SAN TAN VALLEY — High-density rental housing is being proposed for San Tan Valley, but it’s unlikely to be the community’s affordable-housing solution.

Hancock Communities wants to build 243 single-story one-, two- and three-bedroom units on 27.7 acres on the west side of Hunt Highway, south of the commercial area at Gary Road. The project would have a density of almost nine homes per acre, compared to about 3.5 per acre for its neighbor immediately to the south, Solera at Johnson Ranch.

They’re not cheap units and will rent for perhaps $1,700 to $2,300 per month, attorney Sean Lake, a member of Hancock’s development team, told neighbors gathered for an online community meeting on Aug. 19.

The homes won’t be built with any federal subsidy or be marketed as affordable housing, Lake said. Lake called it “a nice high-end, above-market community” and said no units would be available as vacation rentals.

Hancock builds for five different owners and won’t be the owner of this community, a representative said. Greystar will be the property manager.

Hancock hopes to begin construction in June next year, and the community should take 28 months to build, a Hancock representative said. Before that, the community would need various approvals from Pinal County, including a minor comprehensive plan amendment, a San Tan Area Plan amendment and rezoning.

Hancock is planning two outlets to Hunt Highway, but Pinal County will also require access to Gary Road, according to a county staff report. Additional traffic on Hunt Highway was a major concern of meeting attendees last week.

One resident said it’s already difficult to make a left turn out of Solera “without risking lives.” Another said she didn’t want to see the road revert to its previous traffic problems and asked if Hancock will contribute to improvements.

Lake said they will be making improvements to Hunt Highway, along with paying county impact fees for each housing unit, which the county uses for public improvements.

Another resident said he didn’t think high-density residential fits on the property, considering the traffic on Hunt Highway, as others also mentioned. He said traffic issues couldn’t be resolved without a stoplight, which isn’t a good idea given the number of other stoplights, including the one at Gary Road.

But Lake said the company believes the property is a good transitional use between the commercial zoning directly to the west of the property and single-family detached homes on the south. “We view this as a good diversity of housing as a transitional use between future commercial, or existing commercial, and single-family residential.”

The land west of Hancock’s community is zoned commercial and is large enough for a big box store, Lake said.

“We also think it fits in really well because the homes that we are proposing here are single-story as opposed to an apartment complex that might be three stories,” Lake said.

Also presented at last week’s neighborhood meeting:

  • A similar Hancock development can be seen at 59th Avenue and the new Loop 202 in the West Valley, which opens Sept. 1. Another one, TerraLane at Canyon Trails, is in Goodyear off West Van Buren Street. It has 261 units and is similar to what is proposed on Hunt Highway. Another community, which is under construction and not yet open to the public, is in Queen Creek near American Leadership Academy.
  • Only 26 of the proposed units will be three bedrooms. Many renters of the company’s existing communities are single women, a Hancock representative said. A neighbor said he doubted many people will want to park and walk past other residences with their groceries.

A Hancock representative replied the majority of renters are people who are downsizing and have no problem with the walk. These projects lease an average of one unit a day.

There will be garages, covered parking and open parking. One neighbor said that even though the proposal “over-plans” for parking, “you may end up with more vehicles than you think.”

  • Asked about lot sizes, Lake said they don’t really have lot sizes, because renters don’t own their lots. The footprint of the home and backyard is what they rent, and everything else is common area.

As for square footage, a Hancock representative said the smallest unit is 35 feet wide and 27 feet deep, with an additional 10 feet for a two-bedroom and 10 more feet for a three-bedroom. Each rental has five feet on each side, or 10 feet between units. If Pinal County asks for more space, the project probably won’t go forward, according to a Hancock representative. Backyards are 45 feet wide.

There will be a solid masonry wall, 6 or 7 feet high, on the south side. Hancock will also propose several trees in the backyards, for visual screening “in a softer manner.”

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.