America the Messy Yard Police State
Mesa selectively enforces it's messy yard laws?It sounds like Mesa is selectively enforcing it's messy yard laws. The strip malls they are talking about have been closed literally for at least a year, and probably closed for several years.
Fiesta Village told to remove large signs
by Gary Nelson - Jan. 5, 2011 03:31 PM
The Arizona Republic
A crew was busy Wednesday morning spiffing up the large Fiesta Village sign on Southern Avenue.
It would have made a nice complement to the vacant center's other monument sign, the one along Alma School Road. That one, too, has been refurbished, with fresh paint and new plastic panels.
All for naught, as it turns out.
Only minutes before, a hearing officer told W.M. Grace Development Co., which owns the vacant center, that it has 90 days to get rid of the signs.
In the meantime, company president Howard Grace said he has no options left for the property other than to try to re-lease it to retail tenants more or less as it is.
It was the latest act in a years-long story that has turned what once was one of Mesa's premier destinations into a fenced-off relic of better times, pitting Grace and the city against each other and blighting one of the city's busiest intersections.
The signs became the sole sticking point in a code-compliance hearing conducted by John Gendron, a veteran zoning officer who is hired by the city to conduct such civil trials.
Mesa's code-compliance supervisor, Tammy Albright, said Grace has made nice progress cleaning up the site since the city filed three citations against the property in November. She asked Gendron to dismiss two of the citations and he did.
But Albright wouldn't budge on the signs, which she said violate Mesa's code because they have been unused for more than six months.
Mike Pearlstein, Grace's vice president, took issue with that.
Even though the signs advertise no tenants, he said, they are still in use because they serve to advertise the availability of Fiesta Village as a redevelopment site.
"We have no desire to let a property sit not generating income for a number of years," he said. He said the existing signage "is a marketing tool in itself to garner interest from tenants that might help facilitate the redevelopment of that project. . . . There is some use to those signs."
During the hearing Howard Grace traced the site's history from its heyday to its decline during the past decade. At one point, he said, the company had a deal to redevelop the corner for a Lowe's home-improvement store, which meant many tenants had to be relocated and leases bought out so the existing site could be demolished.
The Lowe's deal involved a development agreement and sales-tax incentives with Mesa, but it fell through during the heated debate over sales-tax rebates for the Riverview shopping center, which voters approved in 2005.
After that, Grace was left with a moribund shopping center.
"We are not irresponsible property owners," Pearlstein said. "The culpability of the current status of the center doesn't just lie with the property owner."
Grace and Pearlstein said Mesa has been slow to respond to their redevelopment proposals and while the company agrees with the city's long-term ambitions for the site to become a mixed-use urban center, that may be 15 or 20 years in the future.
In the meantime, Grace said, "We need to redevelop what's there and what's existing," and to do that he said it was important that the company retain what it considered "grandfathered" sign rights.
Gendron, ruled, however, that the signs are not grandfathered, that they violate code and must be taken down.
He also fined the Grace company $50 and assessed $390 in costs. He ordered Mesa to take no further action on the case during the 90-day period he allowed for the signs to be razed.