Plans emerge for old elementary school property

Peter Omundson and Bob Voris
Peter Omundson and Bob Voris

CAVE CREEK – With Vice Chairman Ted Bryda and Commissioner Susan Demmitt absent, the planning commission voted unanimously during the June 22 planning commission meeting to recommend approval for the rezoning of two parcels from Town Core Commercial (TCC) and Multi-family Residential (MR) to Commercial Buffer (CB) as well as the site plan for the Mercado Escuela project on the northeast corner of School House and Cave Creek roads.

Associate Planner Luke Kautzman stated the application was for the approximately 2.24 acres adjacent to the parcel where the school buildings are situated, which is already zoned TCC.

He said the parcels are where the playground and basketball court are located.

Kautzman said the school buildings will be getting a “facelift” and they will be doing a lot-line adjustment in the near future.

Commissioner Peter Omundson expressed concerns about parking and asked if there has been any reconciliation between the parcels.

Kautzman explained the school buildings were not part of this application.

Fernando Maldonado, the owner of the parcels, said the school parcel will be developed separately and there will be enough parking.

During public comment, Marshall Campbell requested clarification as to exactly which parcels were under consideration.

Kathy Jones stated CB zoning means you can live and work there and asked if people were going to live there.

Chairman Bob Voris said he wasn’t sure that was the case.

Omundson reiterated his concerns about parking by “lopping off this excess land” from the school parcel.

Planning Director Ian Cordwell stated the school parcel will have to come into compliance with the parking regulations based on the proposed uses.

Omundson said he was OK with it if the use complies with the parking requirements.

Voris asked if there was any downside in approving the parcels separately.

“I don’t think so,” replied Cordwell.

Commissioner Reg Monachino thanked Maldonado for his “time, energy and money,” and wished him success.

Voris stated he didn’t see any comments from the neighborhood meeting.

Maldonado said most just asked questions about the tent and what he was planning.

During the site plan review, Kautzman noted they already covered much of the site plan during the rezoning case.

He said the site plan reflected 14,000 square feet of lot coverage with retail space, subject to the lot-line adjustment, and stated the buildings will meet all the setback requirements and parking based on retail use.

Commissioner Dick Frye asked if the intended surface of the parking lot was DG.

Maldonado, after requesting clarification that DG meant decomposed granite, replied, “Yes.”

Civil Engineer George Everland responded to questions from Frye about a screen wall, water flow and the retention basin.

Fernando Maldonado and George Everland
Fernando Maldonado and George Everland

Addressing parking concerns, Kautzman pointed out the zoning ordinance does not permit a lesser zoned property to be used for parking for a higher zoned use but could the other way around.

In other words, Maldonado could not use the CB property for additional parking for the TCC site but could use the TCC site’s parking for the CB site.

Kautzman suggested the commission might wish to address that issue in the ordinance.

Voris asked about the intended hours of operation.

Maldonado said it would probably be regular business hours – 9 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m., although he said he would like to have a restaurant.

Kautzman addressed water concerns noted in the landscaped areas and said the high water use was only temporary to get the plants established.

Voris stated it was such a premier location in town they shouldn’t restrict the use of water for landscaping.

Maldonado stated he wants to make the project an attractive Cave Creek destination.

Everland said there is incentive to keep the plants alive because it’s very expensive to replace them.

Commissioner Paul Eelkema stated condition number 15 in the conditions for approval addresses that.

Maldonado said he’s not sure of the architecture yet but wants to make it tie in with the remodeled school buildings so they all look like they’ve been there for a long time.

Robert Hanson thanked Maldonado for developing the corner as he commented about what an eyesore it’s been.

Hanson asked how many PADs the 14,000 square feet will sustain.

Maldonado stated he didn’t know yet.

George Riley asked staff if traffic at the intersection has been looked at yet. He said he loved the project but wondered if there was going to be a traffic light at that intersection.

Cordwell said the town has looked into the possibility of putting in a roundabout in the future but there isn’t enough room for one and stated there could be a traffic signal sometime in the future.

Voris announced the next general plan workshop will be held at 6 p.m. on July 20 and there will be three cases on the July 13 regular planning commission meeting, including Meritage and Windmill Village.