Fri, Oct. 18

Zoning commission revisits Bashas' Center plan<br>Neighbors offer alternate plan, oppose 'standard'

The Cottonwood Planning and Zoning Commission faces immediate and controversial planning zoning decisions at its meeting Monday evening.

Local officials and residents also are facing decisions about more long-range planning and the resulting local and regional impacts.

That was the gist of a neighborhood meeting Oct. 4 hosted by the W.M. Grace Development Co., Phoenix, developer for Bashas' stores.

At issue is development of approximately 144 acres of Groseta Ranch land along Arizona 89A, from south of Verde Heights Drive to approximately one-third mile north of Groseta Ranch Road. The property owner is Andy Groseta, represented by Kurt D. Reed and Associates.

The commission must weigh immediately what will be the best use of the property – a proposed Bashas' Center at Verde Heights Road and Arizona 89A, or possible strip malls allowable under current zoning, or maybe something else.

The key item of contention is the placement of the proposed Bashas' Center.

The developer's plan places the Bashas' store at the corner of Arizona 89A and Verde Heights Road.

An unprecedented neighborhood alternate plan – proposed by some Verde Heights residents, assisted by 30-year architect and Verde Valley resident Joseph Smyth – places the store approximately 1,300 feet farther from the developer's corner location, toward the center of the development site.

Long-time Verde Heights resident Sally Davidson later said, "Our objective is to have a plan that works for everyone, and we believe the plan that we have come up with accomplishes that."

Howard T. Grace, vice president of the development company, led the meeting Oct. 4. He allowed time at the end of the meeting for a presentation of the neighborhood alternate plan by Smyth.

However, Smyth said later that the neighborhood alternate plan wasn't even mentioned at a subsequent meeting Grace hosted for Del Webb/Cottonwood Ranch residents.

Grace said Bashas' wants to build a new, 50,000-square-foot store with expanded deli and produce departments, as well as an in-facility pharmacy. Bashas' hopes to open the new store in fall 2003, he said.

The current Bashas' grocery store, near Main Street and Arizona 89A, isn't owned by Bashas' and is only leased, according to Grace.

The developer's plan – which Grace said is a standard plan he has used often – has the Bashas' store backing up to nearby homes and at an intersection that some Verde Heights residents consider dangerous.

Smyth, during his later presentation, told attendees, "If you don't want to settle for standard, you don't have to."

The intersection has no stoplight and, according to various city and county officials, is unlikely to get one in the near future. Those officials have cited Arizona Department of Transportation criteria requiring certain spacing between stoplights. A stoplight now exists at Arizona 89A and Mingus Avenue.

Dick Bridgewater, a 28-year resident and former council member, urged attendees to make their stances on the issues known. "Go down to the city council, like you're doing here," he said.

Regarding ADOT requirements and the perceived need for a stoplight at Verde Heights Drive, Bridgewater said, "There's no such thing as 'never' – we can get a light here, if you raise enough hell."

Robyn Prud'homme-Bauer, chairperson of the Clarkdale Planning and Zoning Commission, said Clarkdale wants to minimize stoplights along Arizona 89A, to keep from impeding traffic flow.

Clarkdale has two major industrial concerns, with truck traffic, she said, adding that she would like to see medians and turnouts, as well as a 45-mph speed limit along Arizona 89A.

Later in the meeting, Prud'homme-Bauer told Grace that Clarkdale represents a majority of Bashas' constituents or customers. "How do you plan to work with us?" she asked. "There is an effect on our region."

Grace said there had been some input from Clarkdale's Planning and Zoning staff members.

Smyth said Clarkdale and Cottonwood are both affected by the property's development and the two municipalities "need to be doing planning simultaneously."

There should be meetings of citizens and landowners from both Clarkdale and Cottonwood, he said, to do a master plan "for this entire area."

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