Northern Density

Photo by Howard Myers

Howard Myers sent this email last night. Density has been creeping northward for a long time, and it looks like the developers and their best buddy, City Manager David Richert, have figured out yet another clever way to make it happen: “Resort” zoning. Is there any doubt left about Richert’s intentions regarding the General Plan Update?

Per Howard’s closing advice, contact Mayor Lane and the City Council ASAP and remind them there is an election coming up.

Obviously, the developers of these two projects know this, which explains the fast tracking. We need to remind the Council that we’ll remember come November.

Unfortunately there is a new threat to our peaceful life style, in the form of a new way to bypass the General Plan and desires of residents. Two zoning cases are coming forward on a fast track to rezone large tracts of land from low-density rural residential to high-density residential under the guise of being “resorts.”

The first one is the old Overlook project, 220 acres on the south side of Dynamite between 128th and 136th street, has come back as “Reata Ranch.” This case came through last year as a major General Plan amendment and rezoning, but was pulled before the Planning Commission hearing. At that time we all wondered what they were up to, and now we know. They have found a new way to bypass the General Plan and the requirement for a “major” General Plan amendment.

This time the developers have submitted a request to change the land use from low-density residential to “resort” zoning, claiming it will be a western resort containing up to 330 units on the 220 acres. Of the 330 total, about 220 can be owned by private individuals as single family homes. The land is currently zoned R1-70 (about 2 acre lots), which would support about 110 units, and they want to rezone it R-4R, which is for Resort/Townhouse, but this category can include “medium-density neighborhoods.”

The resort component can contain 10.62 rooms/acre and the residential component can contain up to 7.5 dwelling units/acre; 15 times the density of the current zoning. The number of units proposed is 3 times the current zoning. However, once the zoning is changed there is nothing to prevent them from coming back asking for more, up to the 1650 units they are entitled to under the new zoning. Also, the requested zoning category allows building heights of up to 35 feet, while all single family categories located in the Environmentally Sensitive Lands area are restricted to 24 feet high.

If this project was really a western resort, with old west architecture and amenities like stables, barns, cookout areas, etc., we would wholeheartedly support it because people come here to experience some of the old west. However this project is really short on those old west amenities and long on the high-density residential component. The developers don’t even want horses on the property, but claim they will borrow them from local equestrians in Rio Verde when any “guest” wants to ride a horse. Must be a new age western guest ranch.

We therefore see this as just a ruse to get high-density residential under the guise of a resort. After all, that is what the original proposal had, but that would have required a major General Plan amendment while this “resort” doesn’t. The original proposal would have resulted in from 230 to over 1575 units on 210 acres with 10 acres of commercial. So, other than eliminating the commercial there isn’t much difference between the original proposal and the new one, except that the new one is called a “resort” and will have some units for rent.

The other case is a rezoning of the previously approved and platted Sereno Canyon project, a really large 2 acre lot subdivision between Ranch Gate Road and the Pinnacle Peak Road alignment west of 128th Street. The full Sereno Canyon project is now 350 acres and it is zoned R1-130 (roughly 3 acre lots). They want to rezone 220 acres to R-4R, just like the Reata Ranch project. However, in this case there is no promise of a western resort, just a “premier Spa and Resort community,” again with a large percentage of it (about 210 of the 350 total units or 60%) high-density single family housing and only 96 (or 27.5%) “resort units.” The rest are single family houses on the perimeter of the project, which will remain 3 acre lots (about 12.5%).

Recognize the pattern? How to get a high-density residential project approved in a real-low density rural residential area? Claim it is a “resort.” Personally, I smell a rat and his name is Richert, our current city manager. Expect this end-run around the General Plan to continue as more land owners realize how they can get around all the protections that were originally built into the General Plan.

To be honest, resorts are good for Scottsdale as long as we can fill them. However, both these projects have very little real resort. Instead they are filling up most of the area with high-density housing, which is very bad for Scottsdale. Besides increasing congestion, residential development (especially high-density development), costs the city more than it contributes in property and sales taxes. So ALL the taxpayers in the city have to make up the difference through increased taxes. This is another reason why all those apartment projects currently being approved by this city council are so bad for the city’s bottom line.

We currently have a good balance between residential units and tourism, as the income from tourism is paying for the loss residential development causes. This affords us world-class amenities with relatively low taxes. If this trend toward forcing in high-density residential development continues, tourism won’t be able to supply enough income to offset all those new residents and our taxes will have to go up.

The Reata Ranch project goes to the Planning Commission on January 25th and to the city Council on February 28th, so it is fast tracked. Dates have not been set yet for Sereno Canyon, but expect a similar fast track as it has just been submitted.

Case numbers for Reata Ranch are: 9-GP-2011 and 15-ZN-2011

Case numbers for Sereno Canyon are: 10-GP-2011 and 16-ZN-2011

Communicating with the Planning Commission is pretty much useless, so we should concentrate on the City Council.  If you are similarly concerned with where this is all going, I urge you to contact the City Council members and voice your concern about the increase in residential density and its overall impact to the city and the quality of life we moved here to enjoy.

Contact information for the City Council is below.

Mailing Address:
3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

City Council Phone numbers:
Mayor: (480) 312-2433, (480) 312-2738 (fax)
Council Members: (480) 312-2550, (480) 312-7885 (fax)

E-Mail addresses:

Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane
Councilwoman Lisa M. Borowsky
Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp
Councilman Robert Littlefield
Councilman Ron McCullagh
Councilwoman Linda Milhaven
Councilman Dennis Robbins

One e-mail for all:

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