A move by Vestar Development Co. allowing it to move forward on a proposed shopping center in Chandler without further public hearings or returning to the City Council for approval has upset some council members and neighbors.
Vestar filed paperwork according to city code Friday to split its property on the northeast corner of Alma School and Queen Creek roads into three pieces.
By doing so, the developer can get approval of its proposed Ocotillo Towne Center from city staff.
Members of the council said they found Vestar’s move disappointing after they voted March 25 to give the developer until June 24 to investigate its options and meet with neighbors.
"It appears to me that they are trying to circumvent the possibility of the citizens and the homeowners out there having any say in what they do," Vice Mayor Lowell Huggins said.
Council members said they were misled in August when they approved Vestar’s development plan.
They said Vestar promised upscale retail development similar to Casa Paloma at Ray Road and Interstate 10.
Vestar representatives also spoke about luring a specialty grocer such as Trader Joe’s or Sprouts.
A sign displayed on the property by Vestar in February showed a Wal-Mart Marketplace, a Hollywood Video and an Applebee’s would be among the businesses.
The sign raised concerns among neighbors and the council, leading Vestar to remove it.
The company said the sign resulted from an overzealous marketing employee.
Nick Quan, a Vestar spokesman, said the company filed the minor land division because that was a project requirement.
As far as the tenant mix, he said Wal-Mart has always been a considered tenant, but Vestar has no letters of intent or signed leases with anyone.
He said Vestar wants to maintain a good relationship with the city and wants to do the right thing for the community.
Ocotillo resident Donna DeVoe said Vestar never mentioned Wal-Mart as a possible tenant during neighborhood meetings.
"This whole process, they have been less than forthcoming, and I feel that they need to be held accountable for their actions," she said.
Councilman Phill Westbrooks said it’s time the council take a hard look at the entire planning and zoning process, and Huggins said he asked City Attorney Dennis O’Neill to look into hiring outside counsel to determine whether the city has any recourse in trying to stop the development.
Mayor Boyd Dunn said he hopes that things can be ironed out because Vestar has agreed to meet with neighbors at the end of the month.