Sterling Development Condos

This information comes via email from the Coalition of Greater Scottsdale yesterday. This case is typical of the type of development we’ve seen lately in other parts of the city and the ‘special handling’ favored developers have received from Mayor Jim Lane, the city council, and city planning and zoning staff; even though the case is atypically complicated by the confusion regarding multiple zoning categories applied, etc.

DC RANCH RESIDENTS’ FRUSTRATION WITH CITY ZONING MAP DISCREPANCIES AND ZONING ADMINISTRATOR DECISIONS; REQUEST FOR SIGNATURES OF SUPPORT ON THEIR PETITION: (quotes follow) “Here is a synopsis of the battle the Legacy Neighborhood Association is waging against Sterling Collection Development  who is trying to build a multi-story, high density condo complex just a stone’s throw from the McDowell Mountain Preserve.

The site is very small–just 5.75 acres.  It is located adjacent to the Village Health Club at Thompson Peak Parkway and Legacy Blvd.  Last August, a notice was sent out about a plan by Sterling to build 18 condos on this property. No problem. They described the property as R1-10 which would allow this use.  This still shows as an active case on the Scottsdale Planning and Zoning website (37-DR-2012 STERLING VILLAS).  However, we never heard another word about the project.

Then, late last December, Sterling Collection Development Group submitted an entirely new project on that same site consisting of 213 condos and ~20,000 sq. ft. of commercial space in 7 buildings, reaching 56′ in height with towers up to 75 feet.  My neighbors and I were in shock.  It turns out that the same development was proposed and approved by the City in 2005 when no one really lived around here, but it was never built as the developer went bankrupt.  Sterling Collection Development took it over and re-submitted it, saying it already had City approval.  They just needed to go back to the Development Review Board since approval for the condos had expired.  The project should never have been approved back in 2005, but again, there was virtually no one living here to object (78-DR-2005#2).

The site is located in the Silverleaf neighborhood in DC Ranch, a low density residential development. It is also just a few hundred feet from the McDowell Mountain Preserve. The density they are proposing is nearly 40 units per acre!

After a couple of neighborhood meetings, Sterling took some resident and DC Ranch Association Board feedback and made a few minor changes that were mostly smoke and mirrors.  They combined the 7 buildings into 5 by creating “sky bridges” connecting the 2 commercial buildings with 2 of the residential buildings. There are still 7 building footprints.  Sterling claims they lowered the heights from 5 stories to 4 stories, however the buildings are still 56′ tall with 75′ towers and the same number of units.  The one thing they changed that appeased some Silverleaf residents was to add a separate gated entrance (which they asked DC Ranch to pay for) and prohibiting the condo residents access into and out of the main Silverleaf gate at Horseshoe Canyon.

In March, the DC Ranch Association Board formally stated that they opposed the development as planned, but they seem to be hesitant to get too involved.

We hired an experienced zoning attorney to help us sort out the legality of this development.  What he found was a morass of different zoning designations for the site and a long history of agreements and amendments from the original establishment of DC Ranch.  There were numerous conflicting zoning designations for the property, making it impossible for a citizen to know the actual zoning on Parcel T-4B, Lots 30 and 31 of DC Ranch.  They also ran into strange “irregularities” like missing pages for this property in the official Scottsdale Zoning Book and microfiche.

The Legacy Neighborhood Association filed a request for a zoning interpretation on the property.  The Zoning Administrator responded with a weak and vague opinion.  He said he could not give us an official “interpretation” because building permits had already been taken out on the site. (There were some encroachment permits issued, but never any building).  He contradicted himself in his own response by saying that the DRB approval of 2005 expired and no building permits were ever issued.  We assume this was a political ploy to try and forbid us from filing an appeal since you can only appeal an official interpretation to the Board of Adjustment.  Also, after receiving our letter, the Scottsdale Planning Department changed the City’s official zoning map in order to designate the zoning for the property as C-O/PCC PCD, rather than the R1-10 PCD which the map previously showed.

We filed a strong appeal (4-BA-2013) and Sterling immediately countered by submitting a revised plan to the DRB which tried to address some of the zoning issues we had raised.  Their new submission of July 8th took the McDowell Mountains out of all their drawings–I guess if you don’t show them, you can’t see how they will be obscured by these tall buildings.  A stay was issued stopping their August 1st DRB meeting.  Now it appears that the City is scrambling to “digest” our appeal.  First, the Asst. City Attorney told us that the city said we did not have standing. Our attorney countered with a letter citing case law that we are, in fact, an aggrieved group (traffic, obscured views, noise, impact on home values, etc).

The City viewed our appeal as a request to change the zoning on the property, saying that the Board of Adjustment does not have jurisdiction to change zoning.  We know this. Even though the zoning on this property is screwed up, we agreed not to challenge the zoning in front of the Board of Adjustment –just the ZA’s interpretation of what can be built, given the zoning.  A hearing before the Board of Adjustment was tentatively scheduled for August 7, but has been delayed a week until they can sort this out.  It is now tentatively scheduled for August 14th and they are restricting the points we can argue, if we get to move forward at all [continued until September 9th; see below].

So that, in essence is the story.  We have a strong legal case, but the politics of the city and the shenanigans of the opposition are trying to force this development through the system. Our core group is small, and we are continuing to try to raise both support and money to help with our legal bills.  Anything you can do to help get the word out and draw attention to this travesty would be greatly appreciated.  If this high density, high rise development goes through, it will set a terrible precedent for high rise development in Northern Scottsdale.


We have an online petition and it would be great if you could sign it and share it with people you know

If you would like to become a member of the Legacy Neighborhood Association or contribute to our legal fund, please send an email to:

Also, we encourage you to write to the Scottsdale Board of Adjustment with your opinions about this proposed development.  They can be reached at:

UPDATE FROM THE LEGACY NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Last Friday, the Board of Adjustment issued a new report about the zoning on the property [The “Board of Adjustment Report” is actually produced by staff as background material for the BoA meeting. In other words, it is a report TO the BoA, not a report FROM the BoA.]

The Asst. City Attorney said it was just a further explanation of their prior opinion on the property.  It was, in fact, a brand new explanation of how they got to the density of 213 units.  Our attorney poked holes in all their arguments in the original interpretation, so they decided to make up a new explanation.  Because of this “new and improved” explanation, the hearing before the Board of Adjustment is now tentatively scheduled for September 9th, vs. August 14th.  A stay is still in effect from our filing of the appeal, so the scheduled August 15th Development Review Board meeting to review the Sterling proposal will be postponed (78-DR-2005-2).

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  1. There is almost no resident advocacy within our city. The staff, from top to bottom, operates under the theme of “get the project approved.” There is so little consideration for the integrity of the process or the actual constituents that reside in our neighborhoods. If we could just get more people to show an interest in our primaries, we might have an effect on the talent we elect to our government.

  2. I know this it’s not about the New Reata Pass development, but there has been a plat hearing notice posted at 138th on Rio Verde. I know you wrote extensively about this. Didn’t that get voted down. If so why is it proceeding. I am just one Resident, but is there nothing to be done about this. I have no money for a law suit, but if there is something I can do please advise. It seems to me that a no vote is a no vote, what happened?

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