Scottsdale Development Unstoppable?

Some editor or editors at the Scottsdale Republic published an opinion piece today (reproduced below) that rehashes the same old tired false dichotomies that Scottsdale must either grow or die; and that folks who want to enforce citizen-ratified rules for development are somehow Luddites.

I presume the author is new-guy Grant Martin. His predecessors Robert Leger and Mike Ryan rode this horse long past its expiration (and ultimately their own departures). Martin probably inherited a file from one or both of them, and that’s the extent of his understanding of Scottsdale history. If that’s the case, I’ll forgive him–just once–and offer some advice in the form of David Foster Wallace’s instructions to a hypothetical taxi driver:

“To the library, and step on it!”

Grant, you can start with watching the video of the Scottsdale City Council meeting from Monday night where Mayor Lane and the council (save Littlefield) voted to approve the Sereno Canyon housing project over the objections of neighbors who paid a lot of money (relying on zoning and common sense of city government) for a rural lifestyle. Pay particular attention to the comments by Howard Myers.

You might also want to read Scottsdale’s 2001 General Plan, and the Desert Foothills Character Area plan.

Then look at the history of this parcel of land, already approved for development…development within the rules.

Then I ask you to consider these questions:

  • What’s the true economic value of the physical character of a community…especially a community with a tourism-driven economy?
  • How can you justify ignoring development rules to enhance short-term gains at the expense of future sustainability?
  • Why doesn’t development have to pay for itself, e.g., infrastructure (like roads) and city services?
  • Who has the right to determine community character? Developers and zoning attorneys?

And pay close attention to the General Plan “Update” redux that’s underway right now. Many of these same questions will come up again.

I’ll close with another bit of sage advice from Wallace:

The problem is that once the rules of art are debunked, and once the unpleasant realities the irony diagnoses are revealed and diagnosed, ‘then’ what do we do?

Mr. Martin? What will you do?

Scottsdale Republic: Development to north is unstoppable tide

Talk to anyone who has lived in Scottsdale for a while, and you’ll hear about change. Sudden, pro­found change, the kind that can make the average retiree sound like Methuselah.

When I was your age, there were no paved streets anywhere north of Cactus Road! I can remember way back when the Phoenix Open was actually held in Phoenix!

Change, like lightning during the monsoon, is a fact of life around here, and it can happen just as quickly. It struck again Monday night, when the Scottsdale City Council gave the green light to a developer hoping to build a 397-­unit resort and residential complex near the Tom’s Thumb Trailhead off of Happy Valley Road.

Perhaps surprisingly, the council’s primary deliberation was not whether land in such a scenic part of the Valley — an elevated, windswept, boulder-strewn landscape seemingly on another planet from downtown Scottsdale — should be developed.

Instead, it was how much sympathy to give to nearby residents and lot owners who felt the proposed Sereno Canyon Spa & Resort would infringe on the way of life they had enjoyed, or perhaps seek to enjoy.

Unfortunately for them, resisting de­velopment in that part of the city is like trying to stop the tide from coming in. We’re decades into Scottsdale’s steady, seemingly inexorable northward expan­sion, during which decisions like Mon­day’s have been the rule, not the excep­tion. That decision must be frustrating for those lot owners who thought they would be living in a low-density, single-­family residential neighborhood, but it certainly shouldn’t be surprising.

It’s important to note here that these lot owners weren’t left entirely high and dry by the developer, Crown Community Development, which will pay their homeowner association fees for three years and install gates to reduce traffic in the residential area to a minimum. Nor will they be forced into an uneasy coex­istence with a loud, garish new neighbor; the exhaustive and strict local building code all but ensures the resort will have a scant environmental imprint.

Traffic is a more legitimate concern, and one the council may have to address before Sereno Canyon’s opening, which could happen as early as 2015. Winding, secluded Happy Valley Road may not be sufficiently wide or even safe enough to serve as the main artery into and out of the resort, and its future alteration will no doubt be a source of concern for resi­dents of its adjoining luxury subdivi­sions.

But that debate was inevitable even before Monday’s vote. That vote was os­tensibly about Scottsdale’s future, and the jobs, upscale visitors and bed-tax dollars the city will enjoy once Sereno Canyon opens. But it was influenced — even foreshadowed — by the city’s past, which reminds us that change might be our only constant.

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  1. Don’t know why neighbors affected up there do not pool together monies and sue on the major/minor amendment criteria and the fact that Sereno Canyon got approved without changing the Natural Open Space Land Use category underlying the area that got amended to new general plan category resort/tourism. Both are killers and could hold up this project for years. Make them drop this approval and fight for a new approval with a new council. Then get some neighboring landowners to legal protest and they can’t get 3/4 vote (needs 6 votes) with a 5-2 against the project.

    Any affected party can sue, do not have to be an existing lot owner. Should look at the Reserve and Reata in this light also.

    1. Absolutely agree, Brian. It’s too bad there aren’t enough neighbors with resolve and/or money to fight it, but of course that’s what makes it a prime target for development. Seems to be the Scottsdale way these days.

      We shouldn’t have to fight government to get them to do the right thing, but here we are.

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