Real-estate reporter Catherine Reagor reports west of the White Tank Mountains, where metro Phoenix’s growth is heading, especially after Bill Gates invested $80 million into a 25,000-acre property.
More than 300,000 new homes are planned on the far western edge of metro Phoenix, including in Belmont where billionaire Bill Gates has recently invested.
You may have driven by the developments north of Interstate 10 and west of the White Tank Mountains on the way to Los Angeles, right after the turnoff to San Diego.
Now, the desert landscapes of the huge housing projects wouldn’t cause you to slow down. But in a few decades, the almost 70,000 acres of new communities could house as many people as Mesa currently does.
But first, another freeway needs to be built.
Interstate 11 or bust
“All the development west of the White Tanks hinges on Interstate 11,” real-estate agent and Buckeye Chamber of Commerce board member Kevin Johnson said.
Now that freeway, planned to run from Reno to Mexico and right through Belmont, is stalled without federal funding.
Johnson is also a native of Buckeye, where two of the big West Valley developments — Douglas Ranch and Tartesso — are located.
Those projects including Belmont have been on the drawing board for a few decades. All have changed hands a few times and started and stalled with metro Phoenix’s past two housing booms and busts.
Water, water, water
As with any big new development in Arizona, the question about water comes up. Does the project have it or how will it get it?
I couldn’t get an answer for Belmont, which is in unincorporated Maricopa County and Tonapah.
But both Tartesso and Douglas Ranch have water, Buckeye’s communications manager Annie DeChance said.
She said those communities have an assured-water supply certificate with the Arizona Department of Water Resources and are on record as reaching “safe yield” by 2025.
That means in eight years, the developments won’t use more groundwater than what is being replenished annually.
West Valley boom
When built out, Belmont would be comparable in square miles and projected population to Tempe, Belmont Partners said in a statement.
“The West Valley is the fasting-growing region in metro Phoenix,” Arizona housing analyst Jim Belfiore said.
He said 37 percent of all Valley new-home sales are now in the West Valley.
And homes are already selling west of the White Tanks.
Builder D.R. Horton is selling new homes in Tartesso, the closest in of the far West Valley developments. Last year, a California firm paid $80 million for the community and relaunched it.
Developers of the 53-square-mile Douglas Ranch, northwest of Tartesso, are moving forward with plans for that community.
And last week, Microsoft founder Gates invested in Belmont, north of I-10, west of Tartesso and south of Douglas Ranch.
“Most people in Buckeye won’t get too excited about the growth, until they see the shovels,” said Johnson. “And we need to see jobs as well as homes out here.”
The next time you drive to LA, be on the lookout for shovels west of the White Tanks.
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