Litchfield Park Planning & Zoning Commission Needs Your Input!
Hello neighbors! My name is Tommy, and I have lived in beautiful Litchfield Park for 30 years. In all that time we have enjoyed the unique character and beauty of The Park with its open spaces and unobstructed sight lines, protected by carefully crafted Zoning Restrictions dutifully enforced.
That may be about to change!
At the request of some residents, and following procedure, our City Council has tasked the Planning & Zoning Commission to study the wording of the portion of the City Code that deals with the storage of RV’s, Trailers, motor homes, and other large vehicles in rear and side yards of residential lots within The Park.
The Code, as written, is purposely strict, effectively discouraging the storage of RV’s on all but a select few large lots within The Park where they would not present an eyesore or a safety hazard, but it has not been effectively enforced since November of last year, despite having been re-validated by the Board of Adjustment on April 7th, 2022.
Because of this, a small number of homeowners have begun to turn their properties into vehicle storage lots, despite clear language in the Code prohibiting it.
I believe strongly that if the Planning & Zoning Commission moves to weaken the current Code, numerous households that are now required to store their RV’s off-site will quickly move them to their side and rear yards in Litchfield Park for permanent storage. That would be problematic for numerous reasons.
The process of rewriting the Litchfield Park Zoning Code, Section 31.04, requires that the P&Z Commission and the City Council solicit citizen (your) input on the proposed changes. They promise to consider our feedback before issuing their revisions.
We need to let them know what we want!
I strongly encourage you to email the Planning & Zoning Commission, The Mayor, and the members of the City Council and tell them to enforce the existing code and not let it be watered down.
Tell them you do NOT want properties in Litchfield Park to become storage lots with yards full of big RV’s, Trailers, Converted Buses, Trucks, and other big & tall vehicles.
Here are some reasons why.
APPEARANCE – First, since the outward appearance of these recreational vehicles runs the gamut from shiny-new to old, faded, and decrepit, if the Code becomes more permissive, there will nothing to prevent owners from storing near-junk on their properties for the rest of us to look at.
PROPERY VALUES – A number of local real estate agents have told me that upscale residential communities, like ours, that permit RV storage see a noticeable and immediate decline in reputation and property values. Litchfield Park has always been an island of unique character and exceptional standards within a surrounding sea of typical tract homes and crowded streets and yards. This Code change could wreck that.
JUNK STORAGE – Practically, some travel trailers are nothing more than large tin sheds on wheels. At 9 feet wide, 40 feet long, and 11 feet high, some “toy hauler” type trailers are far larger than anything that would be allowed to be built in a yard. As such, if a homeowner requested Zoning clearance to build a tin storage shed this tall and large on his property his application would most certainly be denied. But what if someone is denied a permit for such a shed, and decides to purchase a defunct trailer to serve the storage purpose instead? If we allow RV storage, what’s to prevent them from just declaring their tin-shed-on-wheels a “permitted” RV?
ILLEGAL RENTAL UNITS – Despite strict Code prohibiting any RV from being used as a temporary residence, even now, some homeowners are using stored RV’s as vacation cottages for their extended family and friends.
This Code has been devilishly difficult to enforce, as all it takes to make an RV habitable is an electric cord and a garden hose to the house.
Imagine the temptation to rent these miniature houses-on-wheels to the onslaught of sports fans during next year’s Super Bowl, when one-week rentals can net thousands of dollars or during Spring Training through Vrbo, Air B&B, and word-of-mouth.
Both Litchfield Greens and La Loma neighborhoods, despite being part of Litchfield Park, prohibit storage of RV’s through strict HOA rules and they fine violators. We are very fortunate NOT to have an expensive HOA, but this means that our community standards must be upheld by our City Council and the various Boards, Commissions and Codes. Why would we want our community standards to be lowered when other parts of our City remain unaffected if the Code is weakened? Only the properties “within the wall” will feel the consequences.
FIRE SAFETY – In the surrounding County, Maricopa County Zoning restrictions are much more permissive. And yet, even though they allow on-property storage of large vehicles, they specifically require that ANY non-principal use vehicles be stored with a minimum of five (5) feet clearance from any nearby structure. This is a very important SAFETY regulation, so that in case of a fire or gas leak, rescue personnel would not be forced to squeeze between a building wall and a closely parked RV trying to remove someone through a window or side door when seconds count. Additionally, if it is the RV that catches fire, it is less likely to spread to the adjacent structure. If the City is determined to change our Code, this is the kind of important provision that should be included.
ELIMINATION of OPEN SPACES – Some homeowners cite the “convenience” of having their RV on property compared to off-site storage. Yet, I have documented a nearby RV currently stored for nearly 2 years in a side yard in violation of the Code that has been used for LESS than 10 days in the past year. So, the homeowner has the “convenience” for 10 days of use, and all their neighbors have to look at this eyesore for the other 355 days of the year.
Our building codes specifically create and maintain nice wide setback distances between houses in most parts of Litchfield Park. In my immediate area, they require a minimum of fifteen (15) feet for each structure from the side property line, making an expansive thirty (30) foot open space and visual sight-line between homes. Why would we want our views clogged up with a pair of huge, tall, but newly permitted RV’s?
PROPERTY DETERIORATION – Lastly, no matter how well cared for, those large Motor Homes and Camping Trailers inevitably deteriorate with use and time, especially under the hot Arizona sun. The paint fades, the decals peel, and the tires rot. For years, one of my old neighbors stored a huge twin-engine cabin cruiser on a 3-axle trailer just on his side of the side fence. The tires went flat, the engines were removed and sold, and the remaining hulk just rotted slowly away under the sun. Will we permit this in the future with weakened Zoning Codes? I hope not.
UNWARRANTED CHANGE – Convenience and cost make the current and future RV owners very vocal in their desire to see the Code loosened so they, too, can store their toys and equipment in their yards. Those of us who consider this to be a potential reduction in the quality-of-life and our property values in Litchfield Park need to speak out loudly and often to keep the restrictions that have served us so well for the last 30 years.
Please speak Out!
I URGE you to contact City officials (listed below) and ask them to retain and STRENGTHEN the City Code pertaining to vehicle storage on residential lots within The Park. Email or write the Mayor, City Council, and the Planning & Zoning Commission.
Tell your neighbors about this too and ask them to also let their voices be heard. Spread this web page around PLEASE! We, as a community, have much to lose if The Park becomes littered with stored RV’s.
Watch the City website https://www.litchfield-park.org for upcoming P&Z and City Council Meetings. P&Z usually meets on the first Tuesday of the month, and the Council meets on the Third Wednesday of each month.
The next P&Z meeting is on Tuesday, August 9th, at 7pm, and it is an important one, as I expect this very issue to be front and center. You can email Daniel Loftus, the City’s Planning Coordinator, at [email protected] . Send him an email with your concerns and he will forward it to the members of the P&Z Commission.
The meeting will likely be held remotely via Zoom and in person with the details published on the City website at:
at least 24 hours before the meeting. If you wish to speak publicly at the meeting, please email your request to Mr. Loftus and he will send you the “Request to Speak” form and the meeting details.
Thank you for reading this long post. It was our collective action that prevented developers from building a huge apartment complex on the NW corner of Litchfield Rd. and Wigwam Blvd. a few years ago and preserve the unique and desirable nature of The Park. With your help we can do the same for this issue too. Please feel free to comment below also. I will forward your comments.
Here is the list of people to contact to express your views;
Thomas L. Schoaf – Mayor – 623-935-5033
Paul J. Faith – Vice Mayor
Ann Donahue – City Council Member
John Romack – City Council Member
Lisa Brainard Watson – City Council Member
Tom Rosztoczy – City Council Member
Ron Clair – City Council Member
Matthew Williams – City Manager – 623-935-5033
Daniel Loftus – Planning Services Coordinator – P&Z Contact – 623-889-6205
Brian Bertucci – Chief Building Official – 623-889-6222
Rena Quale – Code Enforcement Officer – 623-764-3984 cell, 623-889-6212 office
This list should just copy and paste into your email “To:” box.
[email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]