This year was a year of big headlines in Ahwatukee Foothills.

A longtime golf course closed its doors, the Arizona Department of Transportation released their Draft Environmental Impact study on a freeway that has threatened Ahwatukee’s cul-de-sac reputation for years and Ahwatukee was once again the headquarters of a competitive election. Here’s a look back at some of what happened in 2013:

The Lakes

The Lakes Golf Club has been a staple in Ahwatukee from the beginning, but this year owner Wilson Gee of Ahwatukee Golf Properties finally closed the course.

Gee told neighbors the course hasn’t been making money for some time and he had no other choice but to close and try to sell the land to a developer. Neighbors rallied and created Save the Lakes, a group fighting to enforce the neighborhood’s covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) which state the course must be kept a golf course.

The course was closed in May and since then it’s been a standoff between Ahwatukee Golf Properties (AGP) and neighbors. AGP at one point let the lakes on the course go dry, but the neighborhood rallied once again and got the company to agree to continue filling the lakes through February. A barbed wire fence was set up around the property and rumors have spread that Pulte Homes may have some interest in the land.

It’s unclear what will happen to the course in the future. City Councilman Sal DiCiccio has stated several times that nothing will happen to the course without the approval of neighbors, but the neighborhood cannot force Gee to run the course as a business.

Loop 202

The Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway has been on the books in Arizona since 1985 but only this year did the state release their Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the roadway.

The release of the inches-thick document was followed by a 90-day comment period which was filled with opinions from tribal members, community members, business leaders and politicians.

Several groups in Ahwatukee came out opposed to the freeway but none were as outspoken as Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children (PARC) who held several public meetings, passed out pamphlets and submitted their own 300-page document, complete with opinions from several nationally recognized experts, to ADOT pointing out problems in the DEIS.

ADOT is now in the process of reviewing all comments submitted during the comment period. Each must be addressed in their final EIS which they expect to release in spring of 2014. ADOT has said construction could begin on the freeway as early as 2015. PARC leadership has said they’re confident their comments will slow the process, if not stop the freeway altogether.

Court cases

Several high profile court cases in Ahwatukee Foothills wrapped up this year.

Anthony Rinaldi was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife in 2011. Rinaldi reportedly shot his wife in their Ahwatukee home and then fled the scene while the victim’s young son called police.

Rinaldi pled guilty to second-degree murder.

An Ahwatukee mother, Ambreatte Daniels, also pled guilty to child abuse. Daniels was arrested in November of 2011 following the October 2011 death of her 3-year-old daughter Dani Mayo. The girl was allegedly abused by her stepfather, Corey Daniels and police suspect Ambreatte knew about the abuse.

A judge made a surprise decision in November to dismiss a 2004 first-degree murder case and allow the defendant, Jeffrey Martinson, to go free. Martinson was accused of killing his 5-year-old son, Joshua Eberle-Martinson, in 2004 during an overnight visit. Martinson was found guilty in 2011 but the verdict was thrown out in 2012 and a new trial ordered due to juror misconduct. Martinson was awaiting a new trial when Judge Sally Duncan’s decision to set him free came down.

Duncan said the scope and extent of the misconduct in the case left her no choice but to dismiss the case with prejudice.

City Council election

Ahwatukee is known for being a competitive political district, and that was especially true during 2012’s City Council election. Incumbent Sal DiCiccio came out with a win over Karlene Keogh Parks but the campaign was full of nasty campaign tactics. DiCiccio is still fighting some of the groups that sent out malicious mailers about him, saying they violated several campaign finance laws.

On election night DiCiccio told supporters he would continue to focus on domestic violence, homelessness, job creation and pensions at the city of Phoenix.

This year was full of game changers for Ahwatukee Foothills and promises of big things to come. It will be interesting to see what happens in 2014.

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