There was one over-arching message coming from the annual PHX East Valley Partnership meeting in Chandler on Dec. 8: You can have rapid growth and still maintain a high quality of living.
The group of business and other leaders in the region met at the Chandler Center for the Arts to hear how East Valley cities and towns are managing that balance. They also honored an individual and a business with the group’s legacy awards.
Trevor Barger, founder and CEO of Espiritu Loci and a principal with Arizona Strategies, was the keynote speaker at the event, and spoke of growing up in Gilbert when it had only a few thousand residents and was mostly farms.
He said that as the city continued to grow, his personal quality of life kept improving.
“We must continue our long tradition of a high quality of life while embracing growth,” Barger said.
He argued that with more development, came more parks, outdoor recreation, more restaurants, and more entertainment options. Barger said Arizona cities and towns have done an excellent job managing the growth, which continues to come.
He said even now the state adds about the population of Flagstaff (77,000) each year.
Joining him in making the case were four officials from cities and town
that are in different stages of the growth cycle.
Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke and Gilbert Councilmember Scott Anderson represented communities that have already had their first phase of rapid growth and are now approaching buildout.
Representing the areas going through that first phase of rapid growth were Julia Wheatley, the mayor-elect of Queen Creek, and Bryant Powell, city manager of Apache Junction.
Powell said Apache Junction recently approved the development of 4 square miles of land near the border of nearby cities.
“And so just a year ago, we annexed about 8 miles that meets up with Queen Creek, and about seven years ago in coordination with Queen Creek and Mesa, we established, without any fight, without any type of discomfort, or any type of disorganization, our boundaries,” Powell said.
He said they worked on their general plans together, coordinating where they want their jobs corridors to go. Powell said that helped convince the state that Apache Junction is ready to expand.
Wheatley said maintaining a high quality of life helps if people remember how they started and why people initially moved to a community.
“Keep that small-town culture whether you either just moved to Queen Creek, or you’ve been there some time,” she said. “Just keeping it true to what we are out there in Queen Creek.”
For the cities approaching buildout, officials said it’s important to keep promises.
“We work hard at developing neighborhood parks,” Hartke said. “We
continue to put money into those,
and we make sure that the celebrations that make a community a community happen.”
Anderson said Gilbert still has room to grow and likely won’t reach buildout for another decade.
“We’re continuing to grow in the downtown, we have a new master plan for the district, the Heritage District,” he said. “And it just so happens that the growth in the district is going to occur on the two ends.”
The PHX East Valley Partnership honored Kevin Olson, a senior partner at Lewis Roca with its individual award, crediting him with being a major player in improving transportation throughout the East Valley.
For the business award, the Partnership honored The Boeing Company for its history of contributing to the community ever since it started operating in Mesa.