Reata Ranch Postscript

North Scottsdale resident Bob Brannon sent this letter regarding Reata Ranch to the City Council earlier this week. It is a good perspective from an average resident of that area, so I wanted to share it with you.

Reata is a “done deal” as of Tuesday night, but Bob’s concerns remain valid. Much of the detail of the “selling points” of the project that were used to overcome the zoning objections are completely vague. So there is much room in the zoning approval for the developer to really make a mess of this area.


I am copying below a letter that I have sent to many including the council and committees and city staff re the Sereno Canyon rezoning, which has been delayed probably because the attorney (who is melting in the heat…we could only wish it so) wanted to wait to see what and how he did with Reata Ranch.

It looks like the city would approve a rezoning of a ham sandwich if it had a developer and more tax revenues and probably campaign contributions attached to it.

I am frankly appalled at the way the council ignores input they disagree with, and it really does look like they decide before the useless public hearings–as you say–the kabuki theater phase.



This letter is in reference to the rezoning requests: Sereno Canyon Resort and Spa, Case Numbers 10-GP-2011 and 16-ZN-2011.

I am AGAINST this rezoning request. These comments cover both why it should NOT be done and what should be changed or stipulated IF it goes through.

When we purchased our home ‘next door’ to the proposed project and rezoning (t is within 750 feet of the west property line of the Reata project) the area was and is currently zoned R1-130 ESL [Environmentally Sensitive Lands]. The lots were priced above 1 million dollars, with the expectation that the approximate value of the homes plus lots would be in the range of 3 to 6 million dollars, the density would be below 0.37 units per acre, and the NAOS [Natural Area Open Space] stipulated in the zoning documents was/is 62% (well above the minimum of 42%). The entire project [previously approved on land now upzoned as Reata] was residential and NOT commercial.

Thus, the old project would have been very appropriate and consistent to our investment and neighborhood. The NEW and proposed rezoning project is NOT. By my analysis it will most likely depress values and dilute the value of all nearby properties. Beyond the value depression point and debate, the concept of having a commercial/hotel resort is NOT what we bought into.

If you all are contemplating approving this rezoning request then I would ask you to consider the following questions or comments or changes.

1. The change to the NAOS is NOT acceptable. In the original/current zoning 1-ZN-2005 10-4-05 the NAOS was increased from the minimal 42% to 62% as AN INCENTIVE to the city to allow the developer to raise the units from 101 to 122.

In the new proposal to rezone the NAOS is dropped back to 42%, while the density is worsened to 350 units. As I read the proposal, this NEGATIVE change is “hidden” and NOT pointed out.

I regard this method of suggested change–being difficult to discover for the citizens reviewing these proposals–as surreptitious and questionable.

This NEGATIVE change to the NAOS is particularly offensive given that the Property is next to and below the [McDowell] Sonoran Preserve and especially The Tom’s Thumb Vista View site and Overlook.

2. Happy Valley Road, between Alma School and Pima is currently 2 lanes, with a 50 mile per hour speed limit and, unsafe for bikes and hikers as it is. This Road/Highway must be widened and improved BEFORE any additional commercial hotel/spa/resort is either approved or built or occupied.

3. The view from the Sonoran Preserve Tom’s Thumb must be protected. The NAOS should be returned to the 62% if the rezoning is approved. YES this may or will reduce the units but so be it. At least this should be negotiated. Why concede the original 62%?

Stipulations should be put in now to define the restrictions on the roofs/and architectural structures/colors/objects that would be objectionable and destructive to the “beauty” of the view and the Preserve. The view from Tom’s Thumb should be as good as it can be!

The proposed rezoning makes mention of solar energy or solar power being used. Although I am pro-solar, I can also see that an unrestricted section of solar panels on the site or on the roofs could be very unsightly if not ugly to those looking down from Tom’s Thumb.

4. The proposed restrictions on Alameda (that it be an exit only) is NOT sufficient. Having 350+ vehicles making multiple tourist trips per day is not right for that road. As it is, it is marginally safe for walking and biking.

5. The proposal makes several vague and undefined specifications or mentions of a “multi-use trail system” (page 26/27), or “interconnecting public track” (page 18), and opportunities of a “trail connectivity” (page 19). Now this is an attractive feature assuming it actually goes in, and assuming it is completely open to the public.

Additionally, the proposal uses the phrases, ”promoting health and wellness,” as a goal and objective of the resort, and speaks of “recreational amenity.” Given this “selling point” of the proposal…

First, the multi-use trail system should be expanded upon and defined, e.g. length, width, surface, steps no steps, disability access, bikes vs. pedestrians, skates, motorized vehicles, etc.

Second, as an additional fulfillment to the “Health and Wellness” objective, a PAR Course fitness station trail should be a part of, and fully integrated into the multi-use trail.

Third, the trail, etc., must be accessible to the public.

6. Are there restrictions on keeping/housing, or using animals on the site? Specifically, if there are no restrictions in the rezoning, then it should be stipulated that at least NO horses be allowed for any purpose.

7. It is NOT stipulated that there be a “shop” in the hotel to provide for items and sundries that would reduce the tourist trips in and out of the property. This should be examined and stipulated to.

8. On page 18 the proposal describes/mentions…”Resort Transportation.” Are we to assume that this is intended to reduce traffic in and out? This needs to be expanded upon.

9. Page 10 item 5 specifies as a selling point, there will be “enhanced setbacks on 128th.” For us to understand the benefit of this “feature” it needs to specified and stipulated to in this proposal.

10. In the old zoning…there were several stipulations and restrictions on lot development and building, e.g., fences, walls, setbacks, building envelopes. Do these very same specifications carry forward as is to the new proposal? If NOT what are the differences? Why are they different? And is the proposed change negative or Positive?

11. It is NOT clear and transparent that the entire resort or property or a portion thereof will be completely OPEN to the public free of charge. This needs to be defined and stipulated to, if it is envisioned that it will NOT be open or if there is a fee or function/nuisance mechanism like guard gates with names list or locks or codes.

12. This area is a fire hazard area. I am not familiar with the standard outdoor fireplace or bonfire restrictions in this proposed zoning. I think that the recent zoning approval for a resort called Eco Ranch allows for outdoor fires of some sort. If the standard code does not eliminate or restrict there for this proposed rezoning then, I request that it be done.

13. It would have been nice or convenient if the developer had published a clear analysis of the differences between the old zoning and the proposed rezoning, BOTH negative and positive; and that he present that analysis in a table and prose form.

14. It would be useful if either the developer and or the city staff would do a financial impact study of the old versus the new. Even at a cursory level, considering the obvious: Property tax, resort tax, bed tax, sales tax. It would be useful. Further detail covering employment, impact on property values surrounding the property, and sales revenue from “tourists” would make it even more useful.

15. The current proposal regarding the rezoning states that, “The Resort Estate Lots located along most of the project’s perimeter will maintain the existing R1-130 ESL zoning at an appropriate density of approximately one home per three acres.” This would be 44 lots and 44 homes. Now, why should we believe that this will remain as such? What will happen if the project fails to succeed in selling these 44 lots to new clients?

This is especially important given that the developer has only succeeded in selling a hand full of the existing large lots as is (nine I believe at last count), which is probably the motivation to rezone and turn the project into a Resort. What is the probability and possibility that the developer will return and ask again for a rezoning of those 44 lots? My simple analysis says that the probability is high that they would.

What are the barriers, either legally, or procedurally to making that request? And what are the barriers and logic for the City Administration and Council to rejecting that rezoning?

I assume this would change the calculus for NAOS and units per acre and traffic, etc. But would anyone care? I am concerned that once the resort is started and the developer is “stuck” with the unsellable 44 lots the city will either have no alternative or will be “sympathetic” and allow the rezoning.

Respectfully Yours,

Robert D Brannon

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  1. Hard to be sympathetic with whiners only worried about their investment in an area they have no business living in. We are happy to see a future delay in carving up more lots for gaudy houses like Mr Brannon.

    1. Having been involved with these issues for more than a decade, I can say with confidence that many of Mr. Brannon’s process concerns are absolutely valid. And I don’t see how concern about the value of one’s property are not valid, regardless of where it is or the size of home they plan to build or have built.

      It sounds like (but I have not verified) Mr. Brannon bought land that was zoned “R1-130 ESL.” “R” zoning IS residential zoning. How is it that he has “no business living in” the area?

      From the tone of your comment, I’d say you and Mr. Brannon should be allies in fighting against GREATER density of residential encroachment and urbanization of the area. What am I missing?

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