[btn]By Teri Carnicelli[/btn]
A newly formed neighborhood association just east of State Route 51 and north of Indian School Road has filed enough petitions to force a super-majority vote of the City Council on a controversial rezoning request in the area.

At issue is a compilation of five adjoining properties being acquired by a developer in order to build a four-story upscale apartment complex there. Currently the properties include an auto repair shop, vehicle storage facility, commercial offices and an aging mobile home community serving primarily low-income Hispanic families.

The property is bounded by Devonshire Avenue on the north, 19th Street on the west, 20th Street on the east and Indian School Road to the south. The request being made by Trinsic Residential Group is to the change the zoning from R-3 (mobile home park), C-2 (intermediate commercial) and C-3 (general commercial) to R-4A to allow for construction of the apartment complex.

The proposed structure includes a variety of units, including two-story carriage houses along the outer edges to act as a buffer to the neighborhoods to the west and north, and one- to three-bedroom units in the four-story main complex in the middle of the property. The developers are anxious to see the zoning request approved as three of the properties are sitting in escrow, awaiting the outcome of the rezoning request. However, residents in the adjacent Peters View neighborhood had asked for more time to work with the developers to ensure the project is in better keeping with the character and feel of the older, established community.

A large contingent of neighbors, including residents of the mobile home park, turned out for the Camelback East Village Planning Committee meeting on May 3 to oppose the zoning change and ask for more time. However, the developer’s attorney, Michael Curley, said that while he would be happy to sit down with neighbors to continue to discuss their concerns, a delay would jeopardize the complicated acquisition process for these multiple parcels.

Residents said this large, modern-looking structure would stick out like a sore thumb. “It has been described as having the look and feel of a fortress, or a college dormitory, or a warehouse,” said Lee Busenbark, a homeowner in the Peters View neighborhood.

“Proposing such an edifice does not foster a sense of community, does not improve our quality of life and does not create character or distinctiveness.”

The Peters View neighborhood is marked by single-story homes built in the 1940s with low-pitched roofs, porches, wood trim and shutters and brick accents.

But is also is situated less than two blocks from a major travel arterial: the 51 freeway, which is a convenience for those who want to live in a central Phoenix neighborhood but may work elsewhere in the Valley. It is also just over a mile from the bustling Biltmore Fashion Park, with its large selection of shopping and dining destinations.

“When you see what’s on the property now, in our view this property is screaming for redevelopment,” Curley says. “It’s also in a prime location, being only a block and a half from the 51 freeway and five to seven minutes from downtown Phoenix, Central Avenue, the airport and the Biltmore Fashion Park. It’s exactly where dense multi-family development should go.”

The developer has made some changes to the proposal, including traffic measures that would keep apartment residents out of the neighborhood to the north, as well as changing some architectural features to provide additional privacy.

But Peters View residents argue that four stories is just too high and want the density reduced, while the developers say they can’t reduce the number of units without jeopardizing the bottom line.

The Camelback East Village Planning Committee voted 13-4 in favor of the rezoning request. The Phoenix Planning Commission also approved it on May 13, voting 8-0. The Phoenix City Council will have the final say at 3 p.m. on June 4, where, thanks to those filed petitions, a three-quarters vote will be needed for the item to be approved.

Agendas and related materials are available online at www.phoenix.gov.


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