Protests mount against two South Tempe projects

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Matt Smith is one of the many outspoken South Tempe residents raising concerns about the potential developments. Photos courtesy of his website, https://southtempe.org.

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.

Proposed Valvoline location on Warner and McClintock

“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.

11 COMMENTS

  1. I will take a “Raising Cane’s over a “Vape Store” any day, this is a dumb argument and i am willing to bet someone involved wants the land for themselves.

  2. Pave paradise, put up an out-of-state chain restaurant. Thank God for Native Americans. At least we can drive past the Res. and see what Arizona once looked like.

  3. That raising Cane’s is going to totally ruin the cool and interesting vibe of that bank of America and Dunkin doughnuts on that Southeast corner. What a joke.

  4. We can do without the valvoline. Smells. Heavy traffic. We will trade with rural and Warner and take the Postinos.

  5. Based on my observations in other areas, it seems like restaurants like Postinos result in greater traffic and activity than oil change centers so I don’t believe this makes a strong argument but I could be wrong. Also, I bicycle a lot and I can’t say I’ve ever noticed any troubling level of odor from oil change businesses. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s sad when an architecturally interesting structure is razed for another chain business that can be found a few miles away. But unless local entrepreneurs are willing to develop unique businesses in the area and bring these to the community and council, you can’t stave off other development.

  6. We need a quick service restaurant with a drive through in this area other than McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, and Burger King. A lot of us in the area also have kids with tons of after school activities. Give me a Raising Canes or Chick Fil A any day; it’s good food, the staff is friendly and polite, and keeps my tax dollars in Tempe instead of nearby cities. Residents need a variety of options, a local super trendy spot like Postinos doesn’t work for everyone.

  7. Let’s talk about chains and auto businesses. What about Zipps, a chain restaurant that spreads their burger smell all over Estate La Colina each day, plus their loud music every night? Why was that a good decision to move into a quiet South Tempe neighborhood? I’d prefer they go away and move back into the location they vacated two years ago. Subway is right next to them. Haven’t heard complaints about them. High churn fitness center and a GNC chain aren’t raising concerns. Dunkin Donuts, which I enjoy, and the bane of every street corner in every city, Starbucks, which I do not at all enjoy are also not raising concerns with the big, angry group of thousands. Starbucks makes horrendous, over priced mass produced coffee but the drive through there is clogged every day. And all of that traffic funnels onto Warner. Making coffee at home would eliminate all of that traffic in every US city. In the last ten or fifteen years we all got too lazy to push the on button on our coffee makers. But many of you pay $4 for a burnt cup of coffee.

    There was a Triple A full service auto body shop with propane tanks, free air and a gas station there for the whole 17 years I’ve lived here. No one has mentioned that as a comparison or complained but I sure wish they were still there. I could go to Bashas, a local chain, Walgreens, a mammoth chain, and the gas station in two stops. An oil change place isn’t as good but it will shut down at 7 or 8 every day and be closed on Sundays. Talk about noise, there’s a Discount Tire which doesn’t really fit the neighborhood either, but I can walk or bike home while waiting for my car. I appreciate their business. Verizon has a store where I don’t think they belong but it’s better than the blighted 7-11 that operated in that building for years. There’s a successful Garcias chain restaurant in a spot where multiple restaurants failed. I like their happy hour and see many families enjoying parties and events in their spacious patio. This spring H&R block had an office where I had my taxes prepared. High turn business that spewed traffic onto Warner and McClintock. I found it to be very convenient and hope they come back next year.

    I’m glad that two reputable businesses, maybe not ones I would personally hand pick, are moving in. It would have been almost financially impossible to retrofit an aged bank building into a new business. Better a business than a vacant, decaying building. There was no way to recycle the auto shop and gas station. They were too small in light of the gigantic QT-size stations necessary to turn a profit. There is not enough room or long term parking spots available to accommodate a second sit down restaurant where Raising Canes is going. People linger too long and everyone would have parked in the convenient Bashas coveted spaces which could potentially drive them out of business. They made a huge investment a few years back when they did an extensive remodel. I would hate to lose them to a wine bar. I am thinking that Raising Canes will drive more business to the hair salon, Bashas and Starbucks. Chicken fingers for the kids and a latte for mom.

    My preference would be a gas station and ice cream shop but I don’t run the City who make appropriate zoning decisions or have the cash funds to run a business of my own. That takes millions in investment money. If you are a complainer and have that type of money why have you not submitted a bid for a one of a kind, stand-alone brick and mortar, low profit margin business? These two companies have the dollars and followed the requirements, fair and square and have been approved to operate from what I understand. The traffic levels, noise and chain”fit” won’t be any different than it is right now. I won’t be joining the complaining masses. Reason being is that three months into their grand openings no one will notice these businesses weren’t there the whole time. And if they close and something new comes in, someone will complain about the loss to the neighborhood.

  8. Bravo for Jennifer Adams for standing up for private property rights : “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.” If Smith and the other multi acre property homeowners want their version of “cool and awesome” development for that corner, fantastic, simply pool your funds, purchase the property and get started.

  9. Comments like:
    “Really, an oil change depot and a fast-food franchise don’t fit in with the character of this area,”
    “Like the rest of the neighborhood, that building had a lot of character. That’s what we’re talking about.”

    I don’t know what is exactly Mr. Smith saying, but it sounds terribly Elitist
    What the hell is “Character”
    They are replacing a dirty and poorly managed Gas Station with terrible service and full of Junk with a newer car service that will create new jobs. Do you also want to get rid of Discount Tire?
    Please get a job, too much free time for nothing

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