Despite the rain, around a dozen residents of the affluent North Phoenix neighborhood of Moon Valley showed up to protest the grand opening of a Goodwill store in their neighborhood.
In addition to some residents believing that the store is not "compatible" with the neighborhood, the picketers are upset that the Phoenix City Council was so helpful to Goodwill in its bid to open the store at that location -- the former site of an AJ's Fine Foods -- and that the significant outcry from the residents about Goodwill's plan was all for naught.
As New Times has reported before, hundreds of people signed an online petition asking that Goodwill not open a store there, and prominent residents of the neighborhood, including former Republican U.S. Congressman John Shadegg, were leading a fight against the City Council's approval of the store.
Vice Mayor Bill Gates, who represents Moon Valley as part of his district, told us months ago that Goodwill -- which signed a 25-year lease at the location -- was open to the idea of sub-leasing the location if the residents found a different tenant to go in there, an idea that obviously didn't pan out.
There is a legitimate side to the complaints from the residents, though, as Gates' chief of staff used to work for a lobbying firm that included Goodwill among its clients.
The Moon Valley activists allege that's the reason why their complaints weren't effective, and why zoning issues for the Goodwill store went off without a hitch.
Many of the complaints, however, involve the thought that Goodwill isn't good enough for the neighborhood.
"More concerning, was the complete absence of any retail that would be of value to Moon Valley residents," said one e-mail sent out to community members by "neighborhood advocate" Amy Mais. "We did not see any nice grocery stores, restaurants, or destination spots for families with children. If Goodwill moves into Moon Valley, the shops, restaurants, and services that our community wants and needs, will close up or relocate. They will be replaced by low end retail that is not appropriate for our neighborhood."
(FYI, there's already a dollar store in the shopping center).
Just a few days ago, Mais fired off an e-mail to Gates, which was also copied to several other people in the neighborhood, containing the full laundry-list of complaints, which sums up all the reasoning for the protest. You can check that out in its entirety on the next page.
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Meanwhile, just minutes after the Goodwill store opened this morning, it was packed. People were driving circles around the shopping center's parking lot, looking for a spot.
Below, read an e-mail sent to Vice Mayor Gates from a Moon Valley resident. Based on the conversations we've had with residents, this pretty much sums it up:
From: Amy Mais
Sent: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 8:05 PM
To: Bill Gates
Subject: Board of Adjustment Hearing and Goodwill of Central Arizona's Close Knit and Powerful Relationship with the City of Phoenix
Dear Vice Mayor Gates,
Well, it has been a very long journey. What began as an email in the early Spring of this year questioning how Goodwill of Central Arizona could possibly have signed a 25 year lease for the vacant AJ's location at the SW corner of 7th Street and Thunderbird, without any Notice or opportunity for Fair Hearings by our community, has become a bitter struggle with the City of Phoenix, and in particular, your office and the Department of Planning and Zoning, headed by Alan Stephenson.
After the 25 year lease had been signed and executed, an agent of the landlord informed the local tenants of the Shaw Butte Plaza of the "Good News" that Goodwill was opening soon. Numerous residents of the surrounding Moon Valley, Pointe Mountainside, and Pointe Tapatio communities learned of the lease from concerned business owners and contacted your office. An email campaign was launched and hundreds of residents emailed or called your office to demand an explanation.
Over 2,500 residents have signed a Petition in Opposition to a Moon Valley Goodwill Store. Over 600 residents attended a community meeting on less than a week's notice. The surrounding community is overwhelming opposed to this store and the fact that our voice was stolen.
What happened to our rights of Notice and a Fair Hearing before a giant, big box thrift store could open it's doors in our neighborhood?
They were taken from us by a Text Amendment, motioned by you, on November 7, 2012, that eliminated the requirements of Notice and a Fair Hearing before big box secondhand stores like Goodwill of Central Arizona could be located in shopping centers zoned C-1, Commercial Residential Neighborhood District, like the Shaw Butte Plaza in Moon Valley.
Why did you sell us down the river?
After raising over 1.6 million dollars to save Moon Valley Country Club, why were we not informed of a potential 25 year lease with Goodwill of Central Arizona?
Where was the phone call, coffee chat, community meeting, or at the very least, email from your office, giving us the heads up? Why did you not protect us, our community, our property values, and the enormous investment we had just made to save Moon Valley Country Club?
Where were your loyalties? Where are they now?
Maybe we did not receive any "heads up" because your office, headed by Chief of Staff Laura Etter, was behind the whole thing!
The very person who we called to get information and help regarding the planned mega secondhand store, was a former lobbyist for Goodman Schwartz, a five person lobbying firm whose major client was Goodwill of Central Arizona. Ms. Etter worked for Goodman Schwartz for five years in a lobbying role "specializing in not-for-profits" prior to becoming your Chief of Staff.
Why was her relationship with Goodwill of Central Arizona and Goodman Schwartz never disclosed to us? Did you not think that your constituents deserved to know the Truth? Were we not entitled to it?
Please do not tell us that her sole relationship with Goodwill of Central Arizona was to "attend store openings" while employed at Goodman Schwartz. Please give our community and the individuals like Jolene Capparrelle, Scott Dames, Philp Zeblinsky, Janet Ruckel, and former U.S. Congressman John Shadegg, who have devoted enormous time and energy to preserving the integrity and quality of our neighborhood, a little more credit than that.
How is this even remotely ethical or moral? You hid Ms. Etter's prior employment, and long standing relationship, with Goodwill of Central Arizona's main lobbying firm, Goodman Schwartz, from the very people who put you in office and were asking for your help! Goodness!
When we called your office, we were not just asking for information. We were asking for help. Help. We needed a leader to help us find a way out. You stood in front of 600 people and did not tell us the truth. You could have helped us by telling us the truth, admitting your mistake, and finding a solution for the Shaw Butte Plaza. Instead, you hid behind a terrible secret. By choosing to hide the truth, you lied to us. It is as simple as that.
Maybe this is why Ms. Etter recited Goodwill "talking points" when we called. She repeatedly told concerned residents that, "Goodwill had a valid lease." This is exactly what Goodwill representatives told us and wrote us when we contacted them. Why was your Chief of Staff reciting Goodwill talking points? Who gave her that authority? Why did she not tell us the truth?
We are an incredibly strong community that deserved the truth...The truth from you.
It is interesting that your Chief of Staff and Goodwill of Central Arizona's executives recited the same talking points. How did that happen? Please do not trouble yourself, you will never tell us the truth. I have accepted that.
Today I stopped by the Wells Fargo Bank at 7th Street and Thunderbird. There was a giant, empty semi trailer on "stilts" parked alongside the drive through. Another enormous semi trailer was unloading goods behind the store. It was honestly the biggest semi trailer/truck that I have ever seen. The employees of the bank told me that the number of semi trailers and trucks parked in the lot empty or unloading behind the store has been "nonstop." Wow!
Not only do we have a giant mega store but now we have a mega warehouse. The Goodwill stores at Cave Creek/Cactus and 19th Avenue/Thunderbird have been closed. The store at 7th Street and just south of Dunlap is closing and relocating further south.
Alan Stephenson, Director of City of Phoenix Planning and Zoning, has declared that there is no problem whatsoever with Goodwill shipping in goods from anywhere what-so-ever, BEFORE THE STORE EVEN OPENS, to fill up their new store with goods for a Grand Opening. So we have giant semi trucks/trailers unloading nonstop behind the new mega Moon Valley/Pointe Mountainside;'/Pointe Tapatio Goodwill. They are also parked "willy nilly" all over the parking lot. We are now Goodwill's new official unloading zone for goods from anywhere what-so-ever.
What does this mean? Quite simply, we now have a mega store/WAREHOUSE in Moon Valley. Goodwill has closed all the surrounding stores to create a "funnel" effect whereby all the surrounding neighborhoods will flock to Moon Valley for a deal. And, they are now free to import as many goods as they like from anywhere they choose to fill up their new mega store and bring loyal Goodwill shoppers to Moon Valley by the droves.
I sat in the parking lot of the Shaw Butte Plaza today and was so saddened. I thought, "We are such a wonderful, unique, special neighborhood, why would you do this to us? Was furthering your political career worth it?" Because, make no mistake, you have sold us out.
Now, the joke of all jokes. You have arranged a hearing by the Board of Adjustment to determine whether or not Goodwill can basically import and "transship" merchandise from anywhere they like to fill up and refill our Moon Valley store. I have no illusions. Alan Stephenson, who is nothing but a mouth piece for Goodwill, will argue how this is just fine. Our rights to preserve the quality and integrity of our neighborhood will once again be trampled and you will do nothing, nothing but sit quietly in the back row and do nothing. Nothing at all...
We had a deal. A deal that you broke. You promised that the Shaw Butte Plaza would be cleaned up and beautiful once again as it was before the Great Recession. We spoke several times at length. You had a long laundry list of items to improve.
Well, Goodwill is opening this Friday, November 22nd. Guess what? The curbs are still crumbling. The planters and landscaping are still atrocious. The signage is still awful. The waste containers are still overflowing. The wall between Gold Key Town Homes and the new Goodwill store is still not raised, built, and freshly painted.
Better yet, the parking lot is filled with giant mega semi trailers and trucks delivering merchandise to the new Goodwill mega warehouse.
The Shaw Butte Center is a disgrace. The Bill Gates' Goodwill will not make it better. Before their "Ship It In From Anywhere" Grand Opening, the Shaw Butte Plaza should have been totally renovated. Every planter should be lush and blooming. The new wall should have been built and freshly painted. The signage should have been updated, renovated, and vastly improved. The cracking and crumbling curbs should have been replaced and the dumpsters relocated.
Another broken promise. Shame on you.
I gave you the benefit of the doubt. My mistake. One I will never make again.
Proud Resident of Moon Valley, Arizona