Big changes could be coming to Ahwatukee in 2014 - Ahwatukee Foothills News: News

Big changes could be coming to Ahwatukee in 2014

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Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 3:45 am | Updated: 8:49 am, Tue May 6, 2014.

Ahwatukee Foothills could see some major changes in 2014.

Ahwatukee could see one of its oldest golf courses sold to a developer, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) may get approval to destroy 100 homes in Ahwatukee and cut off several ridges of South Mountain to build a freeway, the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce will celebrate 20 years and Phoenix’s most outspoken city councilman will be representing Ahwatukee once again. Here’s a look at what’s to come in 2014:

Loop 202

In 2013 ADOT released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the South Mountain Freeway. That release was followed by a 90-day comment period when the agency received thousands of comments. Each must be addressed in their Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which will then be used to get a Record of Decision from the federal government for the project.

While ADOT doesn’t have firm timelines set for these next two steps (which historically have taken more than a year) Timothy Tait, ADOT spokesperson, said ADOT is on track so far for both to happen in 2014.

City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said while Phoenix has no say in the final placement of the freeway he plans to stay in contact with local groups like Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children (PARC) and helping them where possible.

PARC is opposed to the building of the freeway. The group has plans to fight ADOT in court if they continue to move forward with the project. They’ve been fundraising in 2013 in preparation of that court battle and plan to continue that effort in 2014. For more information, visit protectazchildren.org.

The Lakes

The Lake Golf Course was closed for business in 2013 and a fence was erected to keep trespassers off the land. For now, it’s a stand-off between neighbors who want to keep the golf course as is and the owner of the course, who wants to sell the land to a developer.

DiCiccio said he’s been pressuring owner Wilson Gee to take down the barbed-wired fence that surrounds the course and he plans to continue that pressure in 2014. He and Gee are scheduled to meet in the early part of 2014.

“I want that fence down around the Lakes,” DiCiccio said. “Nothing is going to happen there. We need them to be respectful neighbors and then they can work with the neighbors in that area. No one is going to meet with anyone for any reason until that fence starts to come down. The first conversation deals with that fence. It’s blight in our neighborhood.”

City of Phoenix

Councilman DiCiccio won a tough election this year to represent Ahwatukee Foothills and District 6 for another term. As usual, he has big plans for the coming year.

Topping his list is pension reform, homelessness and sex trafficking.

DiCiccio said he’s working with citizen groups to address pension reform.

“That’s part of solving our long-term debt problem in the city of Phoenix,” he said. “It’s not going to happen with the current mayor and council. They’re going to have to be citizen-run citizen initiatives. The citizens will basically have to do it themselves since the politicians won’t.”

DiCiccio said there are two initiatives in the works, one to get all city employees away from a defined benefit plan and more toward a 401k plan and a second that would force governmental agencies to pay their unfunded pension debt, which DiCiccio said is currently at $2.4 billion for the city of Phoenix.

“The biggest thing is keeping the culture of government in line with that of our households,” he said.

The councilman is also working with private groups to get more funding to help address homelessness and sex trafficking. He said Councilman Jim Waring is forming a task force to address sex trafficking and it’s something he plans to help with where possible.

“I don’t know a whole lot about it, but I know enough about it to know it’s just gross enslavement,” he said. “Young kid’s lives are being destroyed by these traffickers and we can do something about it.”

Mayor Greg Stanton said his focus for 2014 will be on building a more diverse and competitive economy through several different avenues including the new cancer center, improving public transportation — especially with the new Bike Share program, continued partnerships with local K-12 programs, continued support for the arts and historic preservation, and the new trade office opening in Mexico in 2014.

“We want the right kind of job creation and community development that will make Phoenix as competitive as possible,” Stanton said. “What we’ve been working on for the last two years is exactly what we’ll be working on in 2014 and beyond. We need to make sure our city is prepared to compete in the national economy.

Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce

In 2014 the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce will celebrate 20 years in the community.

It’s a big accomplishment for a group that started small and now represents more than 450 businesses in the community. To celebrate the group will be recognizing businesses that have been with the chamber since the beginning and will be hosting a celebration in March for all current members.

Anne Gill, president and chief executive officer of the chamber, said the board has also discussed providing more resources and business education for members in 2014. Specific topics haven’t been selected yet, but a task force will be surveying members to better understand what needs they have and what professional speakers or partnerships would help meet those needs.

Gill said it will also be interesting to see how health care affects businesses and chamber members when all the new laws go into effect.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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