Council approves General Plan Amendment for former Thunderbird land

By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Glendale Star Editor
“I have been to every meeting and the same issues of home density has been stated and our big issue is eight homes per acre,” local resident Gary Livingston said. “During the planning commission meeting, I asked what their credential for approval was and they could not tell me. I believe council should not approve this amendment until full transparency with what ASU has in store for this land.”

It was quite the week for the former Thunderbird School of Global Management property as Glendale City Council unanimously approved a General Plan Amendment to the property as the first step in redeveloping it.
Mike Withey of Withey Morris, who represents the land owner, Arizona State University, reiterated that this is the first step in a long process for ASU’s plan for future development of the property at 15240 N. 59th Ave.
“We have worked a long time with staff and are all excited to be here with staff recommendation for full approval of this General Plan Amendment,” Withey said. “We are excited to take this first step towards redevelopment, but this is just the first step.”
This General Plan Amendment for the approximately 158 acres, which amends the land use designation of 110 acres from corporate commerce center (CCC) and 48 acres of education to approximately 85 acres to CCC and 72 acres to medium-high density residential, which would allow eight dwellings per acre.
“The applicant held several neighborhood meetings and discussed with residents in the area but most questions they had cannot be answered until a rezoning application is presented,” Special Projects Executive Officer Tabitha Perry said. “That rezoning will be presented at a later date after more public meetings are held.”
City staff and representatives of ASU said the previous General Plan, which would allow the incorporation of commercial, higher intensity uses on the vacant land adjacent to the existing single-family subdivision, would not now be appropriate for the site, which led to the changes which were approved.
“Everyone knows this site was part of the Thunderbird School of Global Management and all the property was already zoned in 2008,” Withey said. “That zoning allowed for commercial, retail, hotel, apartments and single-family housing and the point is the property is already zoned and some was quite intense. Nothing changing that tonight and any setbacks or height limitation from 2008 are not changing, just the general plan.”
Withey added that two questions that residents had during the earlier meetings, he could answer during the Nov. 27 meeting.
“Two questions we can answer tonight are, one, could we somehow keep an educational component and Arizona Christian University will take over the campus,” Whitey said. “Second, we have, through negotiations, a permanent solution to where the YMCA will be entitled to the land and will be staying there.”
Local residents were still skeptical of the process and urged council to delay the vote.
“Put yourself in our place. If you owned an average home and someone put a two- to three-story building on the north and south side of your property, how would you feel about it,” local resident Byron Rush said.
Others claimed there was no transparency in the process.
“I have been to every meeting and the same issues of home density has been stated and our big issue is eight homes per acre,” local resident Gary Livingston said. “During the planning commission meeting, I asked what their credential for approval was and they could not tell me. I believe council should not approve this amendment until full transparency with what ASU has in store for this land.”
Whitey was quick to point out that anything for the land is still in the early process and no final decision has been made.
“We will have tons of discussion and letters and open houses for residents to have an opportunity for lots of dialogue,” Whitey said. “We will be able to answer all those questions at that time.”
Sahuaro Councilmember Ray Malnar, in whose district the property lies, said he will be representing the residents in every aspect of the process.
“I will be your advocate and do not believe tonight we are making a choice to approve that is changing anything that will affect your neighborhood today,” Malnar said.
Mayor Jerry Weiers added that with the approval, residents will still have the chance to have their voices heard.
“Tonight’s approval doesn’t change anything and does not take (residents) out of the picture,” Weiers said. “Stay involved and talk to everyone. This doesn’t close any doors and it allows you the opportunity to discuss and ask all the questions you may have.”

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