By Colleen Sparks
Neighbors who live near Maryland and 11th avenues are upset that plans are moving forward to build 15 homes in their neighborhood despite their protests and pleas to try to stop the development.
The Phoenix City Council at its Oct. 2 meeting unanimously approved a rezoning about 330 feet east of the southeast corner of 11th Avenue and Maryland Avenue to allow single-family residential property. Blue Sky Homes plans to build single-family homes called Casa Azul on the site with the first house expected to be ready for move-in in the summer of 2020, Nick Blue, founder of Blue Sky Homes said. Many residents urged the City Council at its October meeting, as well as the city of Phoenix Planning Commission and Alhambra Village Planning Committee at previous meetings not to approve the rezoning.
Many neighbors said the homes would create too much traffic in an already busy area; the new structures will harm the environment, damage the rural feel they enjoy and possibly jeopardize public safety. Several residents have said their homes have been in their families for generations and some keep horses and other farm animals on their lots.
Blue plans to build 15 homes on the vacant, 2.51-acre site, which he owns. The parcel had to be rezoned for the development as it had previously allowed nine to 11 homes on it. The development will match the adjacent existing single-family residential uses and the General Plan Land Use Map designation that is 3.5 to 5 dwelling units per acre.
Neighbors met several times with Blue and Phoenix City Councilwoman Betty Guardado and her staff members to try to tweak plans for the homes to appease residents prior to the City Council’s vote. Some residents said they appreciated Guardado’s work trying to help them but they are unhappy the homes will be built.
“I’m just really disappointed,” Debbie Ramsey, who lives on Maryland Avenue, said after the City Council vote. “Every letter that I wrote fell on deaf ears. There’s places (in) Phoenix that need development but not on Maryland. I bought property to preserve the neighborhood.”
Blue said he and his architectural team made many adjustments to the development plans to try to mollify neighbors, including agreeing to build four homes that are only one story tall, six homes with only “partial second stories,” and creating “more traditional rooflines” and houses that are less contemporary than originally envisioned. Several residents had said they believed the modern, two-story houses previously proposed would not fit in with their older, ranch-style homes.
Blue also said the development will have a curved entry designed to calm traffic as it enters the community and the houses will be ENERGY STAR-certified. He said originally the project was going to have 35 houses but he reduced it to 15 to address concerns.
“We were very pleased with the outcome and it was a lot of effort on behalf of Councilwoman Guardado and her staff, who all did a really fantastic job,” Blue said. “I compromised far more than I initially thought I would have to. I think that is a gesture towards the councilwoman and her staff, along with a lot of the persuasive neighbors who were involved. At the end of the day there’s going to be a beautiful community built there.”
However, some neighbors say the stipulations Blue agreed to still do not make them want the new houses in their community.
“I’m fully opposed,” neighbor Todd Sutherland said. “I don’t even want the property added onto at all. My problem is too many houses on what is horse property. We had absolutely no room to compromise.”
Dina Smith, another neighbor, also spoke out against the homes.
“We feel like we lost the battle,” Smith said.
She said she and other neighbors are going to get organized to voice their opinions about future developments. Smith said she hoped someone from their neighborhood could get a vacant seat on the Alhambra Village Planning Committee.
Guardado was pleased with the conditions of the rezoning.
“We’ve got great stipulations for the neighbors,” she said. “We were able to get everyone to come to the table and come out with a resolution.”
Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski thanked Guardado for working with neighbors and the developer on the project.
“When you try to sit people down together, I think you find the best common ground possible,” Nowakowski said. “I believe this is the best win/win for both sides.”
The home development had divided members of the Alhambra Village Planning Committee and Phoenix Planning Commission in recent months. Neither the committee nor the commission could reach a majority vote required among their groups to recommend the City Council approve or deny the rezoning request to allow the homes to be built.