E. Mesa plan for townhomes riles neighbors The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

E. Mesa plan for townhomes riles neighbors

E. Mesa plan for townhomes riles neighbors

By Jim Walsh
Tribune Staff Writer

For decades, residents of a unique dead-end street in East Mesa enjoyed a quiet life living on large ranch style lots.

They haven’t minded AT Still University being located next door and a state maintenance yard at the end of Recker Road where they live.

But now they are concerned that a proposed townhouse development, called Zen on Recker, will damage their pastoral atmosphere, creating more traffic congestion and eventually even urban decay.

Ralph Pew, a prominent zoning attorney representing the developer, disagrees.

He says the site at Baseline and Recker roads is already busy and that the neighbors are exaggerating the traffic delays that might be created by residents of the 76 townhouses.

An almost identical, slightly larger project with 90 units, called Zen on Baseline, already has been approved by Mesa City Council and is in the early stages of construction on the nearby former site of Mesa’s iconic Rockin’ R Ranch country music venue.

The two Zen projects, both billed as luxury developments, are separated by an industrial park east of Recker Road that is home to an auto repair shop, a church and other uses.

Although Pew and city officials consider the two townhouse developments separate projects, residents are concerned about the impact of both combined once they are built.

They envision long delays entering and exiting Baseline Road and fear traffic accidents.

They considered Zen on Baseline less of an issue because it is farther from their homes and has its own traffic signal.

Zen on Recker generated a split vote at a Planning and Zoning Board meeting last month. It is scheduled to come before Council on Monday for a decision on a zoning change from agricultural to residential.

“This is a really good spot for townhouses,’’ Pew said.

He noted that few townhouse developments are available in the area for employees of A.T. Still and other medical facilities nearby. “The for-sale townhouse product is remarkable and in-demand.’’

He said the neighbors “have enjoyed a public street that was analogous to private driveway’’ for decades. “We’re not going to ruin their lives,’’ with the delay in getting on and off Baseline expected to amount to only four or five seconds longer.

“Yes, there will be a slight delay at Recker and Baseline. It’s not the overwhelming feeling the neighbors are portraying,’’ Pew told the Planning and Zoning Board on Sept. 9 before it voted 3-2 to recommend that Council approve the project.

Pew said the two Zen projects “are a proverbial drop in the ocean compared to the traffic on Baseline.’’

But residents view Zen on Recker as a threat to their quality of life and plan to oppose it at Monday night’s council meeting even though they feel they are up against a persuasive, influential adversary in Pew.

“It doesn’t fit at all. It blows my mind that this is happening here,’’ longtime resident Kay Scott said. “I don’t understand why you would cram so many residences on a small piece of land here.’’

The site includes more than six acres. Part of it is vacant land at Recker and Baseline, but the developers are enlarging the area by demolishing two single family houses immediately to the north.

That leaves Scott’s house abutting Zen on Recker, making her and other neighbors fearful that the quality of life they have enjoyed will soon vanish.

“All of us have worked hard all of our lives,’’ Scott said, and enjoy living in the tight-knit community. “We want to have our elbow room.’’

Although Zen on Recker features luxury units, with a unique deck on top of the garages for barbequing or watching a sunset, Scott fears the project will decay when the original owners move out and the condominiums start turning over.

“Hardly anyone goes to a condominium long-term,’’ she said. “It’s used as a stop-gap.’’

She said that because Zen on Baseline is on the other side of the industrial development, “it might be its own little neighborhood’’ and have little impact on her.

Tim Brown, another resident, said his neighborhood’s location is bound to increase the value of Zen on Recker with its grass and shade trees.

But he said Zen on Recker is likely to decrease the value of his and his neighbors’ properties for decades.

John Beebe, another resident, said he believes the traffic will be much worse than indicated by Pew’s traffic study, which was done during the business shutdowns in the early months of the pandemic.

“They did a traffic study when nobody was driving,’’ he said. “It’s always money, you know that. He’s part of the good old boys’ club.’’

But Pew and city officials say the townhouses fit Mesa’s general plan by encouraging a variety of housing along a busy street.

The Planning and Zoning Board was split between members who thought Zen on Baseline was a good fit, and others who worried it might create traffic bottlenecks.

“Have we worn out our welcome because we have lived here so long. Is that the message you want to send?’’ resident Russell Kennedy said. “We understand something will be built there, but this is the worst option.’’

Planning and Zoning Board member Tim Boyle said he understands neighbors want to protect their way of life, but he added, “I don’t see anything that prohibits this use. There’s already some different things going on in the neighborhood. There’s a mix going on.’’

Boyle supported Zen on Recker, while member Jeffrey Crockett voted against it based upon potential traffic issues along with fellow member Shelley Allen.

“I’m concerned there isn’t another way out,’’ Crockett said.

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