CASA GRANDE — The Francisco Grande resort has big plans to expand in the next few years.

The Casa Grande Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval by a 5 to 2 vote of a plan by Francisco Grande to develop a mix of residential, commercial, hospitality, open space, office space and recreational campus space on its 663-acre property near Montgomery Road and Gila Bend Highway.

Commissioners David Snider and Dennis Dugan voted against the plan, citing concerns about several exceptions Francisco Grande was requesting and past flooding on the property.

The owners want to create a walkable, multi-use community that expands the property’s current uses as a hotel and golf resort and as the home of the Barca Soccer Academy and ASU Preparatory Academy, according to a report given to the commission.

“We’re super excited about the possibilities,” said Linda Morales from The Planning Center, the company planning the project for Francisco Grande. “We think this could be a really unique, special place.”

Francisco Grande

The Francisco Grande resort (2017)

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 Academy 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 is to 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.

Dugan raised concerns about areas of the property that have been flooded by the Santa Cruz Wash in the past. The area has flooded at least twice, in 1983 and 1993, with more than 2 feet of water, since he has lived in Casa Grande, Dugan said.

“What has the city done to make sure that it doesn’t flood again?” he asked.

Commission Chair Ken Miller pointed out that the property is privately owned and it is the property owner’s responsibility to control or mitigate any flooding on the property.

City Planning and Development Director Paul Tice explained that the site does have several areas that fall within the 500-year and 100-year floodplains. The federal, state and city governments allow a property owner to build in the 500-year floodplain without having to raise or protect buildings from a flood.

However, a property owner who wants to build in a 100-year floodplain does have to show that they have raised any buildings out of the floodplain before the construction is approved, Tice said.

A property owner can also ask the federal government for a conditional letter of map revision or a letter of map revision to remove the area from the floodplain by modifying the flow of water on the property. However, if a property owner gets permission to change the flow of flood water on a property, it cannot change how the water flows off of the property onto another property, he said.

Morales said the company has taken an in-depth look at the flooding problems on the site. The plan is to have most of the development take place in the 500-year flood zone and leave most of the 100-year flood zone as open space for the community to enjoy. The company would develop flood channels to help control some of the flood water in the areas where it was needed.

“We may need to raise some areas,” she said.

The commission recommended the changes to the City Council.

Dugan asked Morales if she would let her parents build a home in one of the flood prone areas of the project.

Morales said she would not, unless there was a clear plan in place to protect the home and the property had been raised out of the floodplain. Most developers can’t sell a home that has been built in a 100-year flood zone without doing some mitigation and without a letter of map revision, she said. The need for and cost of flood insurance is a deterrent to most homebuyers.

Snider raised concerns about several exemptions to the planned area development zoning Francisco Grande was asking for the project. Those exemptions involve the residential areas of the project and include limiting the lot sizes to 5,000 square feet, basing the minimum lot width on the approved setbacks and width of the housing product, reducing side yard setbacks in some areas from 10 feet to 5 feet, reducing the front yard of some residential areas from 20 feet to 10 feet to the livable area or side garage or 20 feet to the entrance of a front-loading garage and reducing the backyard setback from the alley from 20 feet to 10 feet for garages that open onto an alley.

Snider said he was “uncomfortable” with the exemptions and wasn’t sure “where those exemptions would take us.” He said he would like the applicant to do more work with the commission on those exemptions as the project was developed.

The commission also recommended approval of:

  • Extending hours for the city’s one marijuana dispensary from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and allowing the business to be open on Sunday.
  • A boat and RV storage facility on West Gila Bend Highway.
  • Two model home complexes in the Mission Royale and Arroyo Grande subdivisions.
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