Saturday, November 13, 2010

Developer calls for update in Phoenix Desert Ridge plan

A recent victory in a lawsuit could result in more than CityNorth changing hands.

When Gray Development Group prevailed in the lawsuit and won a jury verdict of $110.7 million, it became likely that Gray could take over the very party it defeated in court.

Although the case is far from complete, the result of the verdict could give Gray control of the remaining, undeveloped property at CityNorth, access to the $110.7 million economic development agreement that CityNorth has with the city and, finally, control of Northeast Phoenix Partners.

NPP was the losing party in the lawsuit. Besides being prime developer of CityNorth, NPP - controlled by the Klutznick Co. - has been the master developer of the entire 5,700-acre Desert Ridge master-planned community.

The master developer controls compliance with the Desert Ridge Specific Plan and oversees other governing documents for the northeast Phoenix community.

Bruce Gray, president of Gray Development, says one of the first things he would do is call for an update of the plan, which is 20 years old.

"Many of the original design assumptions proved to be incorrect, and many changes have been made by others over the years - most by NPP," he said. "That's the reason traffic is such a mess up there."

At least 18 amendments have been grafted into the plan to enable development that otherwise could not take place.

Gray said discussions about updating the plan would include the Desert Ridge Community Association, the Arizona State Land Department and city planners. He expects no action at least until the economy recovers.

The Desert Ridge Community Association is the area's homeowners association, with control over covenants, conditions and restrictions, or CC&Rs, that deal with specific issues in the community.

Claudia Garza, president of the homeowners' group, did not respond to requests for comment. The community association was part of the lawsuit originally, but settled out of court.

In previous interviews, she has accused Gray of disregarding the Desert Ridge plan. She said in 2007 that if Gray gets its way, the entire Desert Ridge community would be hurt.

Jim Adams, director of the State Land Department's Real Estate Division, declined to say whether the department would like a complete re-evaluation of the plan.

"Over the years, Desert Ridge has been very successful, and we anticipate it will be successful when the market recovers," he said. "We have made a number of changes and amendments over the years, and we will continue to do that. All master plans evolve."

Michelle Dodds, a city planner with responsibility for the plan, said it would make sense to revisit the plan - if only to reflect current realities.

She said amendments made to the plan were not reflected in other parts of the document, resulting in numerous inconsistencies. For example, she said, the total number of units differs in various sections of the plan, and maps are outdated.

by Michael Clancy The Arizona Republic Nov. 12, 2010 09:32 AM

Developer calls for update in Phoenix Desert Ridge plan

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