Landings developer sets neighborhood meeting - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Landings developer sets neighborhood meeting

January 15th, 2023 SanTan Sun News
Landings developer sets neighborhood meeting

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

When the Chandler City Council criticized the developer of a proposed affordable and senior housing apartment complex in South Chandler last month, it pointed to two main concerns.

Council members felt the developer did not do enough to work with their potential neighbors and ease their worries. Nor did it feel that Dominium Apartments fully consider the 14 alternative locations that city officials suggested.

Dominium will try to address that first concern at a neighborhood meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 25 at Hamilton High School, 3700 S. Arizona Ave. As for the second, the developer said the suggested sites were less than adequate to meet the project’s needs.

Council last month voted unanimously to adopt a resolution opposing the Landings on Ocotillo project. Dominium Apartments wants to build a total of 518 units on about 25 acres of land on Ocotillo Road, just east of Arizona Avenue. If built, it would be on the east side of the railroad tracks behind the Target store.

The developer hopes to build 336 family units and 182 senior living units.

Because this plot of land is a county island – an unincorporated area of Maricopa County that is surrounded by city land – the city does not have final say on if the project is built or not. The County Board of Supervisors does, but likely will take the city’s sentiment into consideration.

City officials have opposed the project because it is not part of Chandler’s General Plan, which set this area aside for industrial use in the hope of bringing jobs to the area. Residents near the proposed development site have organized to oppose the project, filling the chamber past capacity on the night Council voted on the resolution last month.

They have said they oppose it for a number of reasons, but the main issue is its impact on traffic in an area that already is heavily congested.

Originally, the developer hoped to have the Maricopa County Planning and Zoning Commission consider its proposal this month. Because of the stiff opposition, the developer has asked the County to postpone action indefinitely while it works with the City Council and others.

A spokesman for the developer said Dominium wanted to hold the meeting before Christmas, but that residents asked for a delay because a number of families were traveling for the holidays.

By meeting with neighbors and addressing their concerns, the developer hopes to eliminate one of the two specific issues mentioned by Council.

As for not fully considering the 14 alternative sites the city offered, Dominium says that is not true.

“The Dominium team – which already had spent about a year and $1 million planning the proposed new community and working to secure the proposed 25-acre site … took the city’s list seriously,” said Owen Metz, Dominium’s senior vice president and project manager at its Arizona office.

Of the 14 sites the city offered, nine were not available to purchase. Seven of them are 6.5 acres or less, much smaller than the close to 25 acres Dominium is planning to build on.

Two sites are designated for employment, not housing in the General Plan. City staff said they would not support changing the zoning to allow multi-family housing on those sites.

One site, at Loop 202 freeway and Kyrene Road, is owned by the Arizona Department of Transportation and has extremely limited access.

Another site is within the Southeast Chandler Area Plan that caps housing to 3.75 units per acre and would not allow the kind of density in Dominium’s plan.

One site is the southwest corner of Arizona Avenue and Pecos, where the multi-use District Downtown development has been approved by Council.

Another site is zoned for offices, and Council has previously indicated it would not support putting multi-family housing on that location.

Metz said of the 14 sites proposed, 11 are near residential neighborhoods where Dominium would likely face the same opposition that it has seen with the Landings project.

He said most of the opposition to this project and others the company has tried to build involves what he called NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard. Metz said people support the concept of affordable housing for teachers, firefighters and nurses who make less than $70,000 a year, they just don’t want it near their homes.

However, with Chandler at about 93% of build out, there are not many 25-acre plots of land left to build on. That’s why they decided to try and win County approval despite the objections of the city.

Metz said after reviewing the city’s list for more than a month, the company met with Chandler officials last June and explained why each of the 14 sites would not work.

“Dominium did its best to work with the city regarding these new sites,” Metz wrote. “With that said, by time the city sent its list, Dominium had already entered into a purchase agreement for the proposed 25-acre site, including spending considerable amounts of time and money to secure the property.

“Having the city swoop in after the last minute and tell a home builder, ‘Please build your new homes here, not there,’ is akin to a homeowner buying a house in Chandler, then being told by the city, ‘We’d prefer it if you bought a different house in another part of the city.’ That’s not how private property rights work.”

Neighbors say their concerns go beyond just traffic.

Anne Patterson said her primary concerns are water use and lack of communication by Dominium through this process.

“For 20-plus months, Dominium has had zero community outreach regarding this project,” Patterson wrote in an email. “I had five calls to four different people at Dominium not returned.

“When they say they have spoken with the community, why did they not return calls and why did they not actively try to engage the community until it was evident the opposition was significant and the Council called them out on the lack of communication?”

Mary Ellen Saunders wrote traffic is her main worry.

“The intersection at Ocotillo and Arizona Ave. is the most dangerous one in Chandler. There are a minimum of three accidents there a week.”

She said higher density traffic because of a new 518-unit apartment complex and more people traveling on Ocotillo to get to the Intel plant because of its expansion is a real concern.

Trains still travel on those railroad tracks twice a day, backing up traffic. There is also a Chandler Unified School District bus depot to the east of the proposed site, with all those buses coming and going during rush hours.

Dominium’s traffic impact study concluded the project would add about 2,500 daily weekday trips to the area. It said there were nine incidents in the previous three years, according to crash data from the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The study found there are delays, but that the roads are currently operating at acceptable levels of service. It concluded that if the units are built, they will continue to operate at acceptable levels of service.

Patterson said she also wants to know more about a a class-action lawsuit alleging Dominium is “double dipping.” The premise is that it received federal help to build apartments and then turned around and charged the taxpayers living in them for parking.

Dominium gets federal housing tax credits for agreeing to cap its rents. Most residents make 60% or less of the area median income.

The rent price would be set by the federal government’s Fair Market Rate. People living there would have to qualify before moving in. The developer says tenants must also sign a pledge saying no drugs, no criminal activity. If they break that pledge, they can be evicted.

The case is current and no decision has been made. Dominium said in a statement that residents can use surface parking for free and they have the right to charge for special amenities, such as underground parking, when they are built without federal funds.

“Surface lots are typically available at no cost, and residents are not required to park in the underground parking,” the company said in a statement. “Certain residents that choose to park underground sign agreements securing their parking space and agree to pay a separate fee.”