Group concerned over plans for Chandler retail development - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Group concerned over plans for Chandler retail development

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Posted: Tuesday, September 9, 2008 5:57 pm | Updated: 10:38 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Residents in southeast Chandler are revisiting a strategy that worked four years ago to thwart the construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter at Riggs Road and Arizona Avenue.

Chandler council to vote on Riggs Gateway center

They are printing up flyers, restarting a dormant Web site and getting reacquainted with each other and their elected leaders at a 6:45 p.m. meeting today at Chandler's Basha Library, 5990 S. Val Vista Drive.

Riggs Gateway, Chandler, Chandler Heights Rd., Riggs Rd., Hunt Hwy., Alma School Rd., Arizona Ave., McQueen Rd., State Route 87, railroad. Map by Jayson Peters/EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE

The only thing missing is Wal-Mart.

Since there are plans for a large retail building on the 30-acre Riggs Gateway project, but no tenant announced, suspicions run high among Riggs Residents for Retail Diversity and City Council members that Wal-Mart will eventually open there.

"It looked kind of shady the way things were coming to us," said Councilman Bob Caccamo.

Wal-Mart says it has no plans to build there, and the developer, CTW Riggs Gateway, says it can't market the site until zoning and the preliminary designs are approved.

"We're aware of that project but we're not a part of it," said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Delia Garcia.

Kirk Sibley, spokesman for the residents group, said there is plenty of evidence that a Wal-Mart will open there.

First, Wal-Mart proposed to build there in 2004, but the developer withdrew its plans after opposition from the group.

Sibley notes that the CTW's Web site touts its relationship with the retailer.

And he points to the design of the proposed project, which calls for a 114,000-square-foot building for the anchor tenant and a 17,000-square-foot area reserved for expansion.

"There aren't a whole lot of tenants to fill that," Sibley said. "Why are they asking for an expansion?"

Sibley lives in Paseo Crossing, a gated subdivision about three-fourths of a mile east of the planned project. He said his group includes residents from several homeowners associations in south Chandler and has a distribution list of 800, but about 16 volunteers do most of the work.

They are meeting today to speak with Caccamo and other council members. They also plan to organize a flier drive Saturday intended to spur a big turnout at the Sept. 17 meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission, which will vote on a zoning change and a preliminary development plan for the site.

It will be the second time the project has been before the commission, which previously voted unanimously to approve the zoning change and design.

The City Council on Aug. 14 sent the case back to the commission and asked the developer to add shade for pedestrians and more walkways.

Cities have the authority to establish zoning, but private property rights prevent them from deciding that one company can use that zoning while another business cannot.

Caccamo said he wants to make sure the developer doesn't circumvent city restrictions on "big box," or large retail centers, by submitting plans for one project and then changing them dramatically after the zoning is approved.

"I just didn't like the way it looked," Caccamo said about the developer's plans.

Liz Gaston, project manager for the site, said her company has "never employed that tactic."

City planner Jodie Novak said CTW is bound to the plan and cannot increase the footprint of the buildings without City Council approval.

The developer can, however, build into the expansion area without approval, Novak said.

Gaston said CTW worked 18 months with the city, kept residents informed on the proposal and recently amended its plan according to the City Council's wishes.

"It is a little bit frustrating, but this is the direction the city of Chandler is going," Gaston said.

She said her company's clients include many other large retailers, not just Wal-Mart.

Councilman Matt Orlando said that even though developers don't have to disclose their tenants, he said it is fair for city officials to ask.

"I got some serious, serious questions," Orlando said.

One of his concerns is that the land could stay vacant considering that there are no tenants signed, he said.

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