North Peoria luxury apartment proposal shows clash between push for diverse housing and fears over rentals

North Peoria could see nearly 300 new luxury apartments as part of the city’s drive to diversify its housing options, but some residents are opposed, saying the apartments could bring too much density, traffic and noise to the suburban area.

Peoria’s Planning and Zoning Commission recently recommended that the City Council approve the proposed development that would bring 280 luxury apartments to the southeast corner of Lake Pleasant Parkway and Deer Valley Road in the Camino A Lago Marketplace complex, which includes a Walmart Supercenter, restaurants and trendy bars.

Peoria voters in November approved a new general plan — a document meant to guide the City Council when making development decisions — that called for the city to diversify its housing, in part by adding more rental options across the city.

The City Council is tentatively scheduled to discuss the project, dubbed The Place at Camino-a-Lago, in February.

Attorney Jordan Rose, who represents the developer, said Peoria has attracted a lot of great commercial growth in areas like the P83 restaurant and entertainment district, the Park West shopping center and the Camino A Lago Marketplace. Now the city needs a range of housing, from homes to rentals, to flesh it out, she said.

“This will be a true live-work-play,” Rose said. “It really does fulfill that diversity of housing goal that Peoria has set.”

What’s planned and why are some opposed?
Peoria could see new luxury apartments, rendered here, off Lake Pleasant Parkway and Deer Valley Road.
Many of the project’s specifics, such as price, floor plans and amenities, have not been discussed yet. But the apartments are billed as “upscale.”

The developer, MC Companies, is behind The Place at Sonoran Trails development in north Phoenix.

North Peoria is marked by its suburban aesthetic; strip malls border wide roads between master-planned communities full of single-family homes. The area’s handful of apartment complexes are the exception, not the rule.

City leaders have received dozens of pages of feedback from residents about the project, many opposed to it. They cite concerns that apartments would lower property values, increase traffic and add noise.

“Not only are we concerned about having apartments so close by that (it) could distort the views and lower the cost of our home we just purchased in July 2019, we are concerned about the amount of noise the additional vehicles would impose on Lake Pleasant Parkway,” resident Joy Randel wrote in opposition to the project, city records show. “I am concerned that with having family apartments so close to the Walmart, our clean community will resemble the west Phoenix neighborhood I just moved out of.”

Others said, without providing evidence, that apartments could raise the area’s crime rate and expressed concern that several hundred new residents in the area would crowd already crowded schools.

“Apartment complexes are known to bring higher crime rates into their areas. We bought our home because of the excellent safety ratings,” Aaron Dingle wrote in opposition to the project. “The new apartment complex will also put more strain on our schools and roadways, which is another reason that we love this area so much.”

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Some residents in neighboring Surprise expressed similar concerns in 2017 when plans were announced for a high-density rental community at the northeast corner of Reems and Waddell roads. Residents implored the council there to block the development for fear of rental properties bringing more crime to the northwest Valley suburb.

Tom Simplot, who was president and CEO of the Arizona Multihousing Association at the time, said those concerns surrounding rental properties are common, but they’re emotional arguments that don’t have merit.

“That would be fake news,” he said in 2017. “Those allegations are certainly not fact based.”

Surprise Mayor Skip Hall said he isn’t aware of any increase in crime associated with the rental community.

“I haven’t heard anything from police about an uptick in crime,” Hall said, adding that West Valley cities should expect more demand for rentals as they build job hubs. “We found that a lot of rentals in these cottages have been nurses and teachers … that’s where most people start.”

City staff: This project in line with goal to diversify housing
A January report from Peoria staff says the proposed apartment complex is in line with the new general plan’s goal to meet residents’ needs and provide several types of housing, from rentals to single-family homes.

“Providing workforce housing is a growing need for communities across Arizona, and as Peoria continues to grow, the need for this type of housing will grow as well,” the report says.

As the West Valley explodes in growth, rentals are increasingly being built alongside single-family homes. The West Valley in 2020 led metro Phoenix’s home-building growth. Land zoned to house 34,000 apartments has sold in the West Valley since 2016.

If the area is going to keep growing this way — by 2030, more than 40 percent of the Valley’s population could live in the West Valley — then it needs more than just single-family housing and commercial development, advocates say.

Hall, the Surprise mayor, said the West Valley as a region needs more rentals.

“You need to have a balanced approach in housing,” he said, adding that rentals make up about 1.5% of Surprise’s housing. “We are really underserved for multifamily.”

Peoria voters in November overwhelmingly approved the city’s new general plan — it passed with 67 percent of the vote. The plan calls for more “healthy communities,” which have a mix of rental and owned properties so residents can live within their means, the general plan says.

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“This proposal really aims to fulfill the voter’s wishes,” Rose, the attorney, said about the apartment complex. “The site has sat vacant for 16 years and the property owner is excited to redevelop … for what voters said they wanted to see.”

And while some residents are opposed, others say apartments are exactly what the area needs.

“I would think most of us have lived in apartments for one reason or another. There’s a need for temporary housing,” said Shawn Mullins, a resident in nearby The Meadows at Camino A Lago.

Mullins moved into a new home in his neighborhood. When he left his old house, he looked at renting in north Peoria while his new home was being built, but realized there wern’t many options.

“In this area, there’s not a lot to choose from,” he said.

Reach reporter Joshua Bowling at jbowling@azcentral.com or 602-444-8138. Follow him on Twitter @MrJoshuaBowling.

SOURCE: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/peoria/2021/01/30/north-peoria-could-land-luxury-apartments-but-some-opposed/4264652001/

AUTHOR: Joshua Bowling

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