Hawes Crossing finally passes Mesa City Council The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Hawes Crossing finally passes Mesa City Council

Hawes Crossing finally passes Mesa City Council
City News

By Jim Walsh
Tribune Staff Writer

One of Mesa’s last remnants of agriculture will turn into Hawes Crossing as cows grazing on dairy farms will be replaced by a sprawling master planned community designed to lure jobs and sell houses.

After months of sometimes heated debate, Hawes Crossing was approved 6-1 by City Council, with southeast Mesa Councilman Kevin Thompson warning against residential encroachment at nearby Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport until the very end.

“We’re all excited. We’re glad to see it done,’’ said Jim Boyle, one of the dairy owners with a major stake in Hawes Crossing. “With the economy where it’s at, it’s a bit anti-climactic.’’

Boyle said the dairymen are working with a land broker, who is attempting to market the property in chunks.

“There’s not any builders out there who are going to buy 800 acres,’’ said Boyle, who has moved virtually all his dairy operation to his property in Casa Grande.

Attorney Jordan Rose said a delay in development is likely from the COVID-19 pandemic’s recession, but she expects Hawes Crossing to remain a hot property and eventually develop as planned.

“The virus chaos puts a delay in good decision-making, but it does not put a halt to good decision-making,’’ Rose said. “Everything is a bit delayed, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a very well- situated master planned community that will be in high demand.’’

She said the Great Recession of 2008 was far more unpredictable than the current recession.

“There is absolutely going to be an end to this chaos. There’s going to be a vaccine,’’ Rose said.

The massive 1,200-acre zoning case ended with a compromise that devoted 56 percent of its land to job development and 44 percent residences after the initial plan called for 83 percent devoted to homes four years ago.

Mayor John Giles said Hawes Crossing would generate an estimated 55,000 new jobs and reserve certain strategic areas for housing.

“The emphasis is on protecting the industrial and commercial assets of this area and creating jobs,’’ Giles said. “Locating a certain amount of housing to support these jobs makes sense.’’

He said Hawes Crossing has been strategically planned to create job growth while reserving residential development in areas that will not encroach on the airport.

The housing is compatible with the airport’s master plan and was not opposed by aviation officials, who nonetheless warned that new homeowners should anticipate a heightened level of noise from flights.

The zoning requires noise attenuation during construction and notifications to would-be homebuyers that they are likely to hear and see planes.

Giles said he has consistently voted to protect the airport but that it probably was not realistic to think that such a large amount of land would develop without some housing.

Current site ownership is roughly split between dairy farmers, who want to escape the path of growth, and the Arizona State Land Department.

The dairy properties are immediately to the north of the airport while the state land is located mostly to east and along the Loop 202.

It is planned for major development on the scale of Tempe Town Lake, with condominiums, office buildings and hotels. Much of the land is being annexed into Mesa from Maricopa County, creating potential income for the city.

Thompson and the Mayor’s Economic Development Advisory Board opposed Hawes Crossing, arguing that residential growth about two miles from the airport would eventually lead to additional noise complaints and hinder Gateway’s development and operations.

Thompson warned that would prevent Gateway from reaching its full potential as a major suburban airport someday, with an expanded number of carriers providing passenger service.

He said the additional housing in Hawes Crossing also could negatively impact Skybridge, a major international cargo development designed to benefit from a customs arrangement with Mexico.

He said cargo operations often operate at night and could draw complaints from new homeowners.

“Let’s unite against encroachment on southeast Mesa’s major economic driver,’’ Thompson said.

Natascha Ovando-Karadsheh, chair of the Economic Development Council, urged the city to reject Hawes Crossing and to hold out for a Fortune 500 company that would compliment Apple, which operates a massive data center, and Google, which is planning one, in the Elliot Road Technology Corridor located east of Loop 202.

“No one will tell you how much Hawes Crossing will impact Mesa in future opportunity costs,’’ she said.

The pandemic-fueled recession triggered demonstrates that “a proliferation of housing, without a property tax, is not a path to financial stability for our city,’’ she added.

Residents of Boulder Creek, a housing development north of the airport, were split on Hawes Crossing. Many supported it in hopes of eliminating the nuisance of manure and flies.

But some other Boulder Creek residents spoke out against it, saying the density of housing planned for near Elliot Road was too high, would damage property values and that additional traffic would endanger the lives of children attending Boulder Creek Elementary School.

Some Boulder Creek residents said Hawes Crossing represents a bonanza for the farmers, who will be gone by the time the additional traffic damages their quality of life.

But Boyle said it is important for him to leave behind a nice community, after his family spent 100 years operating dairies in the Phoenix area.

“They have been there for generations,’’ Rose said about the dairy farmers. “The land means everything to them.’’

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