Glendale council reverses planners’ vote on StoneHaven

Residents attended the June 27 public hearing on a master-planned community. Many opposed the developer’s request to add more homes to the project. Audience members wore red to show their opposition and held up smiley faces if they liked what the speaker said. [Bette Sharpe/Glendale Daily Planet]
By Cecilia Chan
Independent Newsmedia

A master-planned community proposed within walking distance of Westgate Entertainment District got the green-light to build more houses on smaller lots, much to the disappointment of nearby residents.

Glendale City Council approved a request for rezoning and a general plan amendment, allowing StoneHaven to increase the number of houses to 1,365 from 1,161 on 395 acres located at 9050 W. Camelback Road. The council went against the recommendation of the Planning Commission, which voted 4-1 to deny the requests from John F. Long Properties and Pulte Homes.

“This isn’t good for our neighborhood,” said resident Robert Singer, who cited increase noise, extra traffic and extra demand on infrastructure from allowing for more homes. “Listen to the people. Vote ‘no’ on this. We don’t want it.”

He said many home values in the area have not recovered from the recession and the smaller-lot homes would affect property values. He urged the council to make the developer stick with the original proposal, which took some negotiating with residents before it got council’s approval last year.

Susan Demmitt, who represented the applicants, said a change was requested because Pulte wanted the ability to offer more home sizes for sale.

Mr. Singer was one of 35 people who spoke on the issue at the June 27 three-hour public hearing. Most speakers, many in red tops to show their opposition, voiced their objections to the housing increase.

A handful of proponents included Greg Donovan, superintendent of West-MEC, and Glendale Chamber of Commerce CEO Robert Heidt, who said the chamber was in full support of the $450 million project.

“A project of this magnitude doesn’t come by everyday,” Mr. Heidt said. “This will bring tremendous value to Glendale.”

Former Councilwoman Yvonne Knaack said the home-buying community has changed and most home buyers do not want a big yard they have to maintain.

“We are not a farming community anymore,” she said. “I think that overall the economic impact of this development is what we have been waiting for all these years.”

Land-locked Glendale, burdened with debt on sports spending, was on the brink of bankruptcy five years ago before it turned its finances around.

Economic Development Director Brian Friedman cited a study that found StoneHaven will generate a total of $49.3 million for the city during 2019-26 and will continue to generate revenue well after the development is built-out.

The net fiscal impact will be significant for the city and the project’s retail component will offset the cost of services to the development, he added.

The project includes two commercial areas totaling nearly 33 acres to include establishments such as dining, a grocery store, drug store, banking and dry cleaning.

A current aerial map of the land that will be used for the StoneHaven housing development in Glendale and surrounding developed land. [Submitted]
Chief among the opponents was Councilwoman Joyce Clark, who represents the Yucca District, where the project sits.

If the council rejects the additional homes, the city will still see a significant financial impact from the development, she said.

She thanked residents for voicing their concerns and said while she was prohibited by the state public meeting law from contacting other council members about the issue, the StoneHaven representatives have been lobbying “the hell out of the council” members for their support.

“They’ve done what I have not been able to do,” she said. “I really believe Glendale needs to be upgraded and this project does not upgrade Glendale, period.”

Ms. Clark said the proposed changes would do away with the 8,000-square-foot lots, about 24 percent of the development, and allow for 4,000- and 4,500-square-foot lots, which will then make up 44 percent of the site or 600 homes.

She noted if the council grants the requests, her Yucca District would have the highest concentration of 4,000-square-foot lots.

Speakers said homes on the smaller lot sizes would end up as rentals and lead to blight. Some alluded the development would end up like John F. Long’s first master-planned community, Maryvale in West Phoenix, which has seen better days.

“This is my home and my happiness is being sold,” said Carey Holzman.

Ray Finley said John F. Long and Pulte’s only business is to make money and the smaller lot sizes do not help Glendale.

Ms. Clark said the schools are already overcrowded and will be further impacted, despite representatives from Pendergast Elementary School District and Tolleson Union High School District both saying their districts could accommodate the students from StoneHaven. She also said the development lacked adequate open space and amenities.

StoneHaven proposes 60 acres of open space with amenities such as tot lots, sports courts, multi-purpose fields, picnic areas and pedestrian paths.

Ms. Clark claimed the planning director exceeded his authority by making zoning policy and by allowing the developer to build not to the city’s R1-4 zoning standards but the developer’s. For instance, instead of the required 15-20 feet setback for the front yard, it is now reduced to 10 feet, according to the councilwoman.
Planning Director Jon Froke later said the process followed the standards established in the city’s zoning ordinance.

Councilman Ray Malnar joined Ms. Clark in voting against the applicant’s request for a general plan amendment. He said after hearing from both sides, he noted 100 percent of those who spoke against the increase, aside from two people, lived in the Yucca District, while those who spoke in favor of the proposal, only two lived in the district.

“It’s so important to listen to the people in the city,” he said.

The general plan amendment passed by a 5-2 vote.

However, Mr. Malnar did not join Ms. Clark in voting against the zoning request. He voted yes, saying it is a policy of the body that when a decision has been rendered, to follow the policy of the body.

Voting in support on both requests were Mayor Jerry Weiers, Councilmen Bart Turner and Jamie Aldama, Vice Mayor Ian Hugh and Councilwoman Lauren Tolmachoff.

Mr. Turner said he toured two Pulte home developments where large homes sat on small lots.

“Lots of progress have been made in the density of these houses,” he said, adding homes should be built for the next two generations and not the last two generations.

He also addressed some residents who urged the council to follow the Planning Commission’s recommendation to deny. Mr. Turner said while he respects the commission, the council is not a rubber stamp for it and vice versa.

He added StoneHaven may not be what residents in the room want, but millennials and older people do not want to spend their weekends moving their lawns.

“No plan is perfect,” he said. “But I think this product going in here is going to elevate what is available in Glendale.”

Councilwoman Tolmachoff said she was confident Pulte will build a quality product.

Mayor Weiers, who lives near the development and will be affected by traffic, said he represents the entire city and not just the Yucca District.

“I moved here in 1966 and nothing is the way it is,” he said. “It’s difficult to accept change but it’s part of life.”
He said the project will bring more tax revenue to the city.

“I have to support what is best for the entire city,” he said as a woman in the audience shouted out, “sellout.”

Later near the end of the meeting, Ms. Clark said she was disappointed in the outcome.

By allowing 204 more homes, the council has obligated itself to complete Heroes Regional Park, across from the development, she said.

“You can’t put 2,000 kids on 300 acres and not give them a place to recreate, not give them a place to go,” Ms. Clark said. “If you expect StoneHaven and their so-called amenities to do the job, you are sadly mistaken.

“I believe you’ve created that obligation and I hope the council can live up to it.”

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