Flooding

In the aftermath of the downpour July 18, water accumulated along the north rim of the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course development.

The True Life Companies rolled out their plan for the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Club in last week’s AFN. They want to put 300 or more homes, community gardens, a restaurant, a farmer's market, and a Montessori school in, of all places, a master-planned flood control.

Not a good idea.

Ahwatukee's masterplan and Scottsdale's Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt are the work of one man, landscape architect and land planner Wayne Smith. When preparing for the January Ahwatukee Town Hall on flooding, Smith said that our two golf courses are more important as flood controls for Ahwatukee than the Greenbelt is for Scottsdale. Here’s why:

  • Ahwatukee is built on an alluvial fan located on the east side of South Mountain. The fan is the result of thousands of years of periodic flash floods. Homeowners on Mandan Street can testify to the devastating power of local flash floods.
  • Prior to development in the early 1970s, the earliest historical aerial photos of Ahwatukee show a single ranch house, and later, one small cotton field. During the same period, farms and agriculture were flourishing due east in Tempe. This site was unsuitable for much of anything due to the drainage.
  • A map at the City of Phoenix Floodwater Management Department shows a thalweg slices through the Lakes Golf Club. A thalweg is a line drawn to join the lowest points along the entire length of a stream bed or valley in its downward slope, defining its deepest channel. The drop is about 60 feet from 41st Street to 48th Street.

Handling the drainage was the biggest problem for Wayne Smith and Presley civil engineers. The Lakes and the Ahwatukee County Club golf courses were set aside to channel, retain, and detain storm water runoff.

True Life's plan will replace turf, swales, trees, and five cascading lakes with asphalt, concrete and hardscape. The net density will end up to be 4.25 or more homes per residential acre.

True Life gambled when it bought the Lakes and became defendant in the ongoing lawsuit to enforce the CC&Rs that protect both Ahwatukee golf courses.

True Life admits "The CC&R's restrict the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course to use solely as a golf course" and then says "...the owner ... does not intend to operate the ... golf course as a golf course." These words appear in the consent form True Life is mailing out to homeowners.

That contradiction should raise a red flag. True Life knows what's required and refuses to comply.

True Life's campaign to change the CC&Rs is their response to a judge’s recent ruling, which says True Life is required to operate a golf course. The only way around the lawsuit is to attempt to get 51 percent of the homeowners to agree to change the CC&Rs.

Why would we do that when the law is on our side?

Not only does True Life want us to allow them to change the CC&Rs for their benefit, they also refuse to pay the $1.3-milliion tax penalty they owe the county assessor.

True Life agreed to pay it when they bought the property, but True Life executive David Sabow recently said they intend to appeal it because they haven't changed the use of the golf course. That should raise another red flag.

Ahwatukee needs both master-planned flood controls. A few ponds and a narrow channel angling through the development won't protect the community as well as turf, swales, trees and five cascading lakes.

We are much better off with 100 acres of open space, especially if it's an operating golf course like the former No. 1 Lakes.

True Life's plan will turn 44th Street into a kamikaze zone, with traffic generated by 300-plus homes, Mountain Point High School around the corner, the proposed Montessori School, a restaurant, and a farmer's market.

Who says Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Club will never be a golf course again?

Wilson Gee. Pulte. True Life. Why would anyone take the word of developers who make money putting tract homes on any and all available infill land? Golf course operators wanted to buy the Lakes before it was closed; golf course operators want to buy it today.

By enforcing the CC&Rs, the land is worth what it is worth as a golf course, not as developable land. When priced accordingly, it will sell quickly, and, most likely, at a premium.

True Life’s job is to acquire, improve, and dispose of (sell) land to homebuilders like Pulte. If True Life collects the necessary 2,600 consent forms, all bets are off: what True Life is proposing today is a grand concept. What is actually built down the road is likely to be very different.

Don't be taken in by an attractive sounding name and a few artists renderings. Hold on to what little open space we have left. Keep our flood controls in place.

Do not sign True Life's consent form to change the golf course CC&Rs.

Linda Swain is a resident of Ahwatukee Lakes and a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the golf course’s closing. 

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