Ground Fissure Complicates Mesa Multifamily Project

Credit: City of Mesa

By Adrienne St. Clair for Arizona Builder’s Exchange

Aspire Development, LLC has submitted a proposal to the City of Mesa to build two-story multifamily condominiums on 3.3 acres at the SWC of Sossaman Road and Billings Street.

The new community will be built in phases, eventually totaling 49 units. It will include amenities like a swimming pool, cabana area, multiple BBQs and open grass area for play space. The proposal boasts the finished development will be 35 percent open space – approximately 50KSF.

The townhomes will feature a contemporary design and be made up of a variety of materials and colors to provide a unique visual aesthetic to the community. Each unit will also have a two-car garage. There will also be 15 additional guest parking spaces.

The property is currently zoned as Neighborhood Suburban, Residential Multiple Dwelling District 2. Under the Mesa General Plan 2040, the Neighborhood Suburban designation allows for multiple residence properties with higher densities, so no zoning change is needed, though the developers are requesting to add a Planned Area Development (PAD) overlay.

Most of the surrounding areas are similarly zoned and developed. The site is bordered on the north by Billings Street and apartments. A self-storage facility is south of the site. Sossaman Road and two-story apartments are to the east, and two-story condominiums are to the west. The main entrance to the property will be from Billings Street.

The site is currently vacant. According to the developer’s proposal, the site is likely still vacant because of a ground fissure that crosses the property at an angle. According to documents submitted to the city, the fissure existed as early as the 1960s but was first officially documented in 1984 – nearly 34 years ago.

“Therefore, we presume that the City is well aware of the development constraints posed by the fissure,” the proposal stated.

The developer notes that mitigation efforts have been successful with other multifamily residential properties in the area. Plans are also included in the proposal for steps to address the fissure on the development site.

The developer enlisted a local geologist to evaluate the fissure, and the report was provided with the project proposal. The geologist provided recommendations to mitigate potential problems. The developer then provided a design the geologist deemed “acceptable.” The proposal also states the geologist will be involved throughout the project’s construction to ensure recommendations are included in the final product and to help with any needed revisions.

The community has been designed around the location of the fissure. For example, one of the geologist’s main recommendations was that the main street and guest parking be located on top of the fissure to try to minimize the amount of water flowing into it.

There has been some pushback from community members in spite of a Citizen Participation Plan submitted by the developer in February of this year. The plan included a neighborhood meeting and collecting an email distribution list for continued communication.

The city received two separate letters in May from Mesa residents who oppose the project. In one letter, the citizen said she was “gravely concerned” about the new community, citing several Arizona Geological Surveys and a report from The University of Arizona that warns against developing on land with fissures.

The project was approved at a city planning meeting in July. Richard Lorenzen, project manager for Aspire Development, told AZBEX that resident concerns were addressed in a meeting immediately following the approval.

The developer has yet to select a general contractor. When it begins, the first phase of construction will include the resident amenities, development infrastructure and perimeter, in addition to several townhomes.

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