Rumbles at Red Rock

As Pulte Homes builds northwest of Tucson, a tiny, eclectic bar stands in the way

Thirty miles northwest of Tucson, a tiny rural community is about to be engulfed by a tide of residential expansion it just as soon could do without.

Pulte Homes is full-speed ahead on a development it calls Red Rock Village: nearly 4,000 one- and two-level homes on 1,000 acres just west of Interstate 10, along with a little cluster of homes, an elementary school and a bar that compose the almost-town of Red Rock.

Some residents here have farmed and ranched on the lands west for more than a century. Now, most of those lands are being churned up and flattened out by giant earthmovers.

Its builders describe Red Rock Village as "the largest master planned community yet to be built by Pulte Homes in the Tucson area" and "the first community of its kind in the desirable northwest side of Tucson." It says it will offer homes ranging in size from 1,200 to 4,000 square feet.

Pulte Homes says its big Red Rock Village development will have many amenities for homeowners, including parks, a swimming complex, 150 acres of open space and 11 miles of trails. The company says it will set aside 26 acres that can be used for schools.

It donated $10,000 for improvements and signage on the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, which runs through the site. Pulte says it worked with Anza Trail Foundation advocate and Pinal County Planning Commission member Mary Aguirre-Vogler to arrange the donation.

In its initial stages, however, Red Rock Village will not be self-sustaining--no retail outlets are mentioned at this juncture. Homeowners will need to travel to Casa Grande, Marana or Tucson for necessities, high schools and entertainment.

Interstate 10 already regularly becomes a bottleneck for Tucson-Phoenix traffic. The impact of thousands of new commuters and other travelers pouring on from Red Rock Village is a matter of serious concern to the Arizona Department of Transportation, among others. ADOT has held a series of public meetings in the area to elicit citizen input about the best fix for the potential upcoming squeeze.

It appears certain that the existing narrow on- and off-ramps at the Red Rock Exit will need to be expanded, and very likely the freeway itself.

But not everything has gone perfectly for Pulte.

Sally Meeks, who owns the Red Rock Bar, has lived in the immediate area for most of her 65-plus years. She says none of the local people she has talked to are happy about the huge development gathering mass literally in their backyards.

Aguirre-Vogler is a fourth-generation resident whose industrious forebears were ranchers and cotton farmers, who hauled freight as far east as Kansas City. The Aguirre Valley west of Red Rock and Aguirre Street in Red Rock, on which she lives, were named after the clan.

Aguirre-Vogler has been a member of the Pinal County Planning Commission for 12 years. That government body had a formative say in whether Red Rock Village would be allowed to come in. Aguirre-Vogler said that although she feels the new multiple-story homes will "ruin my view" of the West Silver Bell Mountains, she felt she could do nothing to prevent it. With development apparently inevitable, she said, "We're just glad it's Pulte."

Sally Meeks' Red Rock Bar is proving to be a fly in the ointment. Housed in a crumbling doublewide trailer painted dull red with white trim, the bar has reposed in its present position--on six-plus acres that Sally also owns--since the late 1970s.

Immediately adjacent to the bar to the west are the remains of a gas station. Hugging the west wall of the station remnants are two run-down singlewide trailers in which Sally and her 37-year-old paraplegic son, Bobby, live. Looking west out of their trailer windows, they can't help but see, about a hundred yards away, the two-story model homes that Pulte is constructing. Sales will start soon.

The only existing structures between Red Rock Village model homes and access ramps to I-10 are the Red Rock Bar and attendant buildings. Pulte has placed some attractive signage about a quarter-mile south of the bar, but the fact remains that what the company must consider to be an eyesore is smack at the entrance to its crown jewel. An observer can only ask: What might prospective homebuyers think about that ghastly little collection of clutter at the doorstep of their gleaming new community?

Meeks says several months ago, several Pulte management representatives--along with Aguirre-Vogler--showed up at her place and told her Pulte would like to buy the bar and her six-plus acres. They chatted amiably, she said, then a Pulte rep handed her a sealed envelope with the offer. "Don't open it now," he said. "Wait until later when you've had a chance to think about it."

Some time later, Meeks said Aguirre-Vogler approached her independently and offered to buy the bar herself for about $300,000.

Aguirre-Vogler acknowledges that she made a bid on the bar. "I encouraged Sally to sell from the beginning," she says. "I told her if it were me, and I was receiving offers like that (from Pulte), I definitely would sell."

Meeks wasn't happy with Pulte's first offer, but she says they then sweetened the pot, and it amounted to more than $300,000. She said she advised Aguirre-Vogler that she had been outbid.

Meeks is still a holdout as of this writing, but she believes she has good reason: She has very little schooling and is certain she would have difficulty finding work that could adequately support her and Bobby, who depends on her. She owns some vacant property near Chandler and hopes to build a home for them there. Money left over could go into savings and investments that would sustain them for the rest of their lives.

Meeks says that Pulte has come back more than once, and that their latest offer (as of Sept. 8) was more than triple their original one.

What happens to the rest of the few humble homes/homeowners and small elementary school in the community of Red Rock? Speculation is rampant. Details are scarce.

The Weekly contacted Pulte offices to seek the company's input. We spoke to and exchanged voice messages with the company's public relations person on four occasions over a five-day period. Each time, the PR representative said a Pulte spokesperson would be made available to respond to questions. That had not happened by deadline.

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