The fight over whether Ahwatukee Farms threatens Ahwatukee’s open space intensified last week as representatives of three homeowners association boards condemned the plan and the developer said it “subscribes to their vision” for the community.
“We oppose the current development plan for the Lakes. We believe the homeowners immediately surrounding the Lakes, who are members of the Save the Lakes organization, have a right to preserve their open space,” the three HOA board members said in a letter.
Stating they represent 35,000 citizens and that “we are committed to preserving our high-quality lifestyle,” the letter is signed by Michael Hinz, Foothills Club West HOA board secretary and a member of the Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee; Bill Faustch, president of The Foothills HOA board; and Galen Schliem, president of the Foothills Reserve Master HOA board.
Meanwhile Aidan Barry, senior vice president of development for The True Life Companies said the three HOA officials’ vision “values preserving open space, enhancing close-knit communities and bettering Ahwatukee's high quality lifestyle” and that “Ahwatukee Farms is a beautiful representation of what Ahwatukee residents value.”
True Life is trying to win the approval of 51 percent of the Lakes’ approximate 5,400 homeowners for a change in the conditions, covenants and restrictions (CC&Rs) governing the site’s use.
It wants to build about 280 homes, a five-acre farm, a private school, café and other amenities.
In their letter, the HOA board members said, “As Ahwatukee leaders, we value our close-knit community, cul-de-sac lifestyle, beautiful mountains, landscaped streets, close access to trails, outdoor amenities and open spaces.”
Citing Save The Lakes members’ fight to return the 101-acre site to a golf course, the letter went on:
“As a community, we respect and commit to preserving their rights as a neighborhood and as an association of neighbors. We also believe that what happens in one corner of our community affects all of us. For that reason, we are working together to preserve all of our open spaces in Ahwatukee, whether they are our neighborhood parks, natural preserves, golf courses or lakes.”
Noting that none of the three HOAs are within the Ahwatukee Board of Management, Barry said “what we find most interesting” is “how much our unique project subscribes to their vision for Ahwatukee.”
“We purchased the closed and abandoned former Lakes Golf Course a year and half ago because of our belief that we can create a project that benefits all of Ahwatukee Foothills by maintaining a high quality of life that fits the community,” Barry added. “Our vision includes respecting the homeowners who live around the Farms project and providing real benefits to the community.”
Barry said his company “at our core” is a community builder and that “we strive to create special places that go above and beyond.”
He cited the company’s “self-imposed commitment to protect a minimum of 30 acres of open space on the property, including lakes, trails and parks for all homeowners and residents to enjoy” and said that they would “provide quality amenities not currently available to all residents of the community.”
Barry also said Ahwatukee Farms would “significantly raise property values across Ahwatukee, a sure improvement from the unsustainable status quo.”
He cited several Lakes homeowners—John Johnson and Dave and Tammie Kissman—as supporters who “believe our vision is the only viable option to bring life back into the area.”
“While we respect the opinions of all Ahwatukee Foothills neighbors, we believe strongly that the future of Ahwatukee Farms should be decided by the property owners who have invested their time and money within the ABM community,” Barry said.
“As members of the Ahwatukee community, we would be honored to be a part of the larger discussion, roll up our sleeves and work towards viable solutions,” he added, stressing True Life “will continue to work with the entire community to make our vision of Ahwatukee Farms a reality.”
Meanwhile, Barry also commented on True Life’s latest filings in a court fight with Maricopa County over an assessor’s decision to levy about $1.3 million on the company because the site is no longer a golf course.
Golf courses are assessed at a lower rate but once they are no longer used for golf, the county can go back 10 years and ask for the additional taxes that would have been paid on the property had it not been taxed at the lower rate.
Barry said he would “gladly” pay the county the money if and when the CC&Rs are changed to allow for the development of the course for other uses.
He said the company’s position currently is that the CC&Rs that are in place still limit the land’s use to golf and therefore the company is not obligated to pay a higher rate.