Sunday, February 27, 2011

Some Phoenix residents fear plans for North Valley auto mall, medical campus

In January, Alice Diskin got a letter from Westcor notifying her that it was revisiting a planned auto mall with a proposal to add a medical campus in the North Valley. She was startled as memories flooded to 2006.

That year, Diskin joined her neighbors in challenging Westcor's plans to build an auto mall on 80 acres it owned on the northeastern corner of Interstate 17 and Sonoran Boulevard. The challenge was unsuccessful, but the Phoenix-based developer shelved the project as the economy began to sour.

Westcor now is proposing an auto mall on half of the property facing the freeway and partnering with John C. Lincoln Health Network to develop a medical campus, and eventually a hospital, on the east side of the parcel.

"I said, 'Oh no, not this again.' I thought this was a bad dream that went away. When I got that letter . . . it came back to haunt me," Diskin said, referring to an invitation to the first public meeting on Feb. 1.

Diskin, who has lived in the Tramonto community since 2002, is not ready to join another protest. But she worries about the impact of a medical campus and hospital on the neighborhood. She assumes large power lines would come with the development.

Diskin intends to continue asking questions about the project and will be at the next public meeting with Westcor and John C. Lincoln officials scheduled for Tuesday.

The project, called North Black Canyon Crossings, would be built in the North Gateway Village. The site is bounded by Skunk Creek on the east, Sonoran Boulevard on the south, Interstate 17 on the west and state trust land on the north.

Westcor officials say the next two years could bring an emergency room to the area if the Phoenix City Council approves the necessary land-use changes. The proposed hospital would come on board much later, driven by rooftops and service demand, said Karen Maurer, Westcor's assistant president for development relations.

The company has mailed 6,000 notices to homes and businesses about Tuesday's meeting. Maurer said this is a chance for residents to be part of planning their community.

There are other projects in the general area along Sonoran Boulevard. A $40 million, 7-mile road improvement project between 23rd Avenue and Cave Creek Highway is scheduled to start in March.

Phoenix will build two lanes with a median that stretches east and west between 23rd Avenue and 15th Avenue, city officials said. The final section of paved road will be a two-lane highway that connects to Cave Creek Highway.

Patricia Palicz lives in the Carefree Crossing subdivision that straddles Sonoran Boulevard near 23rd Avenue. The former Scottsdale resident moved there in 2009 after falling in love with the quiet, open desert and inky night skies.

She thought she had escaped the noise and congestion, but she fears that is about to change. In January, she noticed a billboard on a vacant parcel south of Sonoran Boulevard near Carefree Crossing. The Arizona State Land Department advertises "residential site available for sale," 146 acres.

Dove Valley Road became Sonoran Boulevard, construction flags appeared, and an Arizona Public Service Co. sign announced a "planned substation site." Westcor notified her of the Feb. 1 public meeting, which she attended.

After researching what was going on, Palicz found out that the pristine desert south of Carefree Crossing is destined to be developed over the next decade. APS plans to build a substation larger than a football field there. Phoenix soon will begin paving the rest of Sonoran Boulevard east to Cave Creek Road. And Westcor is moving forward with plans for an auto mall on 40 acres, across from John C. Lincoln's planned medical campus on another 40 acres.

"When you move up here, you move because you want to get away from the nonsense and the congestion in the city," said Palicz, who hopes more residents will attend Tuesday's meeting.

by Betty Reid The Arizona Republic Feb. 22, 2011 10:28 AM

Some Phoenix residents fear plans for North Valley auto mall, medical campus

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