By Kelly O’Sullivan, Independent Newsmedia
The Maricopa County Planning and Zoning Commission voted 7-2 Thursday, May 28 to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve a Military Compatibility Permit that would allow the owner of a 157-acre site that now houses Falcon Golf Club in unincorporated Litchfield Park to build a FedEx cross-dock truck terminal on the back half of the property.
The site at 15152 W. Camelback Road #5600, is adjacent to Luke Air Force Base and across from Goodyear’s planned Palm Valley 303 business park.
Nearby residential communities include Palm Valley V, PebbleCreek and Litchfield Greens, with the closest being 1/2 mile from the site.
Chairman Luke Schlosser, Vice Chair Greg Arnett and Commissioners Nathan Andersen, Jimmy Lindblom, Broc Hiatt, Matt Gress and Jennifer Ruby voted in favor of recommending approval. Commissioners Bruce Burrows and Francisco Montoya voted against.
The vote came after a nearly 4/12-hour public hearing that included a presentation by developer KW Projects’ representative Jason Morris of Withey Morris law firm. About 30 project opponents, including Litchfield Park Mayor Thomas L. Schoaf and Engineer Woody Scoutten as well as residents of both Litchfield Park and Goodyear who live near the proposed facility also spoke. Mr. Schlosser said at the start of the hearing that 184 residents told the county they oppose the project but did not wish to speak.
The majority of speakers were concerned about eastbound and westbound traffic on Camelback Road from Litchfield Road to Sarival Avenue, especially at 152nd Avenue, where trucks will enter and leave the facility. They also cited noise concerns and said both have the potential to severely impact quality of life and reduce residential property values.
Officials from Luke Air Force Base and the cities of Goodyear and Glendale did not speak at the meeting, but Goodyear and Luke officials both wrote letters expressing concerns about traffic and asked for road improvements to mitigate traffic if the project is approved.
Mr. Morris said the the developer’s representatives took commissioners’ advice to reach out to Luke and local city officials after a May 14 hearing on the project ended early when the commisison lost its quorum.
Confusion about the number of truck trips has swirled around the project, with the number of trips estimated as high as 4,000 to 6,000 per day.
Mr. Morris said the developer estimates that 585 FedEx trucks will go into and out of the facility over a 24-hour period, for a total of 1,170 trips on Camelback Road, with 90% headed west to the Loop 303 freeway. The remaining 10% would head east only to make deliveries to businesses in Litchfield Park, he said. Litchfield Park’s commercial truck ordinance allows only for deliveries in city limits, with no through traffic and FedEx will abide by that regulation.
The property also would generate additional passenger vehicle trips by workers, but Mr. Morris told commissioners the amount of all traffic generated by the facility will be a fraction of that generated by the PV303 business park at build-out, which could be upwards of 55,000 vehicle trips daily.
“We are the equivalent of a movie theater across the street from Disneyland in terms of traffic,” he said.
Mr. Morris also said the property owner will abide by a Litchfield Park ordinance restricting truck traffic in the city to deliveries only, with no through traffic permitted.
Mr. Scoutten disagreed with Mr. Morris’ assessment on traffic impacts, saying traffic increases will overwhelm Camelback and Sarival Roads and that the facility “should be located in a planned industrial site like PV303.”
Other speakers said they drive Camelback Road in the area daily and battle congestion at several points along the roadway.
“It can take me 10 minutes to turn right on to Camelback,” said Rita Paul, who lives in the Palm Valley subdivision and takes 152nd Avenue to Camelback on her way to work in Litchfield Park. “Sometimes traffic can be backed up from Sarival to the golf course, both eastboud and westbound.”
Colleen McDermott, who also lives in Palm Valley called the traffic in the area “horrendous.”
The letter submitted by Luke officials stated that the facility would not impact flight operations, but increased traffic would negatively impact response times to issues on base and affect service members’ access to and from work stations on base.
Speaker Keith Christensen, who lives near 145th Avenue and Orange, raised concerns about the impact on Litchfield Park’s new Little League field at 144th Avenue and Camelback. He also wondered how he and his neighbors will get into and out of their community if Camelback Road is closed for an accident since it’s the only way into their neighborhood.
In regard to a question about noise from Ms. Montoya, Mr. Morris said it would not compare to the noise from Luke’s runway, where fighter jets take off and land multiple times a day.
Many of the residents who spoke objected to his comment on noise, saying jets don’t fly 24 hours a day.
When Ms. Montoya said she lives a half mile from Swift Transportation Corporation’s facility in Phoenix, and hears noise from there at her home, Mr. Morris said that all unloading and loading will be done inside the facility and the trailers will be pulled into the dock using a system that does not require trucks to back up.
After the hearing, commissioners discussed their views on the facility, with most agreeing with Mr. Andersen’s assessment that it’s consistent with county zoning for the area and compatible with Luke AFB requirements and Goodyear and Glendale general plans. He also said he was comfortable with traffic mitigations and outreach conducted by the developer, though they did not contact anyone outside the required 300 feet proximity.
“Development needs to pay for itself and this one will,” he said.
Ms. Montoya agreed that while the development meets all the conditions for approval, commissioners should take into account the impact on neighborhoods and quality of life.
The project will go before the county Board of Supervisors next, though a date was not announced at the meeting.
Kelly O’Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-963-1697.
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