It is a small tract of land, not quite 83 acres, sitting on the northwest corner where Bethany Home Road and Citrus Road intersect. At present, it plays host to a few acres of roses, but unlike the fate of the flowers in Pete Seeger’s iconic 1950s folk song, these flowers will go to the commercial rose trade, never to return. The dusty little tract of land will host a new and much more lucrative crop, high-density houses.
The owner of the land is joining a growing band of landowners here on the westside who are pulling out of agriculture and cashing in on the frenzy for new homes. Developers and owners file for rezoning so they can turn rural acreage, zoned to one dwelling per acre, into high-density development where actual dwelling densities can run as high as six per acre, or more.
Trigos, the proposed development in question, has an interesting history and serves as an object lesson for residents who feel that the zoning for their area is somehow inviolate. This owner had filed for rezoning several years ago and was turned down by the county after nearby residents complained. Flash forward to today and the world is different. The West Valley is a new home haven and developers are throwing up high-density developments with little regard for existing residents. Money is the only concern.
The plan for Trigos calls for almost 300 homes on 83 acres, with roughly 60 acres developable after streets, common areas, parks and green belts are deducted. That averages out to about five homes per acre. The developer indicates that their density will be 3.5 dwellings per acre…but they get this figure by including all the land in the parcel, not just the land where houses will be built. There are no homes built in the middle of a street or park, but the developer adds that square footage to their calculation because 3.5 dwellings per acre sounds a lot less crowded than five.
To the casual observer, development is a very developer-friendly process. Public notice for the rezoning application consists of putting up a sign on the road in front of the property. You must stop and get out of your car to read the sign if you notice it. If you happen to live within 300 feet of the property line, you should receive a written notice from the developer. This is all the developer must do for public notice; in land deals, the less said the better (for the developer). In the case of Trigos, I would assume not more than 40 people were noticed about the development after the signs went up and the letters were mailed. In evaluating the effectiveness of this public input phase of a rezoning and development request, one must keep in mind who politicians really represent. Ask yourself who some of the largest donors to political campaigns are…and don’t be surprised when you find out it isn’t those of us in the unwashed masses.
The Trigos application was filed and notice given during the doldrums of July and the submittal found its way through the bureaucracy pretty much in stealth mode. The general public had no idea what was happening. By then the stars had aligned and Trigos would land for public hearing in downtown Phoenix, less than two weeks before Christmas. How coincidental that such an important hearing, one affecting hundreds of nearby residents on large rural lots, would occur during what is arguably the busiest time of the year for most people, the holidays. And it will be in downtown Phoenix, a long hard drive for residents from the affected neighborhoods.
How can signage placed out in the desert heat and a token mailing be viewed as a reasonable attempt to solicit public input? It certainly isn’t difficult to arrive at the conclusion that the process is not really designed to take the pulse of the public. Maricopa County must feel the county goes out of its way to make sure all the stakeholders have equal footing in such important deliberations… or at least the folks in charge seem to think they do.
The residents of the West Valley are facing all of the problems of rapidly expanding communities and population: congestion, traffic gridlock, increased accidents, school overcrowding, infrastructure deterioration (especially country roads not designed or engineered for heavy traffic), noise, light pollution, increased crime, all the trappings of construction, and much more.
In response to this change in the quality of life for the residents of the pre-boom Westside, the Trigos developer stated in their Comprehensive Plan Amendment that there would be no impact from the traffic created by the development, no impacts on safety by all those extra folks out and about, no impact upon the schools, no impacts upon the general quality of life, and that the existing infrastructure could sustain the project with no necessary upgrades. God forbid if you need to have Rural Metro try to get to your house for an emergency.
One thousand new residents will occupy Trigos and the residents around the perimeter of the development will experience no adverse impacts, the new community blending seamlessly into the other communities adjacent to it? The hundreds of residents who, like us, live adjacent to this property have to hope that the Planning and Development Commission and the Board of Supervisors see this for what this truly is and will act to consider the interests of all the stakeholders, not just one or two.
Terry Damron lives in unincorporated Maricopa County near Litchfield Park.