The Great Scottsdale Land Rush

On Tuesday night the Scottsdale City Council looks certain to approve yet another sale of prime taxpayer-owned land to a private business (in this case a developer). Agenda Item 22 seeks to sell a little less than 4 acres of land (3 parcels) on the site of the former Los Arcos Crossing shopping center just east of SkySong for a little over a million dollars to developer Mark-Taylor Capital, LLC.

This site was the target of a high-flying assemblage of adjoining properties by PDG America that pledged to bring retail, office, and residential occupants together in a glitzy mixed-use project.

In April of this year the City announced that it was negotiating a deal with Mark-Taylor that would involve an exchange of this property for property on the southeast corner of 74th and McDowell on which M-T had under option. However, for unknown reasons that part of the deal has been dropped completely in favor of an outright sale. Also gone is any reference to any use other than apartments. This is contrary to promises to neighbors for years by the city and developers  for retail and no new residences for SkySong and for this site.

Laurie Roberts’ excellent column on the Mark-Taylor transaction appeared in the Republic last Thursday. She details the appraisal and pricing history of these land parcels. Very enlightening stuff – I highly¬†encourage you to read it.

This sale echos very closely the sale of the city-owned Civic Center Neighborhood Center property on the southwest corner of 2nd Street and Drinkwater Blvd. in March to Scottsdale Healthcare. I sued the city to block this sale, but I was unsuccessful.

The city is normally required by ordinance to follow a competitive bid process in disposing of taxpayer-owned assets so as to maximize the return to the taxpayers. The ONLY way to ensure you are getting ‘fair market value’ in the sale of property or anything else is to offer it to ‘the market.’ There is an exception for property sold to an adjoining property owner in exchange for clear public benefit. This exceptions were created for odd-shaped and/or small parcels of land that would have little value to anyone other than an adjoining property owner.

However, in both the Mark-Taylor transaction and in the Scottsdale Healthcare transaction the parcels in question are not insignificant in shape, size, or potential commercial value. Further, the in the Mark-Taylor transaction the city hasn’t even TRIED to make a case for public benefit. City staff has stated only that this sale, “…will further the Southern Scottsdale Community Area Plan’s goals and objectives.” Of course, any new project in Southern Scottsdale SHOULD be required to advance the goals of the plan. There is no additional public benefit of any significance.

This is a sad commentary on the motivations and operating methods of City Manager David Richert and the Council majority (including Mayor Jim Lane) who have the authority to rein him in…if only they had the intelligence, honesty, and courage to exercise that authority.

If you share my outrage and you want to join me in expressing it to Mayor Lane and the City Council, email them right now, and join me at City Hall Tuesday night. If you can’t make it, tune into CityCable Channel 11 on Cox or stream it live to your computer.

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