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"Airport Land Use: Large housing development proposed near Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport"
- From: "Stephen Irwin, M.S., A.A.E., I.A.P." <stepheni@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2011 17:10:36 -0700
- Organization: www.californiaaviation.org/irwin.html
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Large housing development proposed for Gateway area
By Jim Walsh
The Arizona Republic
After years of inactivity, the potential developers of a large tract of land
near Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport have submitted a proposal that could
possibly place residential development south of Williams Field Road.
The proposal could conflict with a 2006 agreement that prevents housing in
the area to protect test-flight paths for Boeing's Apache attack
helicopters, which are produced in Mesa.
Boeing negotiated the agreement covering the southern half of the General
Motors Desert Proving Ground with the city and William Levine, the property
Now, Levine is planning to sell part of his 1,800-acre tract to a Canadian
development firm, which is seeking zoning for a master-planned residential
community after years of inactivity during the recession.
Paul Gilbert, a Scottsdale zoning attorney, said he helped negotiate the
agreement barring residential development while he represented Levine in
But he said the agreement would allow the Hill Companies of Canada,
operating as Harvard Investments, to "revisit the issue" of residential
development south of Williams Field Road if the circumstances change.
"We have not made a final decision on that yet," Gilbert said. "We don't
want to hurt Boeing either."
Boeing is one of Mesa's few large employers, a fact that is not lost on Mesa
Mayor Scott Smith, who has been working to attract more development to the
His efforts have included luring two new large employers, First Solar and
"We're going to be very cautious about what we do out there," Smith said.
"We're not going to kill the golden goose."
When zoning for the new master-planned community is approved, it must strike
a delicate balance between preserving historic airport operations, such as
Boeing's test flights, and economic development, he said.
Smith said he expects development action around the airport to escalate in
the near future as other landowners dust off plans with the economy
rebounding from the recession.
Preservation of Boeing's interests has been paramount in the zoning process
for the former GM property.
Boeing said in a statement that the Mesa City Council agreed in 2006 to keep
the land use south of Williams Field Road as light industrial. The driving
force behind the agreement is preservation of an undeveloped flight path for
helicopter test flights.
Although Boeing builds the Apache at a factory in northeast Mesa, the tests
are performed near Gateway, where more protected airspace is available.
A map included with the Hill proposal shows development south of Williams
Field Road and north of Arizona 24, the planned Gateway Freeway.
"The land-use plan envisions commercial, multifamily and higher-density
single-family residential uses in the areas closest to the SR 24 freeway
with more traditional single family opportunities emerging away from the
freeway," the proposal says in reference to the proposed state route.
Construction on the Gateway Freeway between Loop 202 (Santan Freeway) and
Ellsworth Road is scheduled to start in mid-2012, said Doug Nintzel, an
Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman. The next leg between
Ellsworth and Meridian roads is not scheduled for construction until after
Gilbert said it may take up to two years to get the property zoned and
annexed into Mesa.
"We would not be pursuing the rezoning if we didn't have plans" to build on
the property, Gilbert said. "I don't think realistically we will be under
construction for a couple of years."
Hill has a strong record of building premier communities, he said, but it
would be difficult to compare Hill's proposal with any of its other Valley
developments. The goal is to build housing for future employees of
businesses at the airport and in southeast Mesa.
Mesa Planning Director John Wesley said he welcomes the zoning request,
after the city only heard occasionally from Levine's partnership for the
last few years, but his staff has not reviewed it.
"We've been looking for this to come in for some time," Wesley said.
"That area near Gateway, it's not if, it's when. It's a prime location."
Building near an airport?
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