Councilman remains opposed to Hawes project The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Councilman remains opposed to Hawes project

Councilman remains opposed to Hawes project

By Jim Walsh, Tribune Staff Writer

After months of controversy and 29 different iterations of a development plan, Mesa City Council appears set to decide whether five dairy farms and hundreds of acres of vacant desert turns into Hawes Crossing.

City officials plan to introduce an ordinance approving a series of zoning changes that would allow the construction of a dairy-themed, master planned community on Feb. 10 with a final vote scheduled on Feb. 24.

Two forces have collided since the case arrived at the Planning and Zoning Commission last fall: the desire to protect the economic prowess of Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport versus the desire to develop 1,100 acres in a coordinated, attractive fashion.

An annexation of 900 acres from Maricopa County is contingent on the zoning approval.

Airport officials stopped short of opposing Hawes Crossing at a council study session Jan. 27, repeating their position that the plan falls into Airport Overflight Area III – where housing is considered a compatible use – but noise complaints also are considered inevitable.

East Mesa council Kevin Thompson, the most outspoken opponent, launched one more attack on the project, saying Mesa was asking for trouble long-term by allowing more rooftops only two miles or so from the airport.

“It seems like every time we take a look at it, it gets better and better,’’ Thompson said, as the council reviewed a series of last-minute changes requested by the city and agreed to by zoning attorney Jordan Rose.

The changes are small tweaks rather than the major cut in residential development favored by Thompson, who favors commercial and industrial development to create jobs.

The changes include restricting Elliot Road to only mixed -use development with shops or other businesses on the first floor and residential on the upper floors.

“You don’t want to recreate a residential community that is not compatible with the commercial uses along the Elliot Road (Technology) Corridor,’’ Planning Director Nana Appiah said. “It has to be a vertically integrated, mixed use building.’’

Signs at major intersections would direct travelers to the airport and even feature pictures of airplanes to underscore the close location to the airport even further.

The close proximity of Gateway also would be included in the covenants, conditions and regulations governing the site use when property eventually is sold to homeowners or others.

“This is not something hidden. It’s going to be all over,’’ Appiah said.

A 30 -foot easement would allow commercial users to tap into a high voltage Salt River Project electrical line, a nod to business development advocates who did not want to see opportunities to attract jobs squandered.

Still, none of these small changes satisfied Thompson, who has noted that Mesa has protected the area from residential development for decades to maximize the airport’s economic development potential.

“I think it’s a bad idea. That’s why I hope it gets tabled,’’ Thompson said. “You are going to force the airport into flight operation restrictions.’’

“We’re going to add more housing and more complaints and more people,’’ he said.

Because a construction project shifted air traffic from one runway to another, Gateway experienced a huge increase in complaints compared with a year ago.

He said there were 177 complaints from November 2019 through January, with 121 from Mesa. A year earlier, there were 47 complaints during the same period, 25 of them from Mesa.

But Ryan Smith, an airport spokesman, said the construction project should be finished by March 20, mitigating the problem. He said 17 people were responsible for all the latest Mesa complaints and 13 people generated the complaints from a year ago.

“We have a few residents who are very active in making these calls,’’ he said. “That’s the nature of having an airport. There are going to be complaints.’’

Smith reiterated remarks by his boss, executive director and CEO J. Brian O’Neill, that flight patterns are bound to change from time to time in the future because of construction projects that will improve the flow of air and ground traffic.

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