The new “Peoples Initiative” to bring the Loop 202 extension to reservation land has collected the signatures needed to move forward with a vote as early as later this summer.

The new initiative will rescind the “no build” election results of Feb. 7.

Gila River Indian Community Landowners collected more than 1,200 signatures and will now go before the Tribal Council and bring the initiative to a community vote as early as later this summer.

“The 536 signatures are needed to qualify for a measure on the tribal ballot, which must take place within 120 days,” said a statement from GRIC Landowners. “All signatures will be submitted on May 24.”

The new initiative components include: in return for using land on the reservation for the freeway, the state of Arizona shall provide a comparable amount to compensate for the lost land to the Gila River Indian Community; the tribe and/or its allotees shall permit a route different than what was previously voted on with the majority of the route going through private allotted land; and as part of the state of Arizona’s compensation, every enrolled tribal member (including children) shall receive a one-time payment of $2,000.

As part of the agreement with the state of Arizona, they will facilitate the mitigation of all commercial truck traffic down 51st Avenue.

If the freeway is on allotted land it would save the homes and church in Ahwatukee Foothills and most of South Mountain. The route onto the allotted land is different from the route voted on back in February. It requires no new vote. A new vote is only needed in order to go around South Mountain completely, as that land is tribal land and requires community approval.

After the “no build” vote was passed in February, Joseph Perez, a GRIC tribal member and managing partner of PANGEA Development, LLC, hosted a general meeting with allotted landowners to discuss the outcome of the vote, according to GRIC Landowners.

“They felt voters (in general) were misled and were given inaccurate information by the ardent ‘no-build’ group,” GRIC Landowners said. “The landowners felt the community did not realize that the state of Arizona would continue with plans to build the freeway, despite the election results.

“These ‘allotted’ landowners wanted to know what they could do to help the neighboring city of Ahwatukee and save South Mountain from an imminent demise. And they remain committed to creating more self-sufficiency for tribal members via a new freeway, as has occurred for other Arizona tribes.”

The group fighting for no freeway to be built at all is still working to find ways to educate the public about pollution. Lori riddle, a GRIC member and environmental activist, said they plan to continue to fight.

“We’re still against this referendum going on another ballot,” Riddle said. “The community feels like they already voted and made their voice heard. Our opposition, which is the landowners, feel like they need the urban development to come into the community. They have their rights and they’re exercising their rights, I understand that. We’re just not on the same page.”

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