Chandler officials may call plans to annex Creamland Dairy into the city limits a “development agreement,” but the dairy’s owners say it’s more like arm-twisting.
“It’s just because of our location that they’re after us,” said Dianne Spruit, company treasurer and member of the Spruit family, which has operated a dairy on the site since about 1970.
The nearly 22-acre functioning dairy, housing 1,100 cows, sits on the south side of the Loop 202 Santan Freeway, at the western end of Armstrong Way, east of McQueen Road. On Thursday night, the City Council unanimously approved an agreement with the owners to begin the process of annexing the land into the city limits and rezoning it for light industrial use if the family ever decides to sell the land.
While the agreement seems innocuous — since the changes wouldn’t take effect until the Spruits voluntarily sell the land — it has taken 18 months of fighting and has cost the family $53,000 in legal fees to get to this point, Spruit said. That’s because of garbage company Republic Service’s plan to put a controversial transfer station just southwest of the dairy on land that falls under Maricopa County’s jurisdiction on the north side of Germann Road, she said.
Because the large, city-owned Tumbleweed Park sits just across Germann, city officials were opposed to introducing traffic from heavy garbage trucks serving the transfer station on that road. One alternative was to punch Armstrong Way through Creamland Dairy, connecting the transfer station to McQueen Road north of Germann.
“City officials were trying to mitigate the impact of traffic on Germann Road by being proactive and proposing the Armstrong Way access road,” said Craig Younger, a city spokesman.
To do that, though, Chandler would have to acquire a 30-foot-wide swath of land on the dairy’s southern end, where the dairy has cattle pens and waste ponds, Spruit said. Without that land, the dairy couldn’t function, she said.
“They were trying to shove them behind Germann to get rid of the trucks,” Spruit said.
But the dairy owners have relied on a state law that protects dairies of more than 20 acres from eminent domain, she said. Without a willing seller, and with no way to condemn the land, the city then proposed the future annexation agreement, she said.
Jeff Kurtz, city planning and development director, said the dairy now falls under Maricopa County’s jurisdiction, but Chandler’s general plan calls for the land eventually to be annexed into the city and redeveloped for light industrial use. The development agreement ensures that when the dairy is sold, it will be annexed and developed in accordance with Chandler’s development standards, he said.
Spruit said between falling milk prices and having to spend thousands of dollars fighting Chandler, it has been a tough year for the dairy. However, the business has managed to stay afloat and may not sell the land for years to come, she said.