Community fights for its neighborhood with Prop. 2 - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Tukee Talk

Community fights for its neighborhood with Prop. 2

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Allison Hurtado

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Posted: Sunday, August 21, 2011 9:00 am | Updated: 11:13 am, Tue Dec 27, 2011.

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

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