The elections are coming up and for some Phoenix neighborhoods there are issues on the ballot that are just as important as who takes over as the next mayor. Proposition 2 will have a huge impact on one Phoenix neighborhood, but being focused on Ahwatukee I wasn't hearing too much about it. When I finally heard the full story, I realized what a great thing it is. Prop 2 is about a community taking action.

The City Council voted and approved to change the zoning in a neighborhood from residential to commercial, in order to allow a QuikTrip to be built at 44th Street and Palm Lane in Phoenix. Since then, neighbors have been stepping up and have collected enough signatures to make sure their voices are heard.

Ahwatukee residents Johnny and Anna Johnson, who own a home in the area, tell me this issue is something that has been going on for some time with different developers.

The Johnsons bought a home in a cul-de-sac off 44th Street in 1972. At the time, Johnny says there were horse pastures across the street and the lot next to the cul-de-sac was a church.

Over the years development happened and now on one side of the cul-de-sac is a Del Taco, a dentist's office and a car wash. On the other side is an empty dirt lot that the city now wants to turn into a 24-hour QT. Down the street on McDowell is a Chevron.

The developers who want to build the QT see a busy street with some high gas prices they may be able to compete with but the Johnsons say there's plenty of gas stations in the area and all they want is something neighborhood friendly.

The Johnsons, whose son Rick lives in the house with his young son, say they worry not only about the large lights shining into the house all night, but also about an increase in crime and a decrease in property value.

"There are 10 homes in the cul-de-sac and they're effectively making us a little island," Johnny said. "It's very difficult to sell a home and the value of the homes now, even with the real estate market going down, it has gone down even more because nobody wants to live next to the car wash and the Del Taco.

"Now, if you get this QT in, I think it will kill any future sales of any homes. I think if they want to be fair about it, then they ought to let the 10 homes be rezoned to be commercial and give these people a chance to sell their homes to a developer."

Johnny believes his home is worth about the same that he paid for it in 1972.

Rick says he spoke to a man at the nearby Chevron recently and was told they have someone arrested almost weekly. That's unsettling news for him.

His young son won't even sleep in his own bed because of an incident that happened years ago when police went door to door searching for a man who had robbed the Chevron. Another gas station may be an invitation for more crime.

"This is the first time something like this has gotten on the ballot to override the City Council. They really need to let the neighbors win on this because if they don't QTs could be in any neighborhood," Anna said. "They're setting a precedent and we don't want that. It's just not right. You should be able to have some say over your neighborhood."

This neighborhood's city councilman is Michael Johnson, but the rezoning was approved by our own Ahwatukee City Councilman, Sal DiCiccio.

I called DiCiccio to see what his reasoning was. He said he understands both sides of this argument and it was a tough choice, but he said he voted yes because it was a simple zoning case.

"I voted for Prop 2 at the council but I'm not taking any public position on the propositions," DiCicco said. "All my focus right now is making sure Peggy Neely gets elected. That's the only one I'm taking a strong position on is the mayor's race because it's so vital to the city."

Of course Chevron is against the new gas station. Rick said they're the ones who sent representatives door to door in the neighborhood to inform the community of what was going on.

Still, even if the movement was started by a gas station not wanting competition, neighbors are definitely on board.

"Vote no on Prop 2," Anna said. "It is a battle between gas stations, but the actual people that live there don't want it. They can put up apartments, condos, another church, a private school or a day care. They could do a lot of things with that area that would be neighborhood friendly. I just don't think this gas station would be conducive to happy living."

I think the way residents have stepped up and gotten together is inspiring and I hope the rest of Phoenix sees that, too. They want control over their neighborhood and, in my opinion, it's what they deserve.

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

(3) comments

goldmentor

What kind of reporter is reporting this? Either she is blond or stupid. Below are some articles from a real reporter.

Gas Wars: Citizens Against Neighborhood Encroachment or Citizens Against American Business Competition
August 24 2011 by Jean Valjean | View other posts by Jean Valjean

“QuikTrip officials have said they are not experienced campaigners because they have never had a gas-station issue end up on a ballot.”Arizona Republic
Who doesn’t like QuikTrip? Cheap gas. Tasty drinks. Well, apparently a local Chevron franchise owner working with local political consultant Jason Rose feels otherwise.


Citizens Against Neighborhood Encroachment is a political action committee financed by Takhar Associates Investment Group. The Takhar family owns the investment group and conveniently owns a trailer park and Chevron gas station at McDowell Road and 44th Street, just a .5 mile jaunt south of the QuikTrip proposed for the northwest corner of 44th Street and Palm Lane.

Political action committee names are always very humorous, often concealing their true motivations behind puff language and creative acronyms. Citizens Against Neighborhood Encroachment sounds like it would comprise of concerned Phoenix citizens opposed to some sinister land plot. One would have to look behind the name to see that this group’s true motivations boil down to passing a ballot proposition that would eliminate the threat of a business competitor.
“The Takhars have said they aren’t afraid of competition. They are focused on the cost of land. They said they paid more than $3.5 million for the trailer-park and gas-station properties in the east Phoenix neighborhood, but that QuikTrip is buying property for much less because the land on Palm Lane is zoned for homes, not businesses.”
In a statement to CBS 5 News, owner Rajinder K. Takhar said: “It (Prop 2) changes the rules for a massive corporation to hurt our small businesses and those of the single family neighborhoods in the area. Liquor, gas and convenience stores should go on commercially planned land not in the middle of single family neighborhoods, especially in a part of Phoenix that has 10 gas stations within a mile.”
The Takhars claim it is not about competition at all but an unfair price advantage in land. How is that any better? If land were truly a viable residential option, why has it remained vacant for over 20 years? It is not about a “concern” for the “neighborhood” but instead about eliminating American business competition, the single force that allows the free market to operate properly. I thought the rule was the best product wins? According to Takhar family, that’s balderdash.
A ‘Yes’ vote on Proposition 2 would approve the rezoning of property located at the southwest corner of 44th Street and Palm Lane, currently zoned as residential, to permit a gas station and convenience store. A ‘No’ vote would leave that parcel as residential only. A copy of Proposition 2 can be viewed here.
According to Mike Thornbrugh, a spokesman for QuikTrip:
“In 50 years of doing business we have never seen this before where you do all your due diligence, we made 13, 14, 15 changes to accommodate some of the concerns out there, and we have never had a competitor come in and spend this kind of money.”
Opponents of Proposition 2 would like to present this struggle as a “David vs. Goliath” type effort. Fighting a multi-billion dollar corporation looking to locate a business in their quaint neighborhood. According to Citizens Against Neighborhood Encroachment:
“An out-of-state corporation, out-of-state property owner and influential lobbyist convinced the Phoenix City Council to change the rules and allow a liquor, gas and convenience store, operating 24hours per day, 7 days a week, to go into the middle of an East Phoenix neighborhood, on land that was long-planned for residential.”
But who are the REAL opponents?
According to the Arizona Republic:
In its statement of organization, the PAC said it got a $51,500 loan from Enterprise Bank and Trust late last year.
About $50,000 of the loan covered the residents’ fees for Summit Consulting Group, which gathered more than the 9,798 signatures the residents needed for a voter referendum to fight the QuikTrip.
Summit Consulting is a professional consulting firm that manages campaigns and political candidates including running the YES on Proposition 1 (Home Rule) campaign, to contracts with candidates such as Claude Mattox and Matt Salmon. Jason Rose is arguably the biggest PR name in the Valley, and his services come with a hefty price tag. Further, the $50,000 loan comes from the Takhar Associates Investment Group, an LLC owned by Rajinder Takhar. Rajinder is the wife of Gurvinder Takhar, who illegally sold the Chevron station to his wife when he was convicted of tax evasion in 2002.
Apparently, the gas business has been very, very good to the Takhar’s, who own a $1.5 million dollar home in Moon Valley. There is no doubt that they are aware of the fact that a new QT will affect their business and hurt their current profit margins as the closest gas station near the 202 freeway.
The most recent campaign filings for NO on Prop 2 at the Phoenix City Clerk Department show the loan came from Takhar Associates Investment Group, a Glendale limited-liability company whose owner, Rajinder Takhar, lives in Paradise Valley. Again, these are the same Takhars who own and operate the Chevron at 44th Street and McDowell.
The Takhars also suggest their opposition to Prop 2 is a matter of concerns over congestion and public safety, trying to rally the neighborhood around the cause. As anyone who lives in the area or routinely drives by the proposed location knows, the area is already congested and the site has been nothing more than a vacant dirt lot for over 20 years. The home directly across from the proposed QT site routinely has six plus cars parked in the driveway and the street including numerous cabs. If there were ever a case to be made for an HOA, this is it. Further, the Chevron located at 44th Street and McDowell trying to force QuikTrip out of the neighborhood is sadly a magnet for transients, taggers, meth addicts and bus stop hooligans.
A Clean Freak car wash already exists 100 yards to the south of the proposed site and a Costco exists another 100 yards to the north. The idea that this area is exclusively residential is a stretch. The addition of a new QuikTrip, which will provide a well-lit 24-hour business with new jobs and improve an already blighted property, should be considered a welcome addition to the area. The Phoenix City Council, along with the Planning Village and Planning and Zoning Committees, already approved the development of this property by QuikTrip.
Opponents of Proposition 2 recently claimed in a mailer that “a recent Arizona State University study found convenience stores such as Circle K and QuikTrips generate large numbers of calls about crime.” Wouldn’t the same logic apply to the Takhars Chevron station? However, in all fairness, the inclusion of QuikTrip in the mailer is not accurate. The ASU study actually concluded that Circle K’s “comprised more than half of all police calls to convenience stores in Mesa, Glendale and Tempe in 2010, although the chain makes up no more than a third of convenience stores in each of the cities.”
Further, let’s look at the QuikTrip business model. QuikTrip operates the “Safe Place” program, which is a national nonprofit organization that provides safety for troubled or threatened youth.
According to QT’s website:
Since 1991, QuikTrip has been a designated SafePlace, where runaways and at-risk youth can come in off the street, receive food and drink, and wait for a volunteer from a SafePlace agency partner to connect them with professional help or a place to stay until their situation is resolved.
More on the Safe Place program can be found here. More on QT’s community involvement can be viewed here.
Need more proof? In February, QuikTrip was named one of the 100 Best Places to Work by Fortune magazine. It was QuikTrip’s fifth consecutive year on the list.
According to CSDecisions.com:
What’s even more impressive is that the honor comes at a time when gas prices are among the highest they have ever been, and competition from supermarkets and hypermarts is as fierce as ever.
Finally, as anyone who frequents QTs can easily recognize, the convenience stores are frequented by law enforcement. It is my understanding that many QTs provide free coffee and even free food for police officers. The Phoenix Police Department utilizes the QT station located at 16th Street and Highland as a police substation, routinely using the back parking lot as a mobile DUI-testing and booking station. In Edwardsville, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri, I am personally aware of two QuikTrips that provide space in the back of their properties for police substations because the main police department station is located on the other side of town.
Does this sound like a bad addition to a neighborhood that struggles with crime?
Gurvinder Singh Takhar, the original owner of the Chevron station, apparently is no saint either, having been involved in a nasty family altercation that resulted in domestic violence charges and costly litigation. Takhar also spent time in jail for tax evasion. Court records show he served five months in prison in 2002 and paid $40,000 in fines after he was convicted of felony attempted tax evasion. Phoenix police records show Gurvinder later was denied a liquor license for the AM/PM gas station in Phoenix that is now the Chevron operating under his wife’s name.
Takhar is also politically connected. Takhar hosted a fundraiser for Peggy Neely at his lavish home back in 2010. Neely opposes Proposition 2, along with the other candidates for Mayor.
The opposition to Proposition 2 from the mayoral candidates is likely due to the fact that NAILEM, the largest neighborhood group in the City of Phoenix, opposes the proposition. A sure fire way to lose a large chunk of votes in a low turnout election in the City of Phoenix is to offend neighborhood groups.
There is nothing wrong with a community rallying together and putting forth a referendum to oppose zoning changes made at City Hall. It is the purest form of democracy and the right of the community at the heart of this struggle. In fact, it is believed that this is the first time a referendum will ever appear on a Phoenix City ballot.
However, in the same breath, this effort must also be viewed for what it truly is: one well-financed business owner using the political process and high priced consultants to put another private company out of business.

Superemb

Goldmentor you make it sound like it is all about a bad gas station owner against a wonderful gas station owner. There is more to it. There is a neighborhood that is against having another gas station, more transients, more traffic in their neighborhood when the land is supposed to be residential, not commercial. Even you said 100 yards away is a Costco. That Costco has a gas station too. This lot has not been vacant for 20 years. They tore down the church that was on this property 3 years ago to build condos but the housing crash stopped it. It is obvious this was a planted comment by QT. Would you really be happy having a police substation to test drunks on the other side of your backyard in the parking lot of a gas station that sells liquor 24 hours a day? Oh yes that makes me feel so much more secure and happy. LOL
This QT would be surrounded on 3 sides with houses.
Yes the Chevron has contributed money to fight this fight. Yes QT has spent money to fight this fight too. Funny how you only see one side. Yes lets give more jobs (only 10) to another out of state company. NOT
Your arguments are not very strong. Especially when you start right off with slamming a hard working writer for no reason. Your attitude only weakens your case. Vote NO on PROP 2. Help the neighborhood. I know I have a house there

goldmentor

Superemb... you must be one of those neighbors with a dirt lawn, 6 cars up on blocks in the driveway. OPPS. I just described every house in that neighborhood.

VOTES YES ON PROP 2 to clean up this blighted neighborhood.

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