SonRise Community Church’s third proposal for a Christian school on its 10-acre lot at Scottsdale Road and Dixileta Drive is not the charm for some residents in north Scottsdale.
Opponents say that although the latest proposal of a plan originally submitted last year reduces the amount of construction, it still doesn’t satisfy them or the city’s general plan.
"The modifications don’t deal with the fundamental issues," said resident Graham Kettle, who represents the Dixileta Neighborhood Alliance. "It’s against the general plan in that there are a limited number of nonresidential uses for the property and there are already such uses at that corner with others planned. We have consistently asked the city for an interpretation and have never received an answer."
According to Scottsdale planning and development services manager Kory Ekblaw, the site is zoned for single-family residences. The general plan designates the property as rural neighborhoods. Zoning regulations allow nonresidential uses, such as places of worship, neighborhood parks and schools, Ekblaw said.
"You can find elements of any document that speak to (what residents are saying)," he said. "Such a use isn’t barred by zoning or the general plan. The residents feel the intensity of the use isn’t sensitive in context with the surrounding area."
The site is south of the southeast corner of Scottsdale and Dixileta roads, adjacent to Desert Foothills Lutheran Church to the south. Property to the north is owned by Desert Mission United Methodist Church. Single-family residences are to the east and southeast, adjacent to 74th Street.
Kettle said Desert Mission also wants to build a church and school on one of the corners and that, potentially, there could be three churches and schools on four corners. The Rev. Laura O’Neil, pastor of Desert Mission, said that’s not the case.
"We want to build a church," she said. "We do want a couple of Sunday school rooms, but have no plans for a school. I don’t think it’s the churches that bother people. Unless you’re a 55-and-older community, how can you keep schools from coming in? It’s common sense there will be schools planned.
"(Opposition) is the fear of the schools and constant traffic. I’m not surprised. It seems to be par for the course here."
Kettle said he doesn’t understand why SonRise senior pastor the Rev. Jim Williams continues plans knowing there is opposition. "I’m not surprised SonRise hasn’t listened to us," Kettle said. "They haven’t from the start."
Williams said his church has tried to hold meetings with residents, but the requests were denied.
"The neighbors don’t think it should be a church, much less a church school," Williams said. "The city has said we can have a church and school in the area. Neighbors would like to change the ordinances. We haven’t asked for zoning variances or anything like that. We’ll proceed with our plan."
Resident Jan Krolczyk said she and her neighbors don’t want the area to change. "We have a beautiful, reclusive, quiet, no light pollution and little noise pollution neighborhood," she said. "That’s what we paid for. It’s all about the quality of our life, not what’s planned to be built. Anything that will bring in traffic is not something we look forward to."
Kettle said sides have met, the last time on Dec. 21. At that time, a SonRise representative showed the most recent plan, submitted on Feb. 2, to residents.
"To say we have been unwilling to meet is an outright lie," Kettle said.
The latest revision calls for a 2,760-square-foot office, 9,390 square feet of classrooms — which include labs and church function room — a 10,944-square-foot Family Life center, and a 3,056-square-foot cafeteria. The revision is 2,600 to 3,400 total square feet smaller than the last proposal, according to Ekblaw.
"Everything is smaller," said architect Dale Miller of Cave Creek. "We took the stage out of the community center, made classrooms and offices smaller and moved the plan to the east out of the flood plain. We’ve tried to do as much as we can for the people and the neighborhood."