City, residents opposing county housing project - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

City, residents opposing county housing project

October 23rd, 2022 SanTan Sun News
City, residents opposing county housing project
Community
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By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Chandler officials have been trying to figure out ways to bring affordable housing to the city for months. Now, there is a proposal to do just that and they’re opposing it.

They aren’t alone, either.

Homeowners are organizing to stop The Landings on Ocotillo project, in which developer Dominium Management would bring 518 affordably priced apartments to an area near Hamilton High School.

The developers, having faced similar opposition in other Valley cities, are marching forward.

They want to build the units on Ocotillo Road just east of the railroad tracks, not far from Arizona Avenue. They are proposing a 336-unit multifamily complex and a 182-unit senior living complex on about 25 acres. The price per month for a unit would likely be between 8%-to-12% lower than current market rates, they said.

City officials have made it clear they do not want the project in that location, which is part of their airport jobs corridor.

Residents upset about the project met Oct. 19 to learn more about the plans and coordinate their opposition. However, no one knew who organized the meeting and was leading the effort. They found out about it in a social media post.About 20 people arrived, but the meeting soon disbanded.

Many wanted to know more about the project, and said that they aren’t upset because it’s an affordable housing complex. They said their biggest worry is an increase in traffic.

“Even in the middle of the day, say 2 o’clock, the traffic is horrendous,” Mary Ellen Ross said. “You can’t move.”

Residents said the proposed development would be near where Chandler Unified’s bus depot. So in addition to all those buses coming and going each day, they would have to contend with more than 1,000 new residents living in those apartments.

The land in question is not city land, but is an unincorporated part of Maricopa County that is surrounded by city land. As such, the project’s fate currently rests with the county Board of Supervisors.

However, the developers initially said they planned to seek annexation by the city, and the county has encouraged them to follow through with that since they will be relying on city services for utilities.

The city’s stated opposition to the plan may have changed that.

“The location of the proposed multifamily development does not conform to the City’s General Plan, Airpark Area Plan and economic development goals,” City Planning Manager David de la Torre said. “For this reason, the city communicated to Maricopa County and the developer that it does not support multi-family at the proposed location. The city met with the developer to discuss alternative sites in Chandler.

“However, the developer elected to proceed with its application to seek approval for developing the site through Maricopa County.”

Chandler is actively marketing the area surrounding the airport as an employment corridor, where officials want businesses that will bring jobs to the city. The city land near this proposed site is zoned for industrial use.

De la Torre said the city objects to a residential project built on the county island because the people who move in will likely object when industrial facilities are built next to them.

“Industrial operations need to be located in areas where they are free to run their operations without impacting residential areas,” de la Torre wrote.

“They don’t want to have neighbors complaining about their operations. If the subject site were to be changed from industrial to residential, it would make the surrounding properties less desirable to industrial developers due to their close proximity to residential.”

Rick Heumann, the chairman of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, said he suspects there is a lot of misinformation floating about in the community regarding this project. Even though this is a county issue, he planned to meet with one of the lawyers representing the developers to find out the facts.

“I’m hearing things like – I’ll be real blunt – ‘It’s gonna be housing for illegal immigrants, or homeless housing,’ Heumann said. “I’m actually going to meet with the zoning attorney to see if it’s workforce housing.

“And honestly, if it’s pure workforce housing, that is something that’s desperately needed in Chandler: It’s the teachers, it’s the McDonald’s shift manager, it’s people who work for the city who can’t afford to live in our city. Everything that is being built in our city is great, but a two-bedroom apartment in some of these places will cost over $2,000.”

A nearly identical project by the same developers was proposed for Surprise and ran into stiff opposition.

Surprise City Council approved the project. However, residents did not give up and have collected signatures to get a referendum to overturn the 4-3 council vote.

There, the developers said the housing would be affordable, with the price set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD publishes a fair market rent rate for each county annually.

HUD’s fair market rent rate for Maricopa County is $1,467 for a one-bedroom unit, $1,740 for two bedrooms and $2,386 for three.

According to Rent.com, the average rental price in Chandler is $1,660 for one bedroom (11.6% more than HUD’s fair market rent rate), $1,912 (8.9% more) for two bedrooms and $2,588 (7.8% more) for a three-bedroom unit.

Owen Metz, senior vice president and project partner for Dominium, gave the SanTan Sun News a statement about the Landings on Ocotillo project:

“We are proceeding with re-zoning in the county for a wonderful housing development in a location that has medium density residential across the street. We are committed to help solve the housing crisis here in the Valley and provide much needed housing diversity to this part of the region.”

There will be a public hearing before the proposal goes to the county Planning and Zoning Commission. No date has been set yet, but Heumann said it will likely be in early December.

The land is owned by a Wyoming doctor and his wife, Shah and Hina Urvish. Dominium Apartments and the Housing Authority of Maricopa County are listed as the co-developers. Dominium, a Minnesota company, has been managing affordable housing apartments around the nation since 1972 and manages more than 38,000 units.

It operates a senior living facility in Mesa, and is building a Goodyear complex that is similar to its plans for Chandler. Neither of those projects faced the opposition the company experienced in Surprise.

Maricopa County Planner Daniel Johnson said his team is aware of the city’s opposition to the project.

“We will take that into consideration and will be reflected in my report to the Planning & Zoning Commission for their consideration,” he said.

Supervisor Jack Sellers office said Sellers is waiting for the planning office to vet the proposal.

“Supervisor Sellers is aware of the proposed development in Chandler,” wrote Diane Hilow, deputy administrator for Sellers.

“As with all Planning and Zoning issues within District 1, the Supervisor will seek input from a city near any proposed development.

“In this particular case, the comments from Chandler will be an important part of the decision-making process,” she said.

“The proposal must first be vetted by the Maricopa County Planning and Zoning Commission where proponents and those in opposition will have an opportunity to participate in a public hearing.”