Village at Surrey Hills gives citizens pause over Hidden Canyon

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village at surrey hills
The picture above is what the original models for the Village at Surrey Hills looked like.

village at surrey hills
This recent photo shows the result of the amended site plan, which produced double the density without any unique architectural elements.

hidden canyon
Hidden Canyon

habitat for humanity
Habitat for Humanity

CAVE CREEK – When the economy took a dive in 2008, the Village at Surrey Hills, an upscale, condominium project with 2,700 square-foot average, two-story units for sale from the high $600s, came back to council with new owners and an amended site plan.

The original plan for luxury condos called for stone and other architectural details on the outside of the buildings to give them each a unique appearance, while the amended plat called for 80 additional single-story units, averaging 1,500 square feet, housed in cookie-cutter brown boxes, sans any unique features, that are currently priced between $270,000 and $345,000.

The revamped design appears more in line with the Habitat for Humanity condos just a couple of blocks north on Blue Ridge Drive.

The Hidden Canyon application is for a general plan amendment and rezoning for portions of the 79-acre project from R-18 and R-35 to MR (Multifamily Residential) and Open Space Recreational.

Hidden Canyon is bounded by Surrey Drive on the south, the Skyline Drive alignment on the north and Ootam Drive on the east.

Some of the steep mountain area planned for open space is along the western boundary.

Planning Director Ian Cordwell claims the applicant is not planning to build multifamily apartments or condos and only wants smaller single family lots than R-18 allows.

He produced a proposed site plan from the applicant indicating Phase II of Parcel I would have 12 single-family lots on 10.48 acres and Phase II of Parcel 2 reflected 27 single-family lots on 18 acres in the rezoned area.

After we published an article saying the application wasn’t as scary as it sounded, citizens reminded us that once the general plan is amended and rezoning secured for MR, the developer will be able to build multifamily residential units.

Robert and Debbie Peterson, who attended the neighborhood meeting on Oct. 20, hosted by United Engineering Group, representing RMG Hidden Canyon, LLC, the owners, said the spokesperson, responding to questions regarding density, “barely mentioned a single-family home concept. He went on to say the market is really into multifamily units because, ‘that’s what’s selling.’

“The takeaway was … once the zoning change is in effect, all bets are off. One of the examples given as to the proposed plan was multi-story, multifamily buildings such as the Surrey Hills development just off Cave Creek Road to the south of the parcel in question.”

When Cave Creek developed its zoning ordinance, it’s important to remember the town downzoned property so it could retain the unique characteristics of Cave Creek and distinguish itself from the high-density developments in neighboring Phoenix and Scottsdale.

The Petersons said it sounded to them as though the new owners, who only closed on the purchase of the two parcels in September 2014, are “anxious to turn a profit on their investment.”

They said the rezoning “will result in devaluing our neighborhood while ignoring the historic Cave Creek character we are proud to be part of,” adding, “It all sounds pretty scary to us.”

The case is scheduled to be heard by the planning commission on Nov. 20.

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