P&Z gets earful from Glennwilde residents – and OKs apartment complex

Residents of the Glennwilde community, at bottom, said Monday night they oppose a 536-unit apartment complex that would be built about a half-mile south on Porter Road, at right. They said the high-density development would aggravate existing traffic problems on Porter. [Google Earth – 2018]

Plans for a huge apartment complex are headed to City Council.

The Maricopa Planning & Zoning Commission on Monday unanimously approved site, landscape, elevation and photometric plans for the Home at Maricopa project after hearing a number of Glennwilde residents voice displeasure and concerns.

The plans will now go before the council for consideration of final approval.

The 536-unit apartment community, to be developed by El Dorado 27 LLC, will consist of six four- and five-story buildings just north of North Porter Road and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

Brittany Pisola of Glennwilde said her primary objection – one shared by several speakers at the meeting – is more traffic congestion.

“I have nothing against apartments,” Pisola said. “I don’t like that they’re going to be five stories high and don’t like that all the apartments in Maricopa are in that one area because it will create a huge traffic problem. We already have a problem with the traffic we have now. This complex is going to have 536 units and there are going to be three more along that stretch of Porter Road plus one on Alan Stephens Parkway for a total of of 1,381 units, and that doesn’t count the apartments being built on Honeycutt and Porter.”

Pisola said the six schools along Porter Road and side streets near Glennwilde already present a safety problem.

“It creates terrible traffic,” she added. “We’ve had three students hit and one adult hit this year. Adding more cars isn’t going to help that. It’s going to make it worse.”

Sue Van Gossen, a retiree who lives in the Elm Tree section of Glennwilde, had a similar concern.

“I’m addressing the amount of traffic as a quality of life issue,” she said. “I am retired and have to schedule my leavings and comings around school traffic that’s already there. If you add any more traffic, I won’t be able to leave my home between 2:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon. The bravest person I know is the crossing guard by Saddleback Elementary school – she’s risking her life every day.

“If I had a regular job where I had to leave at a certain time and be home at a certain time,” she added, “I wouldn’t be able to get in and out of Elm Tree to do it.”

Roy Bowen of Glennwilde said the city’s clustering of apartments in a single part of the city is unsustainable, a sentiment raised by many of the speakers.

“I object to this development for a number of reasons,” Bowen said. “First, the amount of high density residential in one area. The saturation in this area, as other speakers have clearly laid out, is unsustainable. This kind of high-density residential space in this area has also had a disproportionately punitive effect on the property values of the single-family homes in the area.

“And lastly,” he continued, “I object based on the height of the buildings. There is nothing in the area of those proportions. If you are looking to build high-rises, they should look near the casino where something of that elevation already exists. Finally, the level of overcrowding in the area is disproportionate to the rest of the community.”

The 25.3-acre community will include 18.8 acres of residential development and 6.5 acres of mixed use and commercial space. The residential portion of the community will be built in five phases.

The five-story buildings were approved for up to 70 feet in height but are designed at 54 feet. Phase one will consist of two four-story buildings with 49 units each; phases two and three are five-story buildings with 122 units each; phases four and five are two additional four-story buildings with 98 total units. The community will include 4.23 acres of open space and more than 500 trees.

Resident April Desmond was upset a zoning change was approved after her family bought its home in Glennwilde, allowing apartments she did not know were coming.

“A lot of people in Glennwilde bought homes before you changed the zoning, so we didn’t know there were going to be that many apartments right there,” she said. “Had I known that, maybe I wouldn’t have bought there. I definitely will be paying more attention to when you’re going to be changing zoning laws in the future because I’m not happy at all with that decision and with all the apartments.”

The commissioners said they understood the residents’ concerns, but felt the project was for the good of Maricopa as a whole.

“With the addition of this number of apartments and this number of units, yes, it’s going to create some additional strain and some headaches for everyone,” said Vice Chair Michael Sharpe. “But the widening of Porter north of Honeycutt is going to alleviate some of that. And it’s really difficult for me to look at a project, specifically if it’s met all the zoning requirements and requirements from a development review perspective and tell them it’s something they just can’t do. They also have property rights that we have to respect.”

Commissioner Rachel Leffall agreed with Sharpe that there are valid concerns but that the owners of that property have the right to develop a project that complies with city codes and guidelines.

“It’s difficult when you hear people speaking so boldly on how it adversely affects them,” Leffall said. “But like Vice Chairman Sharpe said, we can’t just say no when it checks all the boxes of a yes. So, I do understand but I also see the growth potential.”

Another commissioner, Dan Frank, was straight to the point with his concern – traffic.

“It’s come up over and over and over again along this corridor,” Frank said. “The idea of traffic being adequate now or in the future is just not true, especially if you look at the future. It’s not working now and it’s not going to work then.”

Frank would vote to approve the plans.

Greg Davis of Iplan Consulting, which is working on the site plans for El Dorado 27, said the project caters to both current and future needs.

“This project doesn’t serve the Phoenix market,” he said. “People don’t work in Phoenix and come down here to rent an apartment. What we’re serving is the existing need for people who live and work in the community or are being added to the community because of all the industrial growth that’s happening in Maricopa, in the Casa Grande area and the I-8 corridor. That’s what this project is for. It’s for the long-term growth of this area.

“We’re not trying to add more cars to 347.”