The Road Not Taken

A long-planned freeway for the fast-growing west Valley is ambling along in the slow lane as state officials, local communities and an influential developer try to figure out just where the road should run

Phoenix planning director Dave Richert says the city staff is still reviewing the plan, but adds that, so far, it appears to comply with the city's planning guidelines in terms of housing densities. ADOT's freeway plans are not the city's concern, he says.

"We believe it is possible for ADOT to do a clean take on the property, and until that freeway is built, you cannot unduly bar [Long] from filing an application on his property," Richert says.

"If we need to adjust that plan, we would do it at the time that road becomes a reality."

If the plan is approved, Richert says, it could drive up the buyout costs ADOT would have to pay the developer.

"If he has approval to build it, the market value would necessarily increase," Richert says.

Gammage says Long has always intended to develop that land around his home into a luxury community. It is not a "phony zoning" aimed at driving up the land's value, he says.

"We were also motivated in part by the desire of ADOT to get off their dime and do something by way of starting a condemnation action, if that's what they're going to do," Gammage says.

Long's plan also has gone before the Maryvale Village Planning Committee. Claudette Manzo, the committee's chair, is enthusiastic about it.

"There's a lot of luxury homes in there," she says. "It looks like he really wants to do a nice development."

Not everyone shares Manzo's enthusiasm for Long's plans, especially west Valley leaders who have eagerly awaited 101's completion and fear that Long's plans could postpone that day.

"Now, suddenly, John F. Long wants to file a master plan that doesn't show a freeway anywhere," says Glendale Mayor Eileen Scruggs. "It has had all of the west Valley communities more than a little concerned."

Avondale Mayor Thomas Morales Jr. says he wouldn't mind seeing 101 pushed west. In fact, he says, his city backed Long's efforts in the late 1980s to move 101 onto 99th Avenue--Avondale's eastern boundary--because doing so would have likely brought commercial development to his city.

Still, Morales, like Scruggs, is concerned that Long's new request may delay freeway completion by another five to 10 years. Morales adds that he has been mystified by the seemingly glacial pace with which ADOT has proceeded in buying up the land--including the dairy--it needs to complete 101.

"ADOT has for years known that the dairy had to be moved," Morales says. "And for many years we asked, 'Why hasn't the condemnation been carried out? Why has it taken this many years?' We sometimes got the feeling that sincere negotiations weren't really taking place."

Morales is not alone in wondering why ADOT has held off so long. Claude Mattox is a west Valley real estate agent who was involved in the freeway planning process during the late 1980s.

"I'd say ADOT really dropped the ball on this," Mattox says. "If they've known where the freeway was supposed to go since 1988, why didn't they start buying up the right of way until now?

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