By Sammie Ann Wicks
Impending commercial development of two key adjacent corners in South Tempe has nearby neighbors scrambling to protest and resist the move. One community organizer says his group is already preparing to show up at upcoming public hearings on the projects.
“We’ll be coming out in droves,” says Matt Smith, an activist representing neighborhoods near the planned developments. “We just don’t understand why we need another Raising Cane’s chicken or Valvoline depot.”
Smith is referring to proposed Valvoline Instant Oil Change and Raising Cane’s franchises on the southwest and southeast corners, respectively, of Warner and McClintock. Raising Cane’s is headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Plano, Texas, and operates more than 300 locations in 21 states.
Organizer of southtempe.org, Smith reports the group already has gathered about 1,000 signatures on a petition opposing the developments to present to the appropriate city agencies.
But one of the developments, says a Tempe City Council member, already is “a done deal.”
“Look. I live here. I serve the people here. I understand feelings are high,” says Jennifer Adams, elected last year to Tempe City Council.
“But the truth is, the city cannot discriminate. The Raising Cane’s developer bought that land, made a proposal in keeping with the existing commercial zoning, and they can develop it as they see fit.
“But the Valvoline group needs a use permit.” Adams stresses there will be more opportunity for public input with the Valvoline site.
“There is a public hearing scheduled for sometime in July or August over the proposed Valvoline site,” says Adams, “and I encourage the neighborhood to come out and express their opinions and let their voices be heard when that occurs.”
Valvoline is headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, and is an international supplier of lubricants and automotive services worldwide. Heather Watson, a spokeswoman for the company, responded to Wrangler’s request for comment in an email stating in part:
“Valvoline Instant Oil Change is expanding into many areas of the country and Arizona is an attractive market. We’re exploring a quick lube site for development in Tempe. It’s very early out though, so we don’t yet have details.
“If the site turns out to be a mutually suitable development for the community and Valvoline, I’d be happy to share details for your readers as we know them (rendering image, number of bays, etc.).”
One homeowner in the neighborhood active in the protest effort, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue, stresses the neighborhood “isn’t against development—just some kinds of development.
Really, an oil change depot and a fast-food franchise don’t fit in with the character of this area,” said the homeowner.
“The homes around there are in a sleepy neighborhood of multiacre properties, some of them horse properties, with beautiful houses. We can’t envision all the retail traffic, the hits on public safety, the gaudy, commercial colors. It just won’t work.”
She adds other alterations to the corner also have contributed to a significant change in the neighborhood’s ambiance.
“To clear one of those corners for development, they tore down a solid brick building that once housed a bank,” the homeowner says. “Like the rest of the neighborhood, that building had a lot of character. That’s what we’re talking about.”
Smith echoes the homeowner’s views.
“This isn’t based on socioeconomic concerns at all,” said Smith. “We want development. But we don’t want things like vape stores or such like. And if someone comes in with a cool and awesome idea for a business here, we wholeheartedly support it, and we’ll get fully behind that type of business owner. That’s what people are all fired up about.”
The South Tempe neighborhood group will have an opportunity to come before relevant agencies and give its input this summer, according to Kris Baxter-Ging, city of Tempe public information officer.
“The public and members of the concerned neighborhoods will have ample opportunity to make their views known when the Development Review Commission (DRC) meets in July or August to discuss the Valvoline proposal,” says Baxter-Ging.
She adds that, if the DRC denies the use permit requested by Valvoline, the developer can appeal to the city council, and both DRC’s and the council’s meetings will enable residents to comment.
The Development Review Commission is composed of seven members and three alternates. Alternate members serve at a commission hearing whenever a regular member is unable to attend or must decline due to conflict of interest.
At least three regular members of the Commission and one alternate member must be currently practicing in the field of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, land use law, real estate or engineering, or otherwise qualified by design background, training, experience or a similar related field.
Smith and other neighborhood homeowners say they will be a vocal presence when each city agency meets to discuss the McClintock/Warner intersection.
“We have two critical issues at our beloved McClintock and Warner in South Tempe,” Smith declares on the neighborhood group’s website.
“We want to do everything that we can to keep our quality of life, (and) noise, congestion, and fumes that come with an auto shop . . . are (part of) our concern,” Smith declares, inviting neighborhood supporters to visit the group’s website to add their signatures to the petitions.