TEMPE, Ariz. — The push continues to build an entertainment district in Tempe despite a lawsuit filed this week by the City of Phoenix.
The center of the proposed $2.1 billion complex near Rio Salado Parkway and Priest Drive would be a new arena for the Coyotes.
Ballots will be sent out in mid-April for a special election in May for Tempe voters to decide whether to approve or deny the project.
The development united four former Tempe mayors, who gathered Thursday morning to voice their support for the entertainment district.
"We have argued almost more than anyone else could in this room – vehemently – and when you get the four of us on the same side of an issue, you absolutely know that’s the right thing to do," Former Tempe Mayor and development supporter Hugh Hallman said, pointing to the other three mayors in attendance.
But still others in the city disagree, wanting voters to deny the project.
"If it’s not the $700 plus billion dollar subsidy including a $500 million property tax exemption, it’s the terrible history the Meruelo Group has with Glendale, the City of Tucson, Miami Beach," Former Tempe City Councilmember Lauren Kuby said.
This week, the City of Phoenix filed a lawsuit saying about 2,000 units of multi-family housing can't be built in that entertainment district, based on a nearly 30-year-old agreement. That agreement, Phoenix argues, prohibits Tempe from building the housing because of noise from Phoenix Sky Habor International Airport.
The suit argues Phoenix could get sued by residents if the residential plans move forward for the area over the airport's noise.
However, opponents argue that there are protections for that in the project.
"Meaning that anybody who takes an apartment there or otherwise works, who lives there, acknowledges that this is a noisy area they're working in. It has an indemnity; it says if anybody ever tries to sue the airport over noise, they lose," Hallman said.
But Phoenix's Director of Aviation Services, Chad Makovsky said those protections aren't enough.
"We can assuredly understand that these residents, while they may not sue us, they may try to lobby to actually constrain our growth and development. What that means is fewer flights and it means higher costs for the people who live here in terms of tickets," Makovsky said.
Makovsky also denied opponent's allegations that the suit is about wanting to expand the airport.
"That's what I'm talking about - planned growth. We're not talking about any surreptitious growth or any other allegations that we want to get out from underneath some agreements so that we can grow. We want the agreement to stay in place because we know it protects the residents surrounding the airport," Makovsky said.
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