in our neighborhood!”

Planning and Zoning board: “Development approved.”

This is not a recording.

Once again, a project vehemently opposed by neighbors has been given the green light.

This time, it’s an “industrial development” on Thomas Road and Val Vista Drive, snug up against the Loop 202.

Previously, neighbors of an office development near Riverview begged the P&Z Board and Mesa City Council for months to reject plans for a four-story garage. The Waypoint project was approved April 19, despite neighbors insisting a previous developer promised there would be no tall buildings.

A month later, downtown neighbors complained the Sycamore Station developer was reneging on earlier promises. The P&Z board approved the changes May 12, though one board member expressed concern about the way the system is set up:

“When a developer comes in, says one thing, things change now it’s different, the neighborhood feels slighted … Is it just tough luck, neighborhood and developers can do whatever they want?” Tim Boyle pondered. 

“When you have neighborhood meetings, what can they change?”

That’s exactly what Lehi Crossing residents were asking at the Aug. 25 P&Z meeting.

Where Boyle was the lone vote against the Sycamore Station plan, this time he voted with the rest of the board to unanimously approve the Kitchell Development Company plan.

Residents in the Lehi Crossing HOA thought they had unobstructed views of the mountains to the north and a nice buffer between their homes and the Loop 202– until December. That’s when they heard of Kitchell’s plan.

Noting it must “work around existing wireless cell towers, massive underground utility development and an SRP well,” the developer explained in a presentation to P&Z, “The property is an oddly shaped parcel with many challenges.”

Kitchell meant geographic challenges, but soon experienced challenges from neighbors.

For one thing, neighbors were upset Kitchell first said Kapture Prefab would be the tenant, then later said it was planning a “speculative building” – meaning they didn’t know who would ultimately be doing business there.

As the P&Z presentation noted, “The general industrial speculative multi-tenant building will be approximately 46 feet in height and approximately 108,000 building square feet. This building is designed to either accommodate a single user or multiple users.”

Ten months ago, Kitchell had a “pre-submittal meeting” with the city.

The developer agreed to create a Citizen Participation Plan, “to identify citizens, property owners, and businesses in the vicinity who may be directly affected by the proposed Site Plan Review and Design Review Board applications and to provide those same individuals and businesses an opportunity to provide comments on the proposed applications prior to public hearings.”

Kitchell created a contact list of those living within 1,000 feet of the project, then mailed letters to “urge citizens, property owners, and businesses in the vicinity to learn, participate and comment on the (development) requests and contact the applicant’s team with questions, comments, or input.”

Joy Pride Amado, representing the Lehi Crossing HOA, did just that, telling the developer her neighbors were concerned about traffic, noise and chemicals.

“Assuming Kapture Prefab is the tenant, any such chemicals are very unlikely. Difficult to predict what other possible tenants might use in their processes, but federal, state, county, and municipal regulations will nevertheless control any use of any chemicals,” the developer responded.

Kitchell called noise problems “Unlikely, as the bay doors open to the north, and the bulk of the building shields to the south.”

Lara Hitchens also emailed, stating “a behemoth similar in size to the Waxie building located on McDowell between Val Vista and Greenfield will NOT be a welcome addition to our area. There are many other types of ‘industrial zoning’ that would be much more conducive to our area.”

Hitchens also expressed concern about hours and truck sizes at the site.

“Hours of operation and sizes of trucks are not site plan nor design review issues,” the developer responded. 

“We understand that Kapture Prefab, if they are the tenant, tends to use trucks smaller than semi’s, and that the trucks tend to pick up loads at the beginning of the day for delivery to and installation at the offsite locations.”

With the pandemic roaring, Kitchell held a virtual meeting for neighbors Dec. 17.

According to a summary provided by the developer, Rodney Jarvis, a Kitchell attorney, “explained that Kapture was originally the tenant for the building but that Kapture had not signed a lease agreement with Kitchell and therefore it was not a guarantee that Kapture would be the end user. 

“He said if Kapture was not the tenant Kitchell would continue forward with plans to develop this site as a speculative industrial building that could accommodate a single or multiple tenants.”

After giving a summary of the project, Jarvis quickly heard sharp criticism.

“We didn’t want multi-family apartments to bring density or obstruct our beautiful views which is what this proposal is doing,” Tracy Lea said. “What recourse do we have as homeowners if the tenant’s noise or disruption brings our property values down? 

“Honestly,” Lea added, “I don’t understand why you hold these meetings when we clearly don’t have a voice. It’s demeaning.” 

Jarvis responded that the property is being developed within the existing general industrial (GI) zoning regulations. “We are holding this neighborhood meeting to inform and to gather input from the neighborhood relating to design,” he added.

Hitchens repeated concerns she emailed: “It may have been zoned Industrial, however, not necessarily a 46-foot, 110,000 square feet building. There are other types of buildings that could also fit this GI zoning that are not this behemoth!” 

Jarvis repeated, “The property is being developed within the existing zoning regulations.”

According to Kitchell’s P&Z presentation, “Between Dec. 17, 2020, and today’s date, Aug. 9, 2021, there have been no phone calls or inquiries (other than emails checking on the status) … Since there were no concerns, issues, or problems raised by the adjacent property owners and other interested individuals, there was no need to hold another meeting to address public concerns.”

Multiple emails protesting the development were read at the Aug. 25 P&Z meeting.

Hitchens called in to again express her concerns. 

She told the board that, with 1,000 homes in her HOA and another 500 coming nearby, “This is a residential location.”

Hitchens insisted it wasn’t right for “approximately 1,500 households to put up with a speculative 4-story building...with large truck traffic hauling who knows what.”

Several board members said they heard what the neighbors were saying.

“This is tough,” Boyle said. He noted the developers “have the right to do it.”

But, he added, “I’ve been to this site, you get to see the mountains...anything here would block the views.”

Fellow board member Ben Ayres agreed.

“This is tough,” he said. “The hard part for us is we’re looking for this from our perspective as a board — (the plan) meets all the criteria...But I feel for the members of the community.”

He called on the developer “to work with the community.”

Sherry Allen shared memories of riding a horse past citrus trees when the area was undeveloped.

“This is hard,” she said. “It’s hard for me to see any change at all…”

But she called the vacant land of the proposed site “kind of an eyesore." 

“I support this project,” Allen said. “I know it has its idiosyncrasies and things that can be worked out with the neighborhood.”

After P&Z approval, the project now moves on to the Mesa City Council, where neighbors will have another shot at voicing their concerns.

While Boyle joined the other board members in approving the Kitchell plan, he was the lone vote against a proposed Power Village commercial center east of Power Road on the south side of University Drive.

There was no voiced opposition of neighbors to the Power Village “medically-oriented office and retail campus.”

But Boyle thought the developer should do a better job on the aesthetics of the project.

(2) comments

USCitizen411

I see a lot of businesses coming in and getting approved but where is my tax break? If the City of Mesa doesn't really care about the communities' opinion, I think the community should be compensated.

MattL

Though I sympathize with the home owners, I think the criticism to the zoning board is categorically misplaced. This was just a site plan meeting, not a zoning one. Their official duty is legally bound to just evaluate the site plan based on the already existing (GI - General Industrial) zoning. It's inappropriate for the homeowners to have them violate their jobs, even if their concerns are valid.

This does seem to be an odd scenario where the zoning has been GI since annexation in 1981, though the general plan has it as high density residential. Still the zoning is the zoning and it's pretty unreasonable to suddenly ask for a complete rezone at the site plan review of a zoning that has been in place for 40 years. It seems people would really need to try for a rezone before money and time has been spent by the owner of the land for the existing valid rezoning. Even if they want a rezone the zoning board can't do it in this hearing, they'd still need to try for rezoning, though again it's a hard sell when you try to overturn 40 years of zoning this far along in development planning.

Limitations of power and sticking to the zoning of the purchaser of the land goes both ways. I don't think the home owners would want half their community rezoned something else after a submittal of a plan when the existing zoning existed for 40 years.

Should the zoning have been changed to match the general plan? I can't pretend to know the expertise of that, though it seems that the same home owners complaining could have tried to get that to happen to secure their future potential neighbors? I bought a house 10 years ago (in Las Vegas) and am having one built right now. I can tell you I fully researched the areas around my neighborhood and the zoning for those. In fact my house in Vegas was deep in residential in the far northwest with an amazing view of the city, including the distant strip. A lot across the way was vacant with no plans to develop, I knew very well my view might be lost and was prepared for whatever would land. My wife and I ended up moving and selling, but since then high two story homes were developed that has indeed blocked those views. I believe part of the land was owned by the city at the time so I knew it could have even been a water treatment plant, or other utilities.

That's how it works. Business owners and land owners have freedom too and considering this was zoned for 40 years it's a hard sell to suggest a sudden change after the land owner has already developed plans like this. Even if I completely understand the attempt, honestly it should have been pursued earlier, though it might have been hard with the land owners having a say in how their land is rezoned.

When you buy a home educate yourself on what's around you and what it's zoned for and only buy if you're prepared for what it's zoned for, even if there's a possibility something else might be done there.

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