Zoning change clears way for Avilla project in Surprise

This Avila Homes detached home rental community in Chandler includes elevations similar to those proposed at Waddell and Reems roads in Surprise, according to officials from Avila’s parent company NexMetro Communities. [Submitted Photo]
By Richard Smith, Independent Newsmedia

In less than six months, the proposed Avilla rental community on the northeast corner of Reems and Waddell roads has transformed for pariah to project.

The final step occurred June 20 when the Surprise City Council unanimously approved a zoning amendment of the 10.8-acre property from commercial t multi-family residential.

NexMetro Communities will soon be cleared to move forward with the development, since the site plan was approved by the Surprise Planning and Zoning Commission in May.

“No other approvals are needed from P&Z or council,” Community Development Director Eric Fitzer stated in an email. “However, the zoning doesn’t go into effect for 30 days so if they submit those plans within the 30 day time frame they would be at risk if someone were to challenge the rezoning in that time frame, which is unlikely but technically could happen. They would be able to start construction (grading and so forth) at the time civil plans are approved by the city and a permit is issued. What we call going “vertical” constructing actual buildings would be after approval of the building plans by the city and a permit is issued.”

In this case, “going vertical” is truly a non-applicable term. Avilla will follow the current trend of one-story rental units that look more like town homes than traditional apartments.
Initially, residents of the neighboring Sanalina HOA believed the rentals would be multi-story apartments. They showed up in force — more than 200 strong — to a late January neighborhood meeting.

Resident Bob Emley said the large turnout stemmed largely from misinformation and fear. However, Sanalina residents voiced a couple major concerns that prompted NexMetro to change the project.

As the developer made changes, the angst decreased. Less than 30 residents attended a second neighborhood meeting in March.

“The people that are against things come out in hordes. Those in favor not so much because they believe it is being worked out,” Mr. Emley said.

The main change was the removal of an exit onto Ludlow Drive, which Sanalina residents said was already overloaded by traffic. Waddell and Reems will be the only access points for the community.

Sanalina residents originally feared that Avilla kids, having no place to play, would use Sanalina’s park. NexMetro added playground area in the center of Avilla and moved a proposed dog park away from adjacent neighbors.

The changes also swayed councilman John Williams, who represents this area.

“You have two failed attempts at retail on this corner. There’s commercial all around it and Prasada is really going to take the lion’s share of that as it develops,” Mr. Williams said.

Resident Gary “Doc” Sullivan argued that no matter how “upscale” the rentals are, they will be a drag on home values.

“Trust me, it will have a negative effect on the property value of Sanalina residents,” Mr. Sullivan said.

The lone unresolved concern appears to be traffic on Waddell Road, which narrows to one lane in each direction west of Reems and is an issue before any of the 127 rentals at Avilla are built.
Surprise Transportation Planning Manager Martin Lucero said for that reason, Avilla’s entry point on Waddell was moved as far east as possible.

The proposed 2017 bond includes a project to widen Waddell west of Reems. That or the ignition of the Prasada development will key adding travel lanes to the road and alleviating the backups.

“Right now we know (Waddell) isn’t functioning at an ‘A’ level. (Building Avilla) isn’t going to fail the road,” Mr. Lucero said.

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