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Controversial Tempe Town Lake housing development lands on spring ballot

The South Pier project will now be on the special elections ballot in May after an Arizona Court of Appeals panel decision said it should be approved by voters

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The South Pier at Tempe Town Lake development will land on the ballot for a citywide vote in May 2023.

After a successful appeal against Tempe City Council filed by a housing advocacy group in the Arizona Court of Appeals, the final outcome of a $1.8 billion development will be in the hands of voters on a citywide ballot in May 2023.

The development, called South Pier at Tempe Town Lake, was approved by Tempe City Council in a unanimous vote last year. Following the vote, Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy collected voter signatures that led to an Arizona Court of Appeals panel, which ruled approval of the development had to be brought to Tempe voters. 

Sophia Will, a freshman studying philosophy, said she is worried the consequences of the project will extend to ASU students, their housing costs as well as overall enrollment.

"If the housing around campus gradually gets more and more expensive, students aren't going to be able to live close to campus. … It may dissuade individuals who want to go to ASU," Will said. "It's nice they're trying to build up the area around campus, but broke college students aren't even going to have enough money to even live in the area if this happens." 

South Pier is planned to include over 2,500 residential units with resort-inspired amenities as well as entertainment, dining, shopping and hotels. In a previous interview with The State Press, city council member Robin Arredondo-Savage said the land wasn't generating any revenue in its current state but the development's property taxes could change that after the initial eight years of development, during which they are receiving a city tax exemption. 

READ MORE: Students against South Pier Tempe Town Lake

Tempe City Council initially rejected CASE's petition but a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled the development would not work in existing city rules. 

"The City of Tempe has received the Court of Appeals opinion and is evaluating next steps," said Tempe Public Information Officer Kris Baxter-Ging in an email.

Quinn Fukawa, a sophomore studying business financial planning, said it's fair the city wants to build higher income housing, but Tempe needs more focus on making residences for older students. 

"There needs to be more affordable housing options for students," Fukawa said. "It's not always easy to find housing around campus because (ASU doesn't) have much housing outside of freshman year. … It's tough sometimes." 

The South Pier project is one of two large development proposals going on the special elections ballot in May. The other potential $2.1 billion deal would bring a new Coyotes arena and entertainment district at the end of Tempe Town Lake.

The potential development will be represented by Propositions 301, 302 and 303 on the ballot, that if approved, would begin the development of the new arena, a music venue, hotels, multi-family residential housing, retail, restaurants and more, across 46 acres at the corner of Rio Salado Parkway and Priest Drive.

"For people who want different options, it's important to get out to vote and do it," Fukawa said. "Without voting you won't get what you need in the city."

Edited by Shane Brennan, Reagan Priest, Grace Copperthite and Piper Hansen.

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