FLORENCE – Following a lengthy discussion about water and transportation issues, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved a major amendment to the Comprehensive Plan for the area known as Superstition Vistas in a split vote.
A steering committee, of which Pinal County has been a part of, has been working over multiple years to plan in advance for 275 square miles of land currently owned by the State Land Department. The land mass in question would be larger than Gilbert, Mesa and Chandler combined.
The Arizona State Land Department was the applicant for the major amendment, which would have, among other things, allowed increases in population density for the area while also including pre-planned corridors for future transportation and commerce.
In October, the Supervisors remanded the proposed amendment changes to the Comprehensive Plan back to the Planning and Zoning Commission. The Board asked the commission to examine more thoroughly three key issues:
- Use of the Magma Railroad Corridor that crosses the Superstition Vistas area,
- Capping the density on the area of the project located north of Highway 60 and east of State Route 79, and
- Examining the water availability and usage.
The commission returned the Comprehensive Plan amendment proposal with a recommendation that the Supervisors deny the proposed changes. Earlier last week, the Casa Grande City Council passed a letter of concern regarding the proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan.
Chairman Pete Rios expressed concerns over density and water availability for the area located south of Highway 60 and east of State Route 79. He asked for support to have that portion of the Superstition Vistas region to be removed from the project boundaries. By doing so, roughly one quarter of the Superstition Vistas’ proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment would be removed. Density and planning provisions of the Comprehensive Plan for that part would then be subject only to those requirements adopted in 2009 and not the proposed changes by the State Land Department.
Even with the removal of that area, Supervisor David Snider still questioned the amount of water that would be needed to sustain a population of people that would eventually occupy the Vistas area. Snider voted against the major amendment changes. Vice Chairman Bryan Martyn and Chairman Rios voted in favor passing the amendments by a 2-1 vote.
Other changes under the major amendment to Superstition Vistas include a high-speed passenger rail corridor, high capacity corridors for traffic and high intensity activity centers located adjacent to the high capacity corridors.
Pinal County experienced rapid growth at a frenetic pace in the mid-2000’s. The Vistas steering committee was lauded by the Supervisors for its efforts to plan well in advance of development with an eye toward sustainability.
The approval of the comprehensive plan amendments lays important groundwork for the eventual development of the Superstition Vistas area. The next step in the eventual shaping of that community would occur when State Land auctions off or sells the land. It could be a decade or more before the first resident moves to the community.