Francisco Grande plans

Proposed zones for Francisco Grande development and expansion project.

CASA GRANDE — A new plan to expand the Francisco Grande resort was narrowly passed by the Casa Grande City Council Monday night.

The council approved the zoning request for a planned area development by a 4-3 vote. Council members Dick Powell, Mary Kortsen and Donna McBride opposed the request.

The zoning would allow the owners to build a mixed-used development with businesses, offices, apartments, single-family homes and condos, expand the dorms at the Barca Soccer Academy and provide some recreational facilities.

The idea is to create a walkable community with a mix of housing stock, said city planner Joe Horn.

The total project would cover about 663 acres. Approximately 47 of those acres are owned by the city as part of Grande Sports World and may not be changed without the permission of the city.

The 144-acre, high-density residential section would include a mix of detached and attached single-family homes, medium-density residential and multifamily residential. The 62-acre recreational campus area includes ASU Prep and Barca academies and an expansion of the existing dorms for both.

The 35-acre commercial and 83-acre mixed use areas would include space for multifamily residential, offices and small businesses.

The project may also expand the existing hotel on 36 acres of the property. Most of the 190-acre open space will be taken up by the existing golf course and several new trails along with some low-lying, flood-prone areas. The exact number of homes, offices and commercial space hasn’t been determined yet.

The request passed the Casa Grande Planning and Zoning Commission by a 5-2 vote in May. Several council members brought up the same concerns commissioners had about flooding from the Santa Cruz Wash, acquiring enough water to serve the future residents of the community and the developer’s requested changes to yard setbacks.

Powell immediately objected to a request by the developer to limit lot sizes in the project to 5,000 square feet. He pointed out that the city’s Planned Area Development zoning requires a minimum lot size of 6,000 square feet. He also objected to changes in the yard setbacks for the development.

“They’re not following the PAD rules,” he said.

Powell also raised concerns about flooding and the possible need for an assured water supply certificate from the state.

Several areas of the project sit in 100-year flood zones, which would require the developer to either raise buildings out of the flood zone or channel water within the property away from the buildings.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources has been reluctant to approve new water certificates in Pinal County due to concerns about how much groundwater the area may have and how much groundwater may be needed to meet future demands.

Powell also pointed out the housing market is shifting away from mixed-use communities that have smaller homes or apartments that are clustered together. People are looking for more low-density, rural areas to live in, he said.

“That’s not what’s selling right now,” he said, referring to the project. “I hate to see another ghost town created.”

The developer plans to adjust the existing golf course to cover most of the 100-year flood zone properties and is working with a hydrologist to mitigate flood-prone areas where buildings may be located, said Linda Morales, from The Planning Center, the company planning the project for Francisco Grande.

She also agreed that, depending on how the land was subdivided, the property owner might have to get a certificate of assured water supply from ADWR.

The developer also needed a smaller minimum lot size in order to make up for the expense of designing and building the development, which includes the costs of dealing with the flood zones and access to water, she said.

Kortsen also raised concerns about the minimum lot size and the yard setback from the street to the front of the homes. The developer requested a 10-foot setback from the front of the home or a side-loading garage to the street and a 20-foot setback for a home with a garage that faces the street.

Kortsen was concerned that a 10-foot driveway may not be long enough to accommodate most large trucks or SUVs and some vehicles might hang out into the street.

Staff pointed out that the 10-foot setback was not necessarily the length of the driveway. The 10-foot setback was measured from the edge of the street to the side of a side-loading garage or to the closest portion of the living quarters of the house. For example, if the living room of the house jutted out in front of the garage door, the setback would be measured from the outside edge of the living room to the street.

Kortsen said she would feel better if she could see a sample of what a finished housing product for the development might look like.

McBride also disliked the many small changes to setbacks and the lot size that the developer was requesting.

Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Navarro Fitzgibbons said she struggled with concerns over the flood zone issue.

“But I like the idea,” she said. “There’s not a lot going on out there. I like the idea of a walkable community. I think this is a great place to test this out.”

Councilman Bob Huddleston agreed with her. He pointed out that it would be the developer who would have to sell the project to the public, not the city.

Mayor Craig McFarland also liked the project, saying it could be the next 55-plus community in the city. Most of the city’s age-restricted neighborhoods are full. He also pointed out that the developer, not the city, would be responsible for dealing with the flood zone and access to drinking water problems. If the developer couldn’t figure those issues out, the project there wouldn’t be a ghost town. Instead, the project simply wouldn’t be built.

In other action, the council:

  • Approved the purchase of 12 cameras for the city’s police cars at a cost of $93,515.09.
  • Approved a major amendment to the Casa Grande Crossings Planned Area Development plan to allow a hotel and conference center to be built near the U-Haul center off of Camino Mercado, near Interstate 10.
  • Authorized the application for and acceptance of grants to various organizations from the Ak-Chin Indian Community.
  • Reappointed judges Robert Mitchell and Timothy Mace as deputy city magistrates.
  • Approved an agreement with the state for $31,136 in federal transportation money to install flashing LED stop and warning signs at three intersections: Overfield Road and Cottonwood Lane, Overfield and Kleck roads and Peart and Earley roads.
  • Awarded a contract for an employee compensation and classification study in the amount of $49,000 to Public Sector Personnel Consultants.
  • Approved modifying a lot line of a piece of land in the Central Arizona Commerce Park to accommodate a potential user.
  • Held a public hearing on changing the hours of operation for marijuana dispensaries in the city.
  • Held a public hearing on changing the zoning of 663 acres near Montgomery Road and Gila Bend Highway from single-family residential and general business to a planned area development.
  • Held an executive session to discuss the agreement for Casa Grande Performance Institute and a separate agreement for the sale of effluent to the proposed Nacero gasoline plant.
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