Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps Annexations

A map shows several parcels of land Glendale has annexed or is in the process of annexing. Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps said the annexations, which lead to commercial development, are “critical for the future of Glendale.”

Glendale is getting bigger.

While other West Valley neighbors of Glendale have had population booms, Glendale’s population increased over the last year by a slim 1% (compared to 56% in Buckeye and 33% in Glendale).

Yet Glendale is expanding, using annexations to move its boundaries west. Large farms near Luke Air Force Base are rapidly becoming industrial projects, with the land to grow jobs, rather than food. 

It sounds like a win-win: Developers get access to water (see Page 7) and the city gets business development that “print money for the city of Glendale,” as Kevin Phelps, Glendale’s city manager, put it. 

But some neighbors say annexation is a loss for them.

After many annexations sailed through Glendale City Council, residents of Waddell and Litchfield Park—just outside Glendale—are pushing back, claiming Glendale is invading their neighborhoods without their interests in mind.

Where Glendale once ended east of the Loop 303, recent large-scale annexations have pushed the city limits to the highway—and beyond it.

“There is no doubt our Loop 303 corridor is absolutely on fire with interests for development,” Phelps said.

“The amount of projects and square footage is unprecedented at any time in Glendale’s history.”

In June, Glendale City Council may annex another half-dozen large parcels, padding development in west Glendale that was launched with the late 2017 annexation of Woolf Logistics—which soon became developed as Red Bull and White Claw production facilities.

After a pause, in early 2020 Glendale pushed forward on annexation plans with several more large properties near Loop 303: West 303, 76 acres at Sarival and Maryland avenues, which the owner plans to develop into 1 million square feet of industrial space; Barclay Group, 96 acres at Loop 303 and Glendale Avenue, with plans for another 1 million square feet of  industrial and commercial buildings “with potential office retail”; and Cotton Properties.

Phelps stressed that, while annexations fit with Glendale City Council’s long-range plan of adding revenue-creating projects and jobs, “What makes the Loop 303 so unique is almost every annexation parcel that has been annexed or planned to be annexed has a unique set of circumstances.”

“Unique” hardly begins to describe Cotton Properties.

In January, Glendale annexed Cotton Properties, 161 acres on the west side of the Loop 303, between Glendale Avenue and Bethany Home Road.

Other of Glendale’s similar projects in the area went through the annexation process with hardly a whisper of protest.

Yet Cotton Properties’ plans have brought out thundering cries from residents of Waddell and Litchfield Park, who are outraged over plans of the developer to build a Love’s Travel Stop. C.J. Unzen has been a leader of the group that insists a truck stop would bring noise, crime and pollution to the longtime sleepy area filled with farms and homes.

Despite the protests, Cotton Properties sailed through annexation, with Glendale City Council unanimously approving it. Mayor Jerry Weiers even told protesters that the annexation hearing was not the time to raise their concerns.

The protests may have played a part in several delays of a rezoning request by Cotton Properties. Areas that are annexed come into Glendale with a similar zoning to what they had in Maricopa County. In this case, Cotton Properties has an agricultural zoning.

To build a truck stop and other commercial development of the properties, Cotton would need to have its zoning changed. Its request for planned area development (PAD) zoning, which would allow retail, commercial and office space, was scheduled to go to the Planning Commission in February.

After Unzen and others demanded an opportunity for input, the developer scheduled a neighborhood meeting May 21. 

The Cotton Properties zoning application is scheduled for the Planning Commission’s 6 p.m. June 4 meeting.

With nearly a dozen annexations completed or in process, the granddaddy of them only emerged recently.

A Nov. 12 city council workshop has become key, as during the meeting, Randy Huggins of Glendale’s Economic Development Department outlined Cotton Properties, adding, “A Love’s travel Center is going here.”

At the same workshop, several proposed annexations near the Loop 303 were discussed by Chris Anaradian, then the assistant city manager—he is no longer with Glendale, and the city has refused to explain the circumstances of his leaving.

“What we’ve done in the last 11 months is try to create a job center out there,” Anaradian told council members. “We’ve attempted to accomplish the task you set out for us, which was create a revenue source to support the rest of the city and its operations and limit residential to the fullest extent possible.”

In other words, Glendale was looking to add large-scale businesses that add jobs and taxes, while avoiding annexing residential developments—which would add residents and require police, fire and other city services.

Yet Anaradian then introduced “a large farm south of Cotton Properties. We’re talking to them,” he said, explaining it was larger than 500 acres and planned for homes.

Councilman Bart Turner bristled at the idea, noting council only was interested in industrial/commercial development near Loop 303.

Yet less than four months later, the annexation of Allen Ranches showed up on a city council meeting—and its first phase was approved unanimously.

“The annexation request involves approximately 865 acres for an industrial development with a single-family community,” according to agenda information on Allen Ranches. The great majority—more than 600 acres—of the site would be industrial development, according to the proposal.

Allen Ranches span from Bethany Home Road 1 mile south to Camelback Road, with Loop 303 the eastern boundary and Citrus Road 1 mile away the western boundary.

A vote on annexing Allen Ranch is tentatively scheduled for the June 23 Glendale City Council meeting.

Another group is protesting the Allen Ranches annexation and development plan (See Opinion section).

 

EPCOR

When EPCOR took over smaller water companies in western Maricopa County, any developers near Glendale’s western edge were required “to at least apply for annexation, or have a pre-annexation agreement,” Phelps said. 

“So the first stop for a property developer is at least reach out to the city of Glendale,” Phelps said.

But the Allen Ranches situation was different.

“EPCOR gave (Allen Ranches) the right to do their own water and sewer, so they technically don’t have to annex into the city of Glendale at all. But we’ve worked with them very closely, and they’ve volunteered to come in,” Phelps said.

The Glendale annexation process, according to a document created in 2003 and revised in 2014, makes slight additions to state law governing annexations.

In Glendale, a developer or land owner first makes contact with the city, to determine if a  pre-annexation development agreement is needed. If city staff and the developer think the match is a good one, the owner submits an annexation application.

If city staff likes the application, it is submitted for a city council workshop—like the Nov. 12 one, during which Allen Ranches and Cotton Properties were introduced.

The next step is a public hearing—usually at a city council meeting—on a “blank petition” stating the owner’s desire to be annexed.

At a subsequent city council meeting, council votes on bringing the proposed property into the city.

Allen Ranches went through initial phases, and council is scheduled to vote on annexing it in June.

Nothing in the annexation process requires a landowner to be specific about businesses that could operate there.

The mention of Love’s Travel Stop on Cotton Properties set off alarm bells for neighbors.

“We are aware people in Litchfield Park and Waddell have voiced concerns,” Phelps said. But, he stressed, the development process is long, and Cotton Properties is in early phases: “(Cotton Properties owners) have talked about a truck stop—but between now and when it’s developed, Love’s Travel Stop could go out of business.

On May 21, a Love’s Travel Stop representative and attorneys representing Cotton Properties held a virtual “neighborhood meeting.” They were bombarded with concerns and complaints from the 130 area residents who participated in the online meeting.

The next stop for Cotton Properties is a zoning request before the Glendale Planning Commission at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 4.

Cotton Properties still is not required to reveal specific plans at this stage of the process—the owner is asking for a change from agricultural zoning to planned area development, which would allow a variety of commercial and industrial potential use. The truck stop is a small portion of the 160 acres.

Discussions between Cotton Properties and the city about a possible annexation go back more than two years.

“It’s been more than a year I’ve been aware of it,” Phelps said.

He recalled that his first impressions were Cotton Properties fit what Glendale was after:

“Everything there checked the right boxes: a quality developer with plans to develop several million square feet. They were also willing to do speculative building,” Phelps said.

The bottom line, Phelps said, is Cotton Properties is good for Glendale.

“It’s consistent with our general plan. It will create jobs for the region. It will create revenue for the city,” Phelps said.

Revenues for a commercial/industrial project can start streaming in for construction sales tax and various permit and inspection fees. Later, there could be a tax on rentals or sales tax on facilities.

“There could be all kinds of additional revenue coming through,” Phelps said.

He compared that to a residential development: “They require 24/7 police and fire, libraries, parks, streets, zoning—and we’re just getting a little sliver of the property tax. The cost of delivering services to residents is so much more,” he said.

“Let’s say (an industrial project) builds 20 million square feet of space over the next eight to 10 years—I won’t have to build parks. The city won’t have to build libraries. We don’t have to build a lot of expensive infrastructure,” Phelps said.

He noted White Claw expects to have 300 employees in 2021. “And we’re not going to have to send out police every day, or EMTs.”

The city manager said annexations and industrial/commercial development near Loop 303 is “critical for the future of Glendale.”

“We are an old city—we have a lot of old infrastructure. The only way we will be able to maintain a quality city is we need revenue. We cannot tax our individuals more. What we can do is set aside available land for business development. They come in and create value. 

“They print money for the city of Glendale.”