Group Forming Collective Voice for Concerns
The recently formed Friends of South Mountain say Phoenix city officials are listening to area residents, but are not paying attention to what they are saying.
“If citizens do not stand together as a powerful voice, they will not hear us,” said Tina Leadbetter, one of the organizers.
She said Friends of South Mountain was formed last summer as a result of the collective concern of residents about the approval of the site plan change of a Conor Development at 30th Street and Southern Avenue, which they say changes the nature of the neighborhood.
“The whole neighborhood realized the need to come together as an organization to play a role in the city’s zoning and planning of our neighborhoods outside the general plan.”
Other neighborhoods have joined in including her own Bartlett-Heard, Desert Rose, Legacy, Ravenswood and several other communities just north.
The catalyst of residents joining the group was the Conor development, which had its site plan change approved by the city.
She said usually the rest of the council follows the lead of the councilman or woman from the district, but not this time.
She said the Conor project was opposed by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Michael Johnson, the District 8 Councilman. The project was rejected at the Village level, but approved at every level after that including the okay of the city council.
“We said no and the city said yes. We appealed again and the city still said yes,” she said.
District 6 Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who voted in favor of the site plan change, acknowledges that the site plan changes the project from six buildings to one unit and that it attracts different users such as trucks and traffic, but the city seldom if ever rejects a site plan modification.
“That’s the crux of it. It was a site plan change and property owners, as a general rule, are allowed to modify their site plan.”
This angered residents
“That’s great, but where does that leave the residents. Why is the general plan important if the city is going to make every change the developer wants,” she said. “They approved a site plan change that changes the nature of the neighborhood that had been outlined in the last general plan which had input from residents.”
The last general plan review took place in 2007. During the process, residents are traditionally asked to give their opinions on what they would like their neighborhoods to look like in the future.
She said her neighbors told city officials what they wanted and this was not it.
“We didn’t learn about Conor in time,” she said. “Now we are hyper-vigilant.”
She said from here on, the Friends of South Mountain will be aware of every proposed project at every level.
Another project in the neighborhood has been put on hold because of the bad publicity surrounding the Conor project. TrammellCrow backed away from a project at 28th Street and Southern Avenue. If approved as originally filed, it would have consisted of about 300,000 square feet of warehouse space divided between two 40-foot-high buildings on 19 acres. Five acres on the property’s west side would remain undeveloped.
Leadbetter said residents can no longer rely on their city council to listen to their wishes.
“They are not listening to us and we don’t know why,” she said.