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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Effort Launched to Halt Laveen Housing Development

On Jan. 9, the Phoenix City Council approved a rezoning request initiated by Old World Communities, developer of the Berkana communities, to make room for a neighborhood of attached duplexes and townhomes/apartments near the northwest corner of Baseline Road and 27th Avenue.


And while the decision puts the affordable housing development a significant step closer to reality, one group of local residents is determined to halt any additional progress.


The Coalition to Preserve Laveen Village, a volunteer committee organized by Laveen resident Randy Jones and his wife Jen, launched a referendum drive shortly after the City Council vote.


The group’s goal is to collect 9,798 signatures from registered voters who oppose the project – the required amount for the referendum. If the total is reached, the City Council must reconsider their action and either repeal it or turn the decision over to voters.


“This is a community effort,” Jones said. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get 1,000 volunteers who get 15 signatures each? What a message that would send.”


Valid signatures had to be filed within 30 days of the City Council’s decision – or Feb. 8. 


“Our group isn’t against the project itself,” Jones added. “We’re against the location of the project.”


Created by former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson as a division of Old World Communities, Berkana Homes is seeking to develop 129 single-family attached units and 431 multi-family units on the 28-acre site. The company’s communities target entry-level professionals – including law enforcement, fire fighters and educators – using special incentives such as tuition grants and mortgage abatement. 


In November, Berkana Homes announced a program for credit-challenged buyers who want to lease a new home and have the option to purchase the property at the end of a one-year term.  


Because of Laveen’s rapid growth, Jones says his group agrees with the Berkana concept. However, he adds, the proposed location will increase overcrowding at area schools, strain an already-stressed utilities infrastructure, and add to traffic problems on Baseline Road.

“These types of high-density projects and housing complexes should be near city cores,” Jones said. “If you look at this, it’s out in the middle of nowhere.”


A representative for the Berkana project in Laveen declined comment.


The efforts of the Coalition to Preserve Laveen Village go beyond the Berkana project. Jones said many residents feel their voice isn’t being heard at the city council level. 


“This is our stake in the ground,” he stressed.


Jones said residents want city council to spend more time improving the area’s infrastructure and bringing in hospitals, instead of just adding buildings to increase the tax base. What’s more, they’re concerned that the number of required signatures to oppose a land-use decision is four times more than the amount required to remove a councilmember.


“I haven’t heard anyone who says Laveen is anti-growth. What we are is pro-responsible growth,” he added.


For more information on the Coalition to Preserve Laveen Village call 602-445-6332 or e-mailing Iopposeberkana@cox.net.


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