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APRIL 4, 2002
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Residents brought together over rats

By Bob Golfen
The Arizona Republic
April 04, 2002 

Citrus trees are picked, yards are trimmed and streets are clean. Neighbors are getting to know each other as never before.

In other words, roof rats have been good for Arcadia.

"If anything, the little rascals are helping us out," said Barry Paceley, one of the organizers of the roof rat brigade. "The neighborhood looks better than it has in years.

"The neighbors are all talking to each other and working together, and that's something the roof rats have brought out."

The roof rat problem seems to have settled down, Paceley said, as people have worked to eliminate tree-borne sources of food, with an unknown number of rats killed by poison-baited traps. 

"My wife said we've had 15 of them in all," Paceley said. "Lately, I haven't seen any." 

The absence of rats is not surprising to other Arcadia residents, many of whom feel the problem has been overblown. Builder Greg Hancock, a longtime Arcadia resident, said he has yet to spot a single rat in the area.

"I've never seen one of the critters," Hancock said. "But every time I turn on the TV or read the newspaper, I see something about roof rats. I just chuckle at all the coverage."

The issue has deflated some of the aura of the upscale community, where the median home value is nearly a half-million dollars and home sales exceeding $1 million are common. 

Real estate agent and Arcadia resident Sally Geyer said she believes there are isolated pockets of roof rats but it is not a generalized problem.

"If you read what's in the paper and hear the word 'infestation,' the mental picture is that there are rats running down the streets," Geyer said. "I speak to everyone I meet, and no one has seen a rat."

Tom Delnoce, an Arcadia resident since 1976, said his neighborhood has been tarred by the roof rat brush.

"Unbelievable," Delnoce said. "Everybody knows Arcadia now because of roof rats."

Back in December, Maricopa County Vector Control office detected roof rats in Arcadia after receiving complaints from residents. Since then, rats have been found from 28th Street to 63rd Street and from Camelback Road to just south of Osborn Road, and the neighborhood has been mobilized to set traps, clean up yards and pick the fruit off citrus trees, one of the roof rats' favorite foods. 

The overriding fear of Arcadia homeowners that roof rat publicity would depress property values in the popular and exclusive area seems to have been groundless. The residents are unconcerned about the roof rat effect, Geyer said, although a few prospective buyers have made a few inquiries.

"One lease I was handling, I had e-mails from some people out of state that said, 'What about roof rats?' " the agent said. "But if you put it in perspective, they live with them (rats) on the coast all the time."

Housing analyst R.L. Brown said roof rats should have no real short- or long-term effect on home values.

"For housing activity, it hasn't been an issue," Brown said. "Probably for those not impacted directly, the issue becomes one of gentle amusement."

Jon Meulemans, deputy assessor in the Maricopa County Assessor's Office, said he has no hard figures for any roof rat effect because assessments lag far behind sales activity. The office just completed its valuation cycle in February for figures going back to July.

A neighborhood as desirable as Arcadia would have to be plagued by something a lot worse than the occasional roof rat to affect values, he added.

Hancock noted that roof rats seem like a mild problem for Arizonans compared with the critters who besiege homeowners living in the desert, including new communities in the northeast Valley. 

"There's a big difference between a roof rat and a rattlesnake," Hancock said. "I lived in the Pinnacle Peak area for five years. Coyotes, Gila monsters, scorpions. One day, my basset hound went toe to toe with a rattlesnake.

"It certainly hasn't hurt their property values any."

Reach the reporter at bob.golfen@arizonarepublic.com or call (602) 444-6866.

Copyright 2002, azcentral.com,The Arizona Republic