By Richard Smith, Independent Newsmedia
Despite expressing reservations about the number of active development plans in Northwest Surprise and whether roads and schools in the area would keep pace, the Surprise Planning and Zoning Commission approved a preliminary plat for the Altamira development Thursday night.
Altamira is generally located north of Pinnacle Peak Road and west of the Reems Road/155th Avenue alignment.
A development with a revised plat approved in late 2015, Verdugo, is to the west.
Commissioner Eric Cultum expressed concerns about the number of plats in this area and connectivity issues in surface areas. He also asked if when Altamira and Verdugo are developed there will be adequate roads in the area to relieve the already overburdened 163rd Avenue.
“Short of a moratorium on the development in this region, and the options of a CIF or a CFD, it looks like we have not too many limits to restricting the development in this area or relating the management of traffic, especially with the entitlements that are already granted to the rights of the developer,” Mr. Cultum said.
Planner Robert Kuhfuss said Rancho Mercado, which broke ground last week and is starting with infrastructure, will be crucial to the developments in this area and those already in place west of 163rd Avenue.
Rancho Mercado developer William Lyon Homes will build Happy Valley Road with one lane in each direction from 163rd Avenue to Racho Cabrillo to the east, connecting it with the Peoria stretch of Happy Valley and providing an east-west relief.
“Right now there is clearly an issue at 163rd Avenue and Grand. Once this road is put in it will pull a significant amount of traffic from 163rd,” Mr. Kuhfuss said. “One of the other concerns we’ve heard from residents in that area is that there’s no retail. But we know rooftops follow retail. So it’s kind of a Catch 22.”
Commission Chairman Ken Chapman said his main concern about this area is that none of the new developments other than Rancho Mercado — Altamira, Verdugo and Tierra Verde — have land set aside for schools.
An Altamira representative said there is no formal agreement with the Dysart Unified School District.
“Looking at the larger picture, we could have a problem,” Mr. Chapman said.
Commissioner Mitchell Rosenbaum also said his greatest concern for this region is its livability and availability of schools.
Dysart built a K-8 school in the Asante development to the west, which has since been converted into the district’s alternative school because of a lack of enrollment. It is likely when kids more move in at Asante, Altamira and Verdugo, that school will be reactivated.
Commissioner Dennis Smith raised the only opposition to the project itself. He asked to wait to hear this project after a Maricopa Water District recommendation.
“I would prefer to see that if we’re going to have an outside agency approve it before bringing it back here,” Mr. Smith said.
Jorge Villasenor with the EPS Group said the Mariopa Water District has looked at the development’s drainage concept, but the actual plans are not complete yet. They will move forward with the preliminary plat’s approval.
Verdugo will have three lot types and 59 acres (about 33 percent) set aside for open space.
Phase 1, just east of Verdugo, will be built first. A park along the western boundary will be shared with Verdugo, and the trail system also integrates with Verdugo.
Altamira features Tuscan architecture.
“This is generally nice looking houses which will be a good addition to the area,” Mr. Kuhfuss said.