South Mountain Freeway/Gila River Indian Community

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Gila River Indian Community members voted down a plan to put the South Mountain (Loop 202) freeway expansion on the reservation. Now, a group of Gila River residents are collecting signatures to try to force another vote. Joseph Perez and Nathaniel Percharo explain why the want a new election.

Ted Simons: The Gila river Indian community may be voting on a plan to build the south mountain freeway on tribal land -- again. This after tribal members voted against a freeway plan in February. But a group of Gila river landowners has gathered signatures requesting a new election. Here to explain why they want another vote is Joseph Perez, a Gila river resident and the partner in a company that wants to develop privately owned reservation land near the proposed route. And Gila river landowner Nathaniel Percharo, who is leading the effort to collect petition signatures. good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Joseph Perez: Thank you for having us.

Ted Simons: Why do you want to vote again on this?

Joseph Perez: Well, I think the real reason that we want to vote on it is primarily to try to save south mountain. As a community member and as a developer with allotted land,ed landowner's first mission is to save south mountain, be good neighbors, and help the people in Ahwatukee so their homes don't get destroyed, school doesn't get destroyed, church doesn't get destroyed. That's the real drive.

Ted Simons: To be clear, the Pecos road and we'll have tribal land for abbreviated purposes, Pecos road, that particular route goes on to south mountain, correct?

Joseph Perez: It would go down Pecos road, destroy homes, a church, school, cut through south mountain.

Ted Simons: Okay. On tribal land it does not?

Joseph Perez: It would not. It wouldn't destroy any homes. It wouldn't destroy south mountain. It would go around it.

Ted Simons: How else do these two routes differ? These two plans?

Joseph Perez: They differ by probably less than a quarter mile. Then they differ significantly in terms of budget that state would expend. Those are really the biggest differences.

Ted Simons: Why do you think this needs to be voted on again?

Nathaniel Percharo: Well, I think you have a lot of allotted land below Pecos road at the present time. What they are going to do is develop that land by routing it some other way would help the reservation as a whole and I think that's why they are looking to see if possibly they can get back on the ballot to vote on it to bring a lot of these issues up. They were never brought up.

Ted Simons: why weren't they brought up? Isn't it the responsibilities of both sides to clarify the issue for voters?

Nathaniel Percharo: It should have been but it wasn't.

Ted Simons: How come?

Nathaniel Percharo: I can't explain. I don't know.

Ted Simons: can you explain why?

Joseph Perez: I can't tell you specifically why. I just know that initially the community government had an on-reservation and off-reservation. The no build group got a no build option on the ballot. It wasn't communicated clearly to community groups and landowners. They voiced that concern after the vote when those people who voted no build didn't realize that the freeway was going to be built no matter what. They honestly believed if they vote nod build the freeway wouldn't be built. They were misled.

Ted Simons: I'm trying to figure out where the other side was to tell them no build doesn't mean not going to get built.

Nathaniel Percharo: True. They weren't there at all. They got the wrong impression. Residents say that if you vote no build, that means everything would go away. I think that's what everybody was led to believe, which wasn't true.

Ted Simons: is it possible that people just simply did not want a freeway on tribal land?

Nathaniel Percharo: No, I don't think so. As many people as I have talked to, I think they should have heard both sides according to who I have talked to. They are saying we would like to hear both sides now. Vote a simple yes or no.

Ted Simons: Is that how you see it as well? We had a vote and there was a result of a vote.

Joseph Perez: ultimately yes, there was a vote. If you looked at the vote, the on reservation vote as opposed to off reservation vote was 5-1 in favor of a freeway on reservation. The no build, which had the majority of votes, won the election but those people that had a choice of yes or no, it was clear that they wanted the freeway on the reservation in a 5-1 margin.

Ted Simons: so you began to collect signatures how soon after the election?

Joseph Perez: the landowners, my development company that have partners with Christi and Steven, we have landowner meetings about every other month N. February we had a meeting. That's when the landowners decided they wanted to try to save the mountain and help the people of Ahwatukee. That's when they decided to do the signature gathering.

Ted Simons: people hear landowners want another vote, they wonder do the landowners have an interesting? Do you have an interest in that?

Joseph Perez: The landowners have an interest. PANGEA, it really doesn't matter in terms of development whether it's a quarter mile on Pecos road or through the allotted lands, from our perspective as a developer, we could figure things differently because if a freeway runs through the land from a development standpoint there's not that significant of a difference. From a landowner perspective, there's individual people who would benefit more, but once again, I can honestly tell you every landowner I have talked to are more concerned about saving the mountain and being a good neighbor. Because that's what the freeway is going to do now and they don't want that.

Ted Simons: how do you convince folks this isn't just about trying to get a better position for some land own nears terms of -- could be a quarter mile but it could make a lot of difference for some folks.

Nathaniel Percharo: yes. I think a lot of people we have talked to understand the same thing that Mr. Perez is stating there, that they are in favor of trying to save that mountain because if it goes through the mountain they told us it would be about 14 stories high. So who would want something like that in their backyard? So that was why we looked at it. Not because maybe what the no build people were trying to state and everything like that, but the normal person would like to see that mountain stay put.

Ted Simons: there are some stipulations it sounds like you'd like to see as far as a deal through tribal land. The idea of no trucks on 51st avenue. Was that mentioned?

Joseph Perez: That was part of what the landowners wanted in terms of over all initiative. Currently on 51st avenue, which is the main street, district 6, which is residential, the truck traffic there is amazing. Nathaniel can probably speak more specifically to that because that's where he's from, but they wanted truck traffic stopped from going through that residential area.

Nathaniel Percharo: Yes, that's what the general outlook of all the people. Right now on 51st avenue, our rigs, whatever you want to call it, they have an accident there probably twice a week. Some of them are very, very bad. Some turn into fatalities. It's mostly trucks and heavy traffic coming through there. A lot of the traffic that's coming through 91st avenue and coming through 51st.

Ted Simons: All right, quickly before we go, was there a deadline as far as submissions for signatures?

Joseph Perez: There's no deadline for the landowners to submit the signatures. Once the signatures are submitted and verified by the community, council has 120 days to either approve the initiative or put it to a vote for the community.

Ted Simons: we have to stop there. Good conversation. Thanks for joining us.

Joseph Perez; Nathaniel Percharo;

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