Council Approves Sycamore Station, Ponders $100M

Article originally posted on HERE on September 8, 2021


Mesa City CouncilMesa City Council approved changes clearing the way for two apartment complexes to launch a “mixed-use development” called Sycamore Station

Mayor John Giles presided over Monday’s Mesa City Council meeting, wearing a mask “out of an abundance of caution”

“At the end of last week, I came in contact with some folks who tested positive. I’ve been fully vaccinated and tested negative in the last couple of days,” Giles noted.

None of the City Council members or staff present wore masks to this or other previous meetings, despite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated Aug. 15.

“If you are fully vaccinated, to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission,” the CDC advises.

Mesa is well into the “high transmission” level.

None of the council members responded when asked why they are not wearing masks at indoor meetings.

An Aug. 26 City Council study session discussed possible uses of $105 million in federal funding, via the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act.

The ARPA included $360 billion “to mitigate the fiscal effects stemming from the public health emergency with respect to the coronavirus disease.” 

According to a presentation by Michael Kennington, Mesa’s chief financial officer, the city has certified and received $52.7 million from the federal government. “The remaining 50 percent is expected to be received in May of 2022.”

He outlined eligible uses for the funds:

  • Responding to public health needs and economic damage from the pandemic.
  • Providing premium (i.e. hazard) pay for essential workers.
  • Replacing lost revenue.
  • Investing in necessary water, wastewater and/or broadband infrastructure.

Kennington’s recommendations included $7.8 million for “public health emergency,” including $3.3 million for the police Real Time Crime Center, $2.5 million for “behavioral health” and $1.8 million for ambulances.

He recommended $50 million in the Negative Economic Impact category, with $20 million for “energy commodity cost,” $10 million for food distribution and $10 million for “Downtown District Revitalization.”

He advised $20 million be spent on “homeless solution,” in the Services to Disproportionately Impacted Communities category.

Kennington also recommended $12.8 million in “premium pay to eligible workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency…”

That leaves about $14.3 million that the chief financial officer recommends be saved for potential uses including food security, a restaurant incubator program and rental assistance.

At its Monday meeting, City Council unanimously approved a “modification to the Sycamore Station Smart Growth Community Plan.”

Several council members acknowledged neighbors were upset that the original plan for developing a wide area between Dobson and Sycamore on Main Street originally was to have houses be built first — but now calls for the building of rental buildings to begin the 21-acre project.

The “mixed-use development” includes plans for retail and restaurants along Main Street.

Though none appeared at the council meeting, several neighbors complained they felt “bait-and-switched” – especially as a preliminary plan for high-end houses is now muddled by a reluctance by owners of part of the land to sell to a developer.

Councilman Mark Freeman recalled when the area was all cotton fields.

“I’ve listened to the neighborhood talk and the chatter,” Freeman said. But, he added, “…the quality of our projects are important…I feel like we need to move forward with this.”

Mayor John Giles agreed.

“We all know that’s a part of Mesa that can use some uplifting,” Giles said. “It’s two very high-end apartment complexes. I’m confident they’re going to be two projects we’re proud of.”

Though noting “It is unfortunate all of (Sycamore Station) is not developing at the same time,” Giles stressed it was important to get the project moving.

“The vice mayor said, ‘What we don’t want is another Site 17 sitting for many years undeveloped.’ I agree,” Giles said, nodding to Vice Mayor Jenn Duff. 

Despite acknowledging “unresolved questions on Main Street,” Giles said locals have nothing to worry about.

“I can in good conscience tell the neighbors these are going to be two very nice apartment complexes,” Giles said. “I’m optimistic we’re going to see the rest of the property develop sooner than later.”