Scottsdale General Plan Feud

I wouldn’t have chosen the word “feud” like Beth Duckett did for today’s extended-play version of last week’s article on the implosion of the Scottsdale General Plan Task Force. However, I also wouldn’t say that it is an unfair characterization.

On the other hand, there are some serious factual errors in the article, which I’ve noted below in brackets.

For Scottsdale, mapping future proves difficult

Feud slows General Plan work

By Beth Duckett , The Republic |

Scottsdale is in many ways a divided city struggling to define its future.

And nowhere is this playing out more than in the city’s General Plan, a document required by law to steer a city’s growth.

In Arizona, cities and towns are required to adopt new General Plans, or update their cur­rent plans, every decade. The voter-approved plan is a map of sorts, outlining how a city wants to grow and evolve for at least 10 years. The process usually is a fairly routine exer­cise.

But in Scottsdale, the effort has been rid­dled with conflict. Scottsdale voters shot down the city’s last General Plan proposal in 2012, forcing plan­ners to return to the drawing board. The city has gone out of its way to keep residents in­formed of the process and include a wider range of participants.

Now, the creation of a new plan — a normally cut-and-dried affair — has been laced with arguments and general discord, which boiled over earlier this month when four people resigned from a task force charged with drafting the new plan. Along the way were allegations of intimidation and special- interest agendas. [This was never supposed to be about “creation of a new plan.” This was supposed to be an “update” of our 2001 General Plan, which has served the city very well for over a decade.]

“This mass resignation is probably not entirely unexpected,” Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane said. “I’m concerned as we go forward what tactics might be employed to further stifle the efforts to comply with state law.”

[So Lane is saying he knew this was going to happen from the beginning, thus the resignations are serving his purposes.]

Scottsdale could ask voters to approve a new plan in the November general election. But Lane and others worry that the plan could face strong opposition, just as it did in 2012.

“I would probably anticipate something similar,” Lane said.

Remaining competitive

Scottsdale is no stranger to accolades, recently earning sixth place in an annual ranking of the best-run cities in America by 24/7 Wall St., a publishing company that provides financial news and opinions.

But despite its reputation as a wealthy and well-run city that draws tourists from around the globe, Scottsdale has its struggles, which often include heated disagreements about where the city should be headed.

For many business leaders, residents and city officials, the fear is complacency. As neighboring cities such as Mesa embrace light rail and new growth, some Scottsdale officials see their city as potentially falling behind in the increasingly competitive environment of the Valley. Scottsdale’s thriving downtown, enviable image and robust tourism industry can’t be taken for granted, they say.

“Our product isn’t up to date. The tourist is changing,” said Rick Kidder, president and chief executive of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce, at a meeting last month. “Yet I hear a mind-set that says we can kind of lock the gates, stop everything from happening, and if we stop everything from happening, we’re going to be just fine. And that mind-set scares me, because I think communities have to view themselves as evolutionary.”

[Herein you find the false equivalence which labels advocates of controlled growth as “anti-growth.” Kidder is a self-serving sellout, and puppet for those who run the Chamber…developers and zoning attorneys.]

On the other hand, challengers worry that a growing population — and the changes that come with it, such as high-rise buildings — could ruin Scottsdale’s attractiveness.

In recent years, Scottsdale has welcomed an influx of new developments, including apartments at SkySong, the Arizona State University Scottsdale Innovation Center and Alliance Residential Co.’s Broadstone Waterfront, a 259-unit high-end apartment complex with restaurant space under construction at the Scottsdale Waterfront. Other apartment complexes have been approved by the City Council and are planning to break ground.

[“Welcomed?” Poor choice of words. Every one of these projects faced stiff opposition from residents. At SkySong, opposing residents were passified by SPECIFIC assurances that there would never be a residential component to the project. Now, by virtue of taxpayer-funded purchase of the land, it has become not only a publicly-subsidized office building but also a huge housing project.]

A relatively new downtown infill-incentive district and plan allow developers and property owners to request amended development standards, such as increased height and density, in exchange for public benefits, such as increased open space and public art. That has led to several projects, approved by the council, that will bring just that — more density and height — which has drawn criticism.

[And where are the “public benefits” that were supposed to accompany the “incentives?”]

More recently, a similar change to zoning rules was made in the area of the Scottsdale Airpark, a major Valley employment center off Loop 101 that is adjacent to the city’s airport. That change, too, will allow for taller buildings in exchange for certain public benefits.

Just another city?

As Scottsdale evolves into a more metropolitan city, the fear is that it could reach a tipping point where it is “homogenized into just another Valley city,” said Ned O’Hearn, a former Scottsdale councilman and one of the four members who resigned from the city’s General Plan task force this month.

“Some growth doesn’t pay for itself,” O’Hearn said. “You run a great risk as a municipality down the line — and put yourself in a much-endangered position — if you basically let the market control you. The market is profit-driven and has no concerns about the future of Scottsdale.”

The task force is charged with coming up with a rough draft of the new General Plan, due out in February.

In addition to O’Hearn, three other task-force members resigned Jan. 13, accusing some other members of labeling them with terms such as “anti-growth” and ignoring their attempts to discuss “critical” growth-related issues or intimidating them when they tried to do so, they said.

Scottsdale’s last General Plan failed, in part, because of critics such as City Councilman Bob Littlefield, who said it catered to special interests and threatened Scottsdale’s special character.

O’Hearn said he is concerned that the upcoming plan “is going to end up being the 2011 plan made worse.”

“I think if the citizens are paying attention, and if this plan emerges from this process the way it appears it inevitably is, that it should (be) — and has a high probability of being — again rejected by the citizens,” O’Hearn said.

James Heitel, another member who resigned, said he was troubled by a mantra espoused by others on the task force, which he described as “dismissive” of what “the tourism industry contributes to the enviable lifestyle and economic well-being of Scottsdale.”

‘Hidden agenda’

But Wendy Springborn, who has served as co-chair of the task force, said the four members who resigned were a minority and “suffered from the delusion that their concerns alone would be considered legitimate.”

In a letter to Scottsdale’s mayor and City Council, Springborn said she had concerns “that if certain individuals did not get their way on all points, a ‘no’ campaign to bring down another General Plan would ensue.”

“A misinformation campaign has already begun, and it is rooted in the arrogant sense that they alone know better what should be the future path of this city,” Springborn said.

[These are the most disturbing quote in the article. This “feud” is absolutely NOT about members resigning because they didn’t get their way. They resigned because their views were completely rejected AND ridiculed in an abusive fashion by other members. while Ms. Springborn sat silently. Now that they are airing their views on the process, suddenly they are accused of “misinformation?” These members had an “arrogant sense that they alone know better what should be the future path of this city?” I think based on their track record of thousands of hours of VOLUNTEER community service long before Ms. Springborn got involved, they probably DO know better.]

When it comes to growth, Springborn said, “it is how we manage it that is important.”

[Duh. That’s the point of having a General Plan. Having a General Plan that does NOT manage growth is worthless…unless you are a developer or developer shill who just wants to eliminate obstacles to what YOU want to do.]

With the population of metro Phoenix expected to exceed 6 million by 2030, Scottsdale “is neither an island nor should it be,” Springborn said.

The task force’s job, she said, “is to understand and help plan for that growth, and do so in a way that respects the values of this community, allows it to build upon a strong tourism base, faces realities of encroachment on our borders and keeps this community competitive and forward-looking.”

Loren Molever, another task force member, said the four who resigned had a “hidden agenda” to control the city’s growth “in a manner they would like to see it.”

Similarly, Lane said he was “saddened” that those who resigned were not “willing to work with this task force.” The city worked “very hard to get a cross section of the community” for the task force, he said.

“Scottsdale has a great history of people working together in a sense of compromise and frankly listening and understanding one another,” Lane said. “There can be different points of view. But it was a matter of, it seems, from the correspondence they sent to us, that their complaint was they should be getting their way.”

[I won’t dignify this with comment other than to say Jim Lane advocating for trying to understand other points of view is pretty funny…and sad.]

“Some growth doesn’t pay for itself. … The market is profit-driven and has no concerns about the future of Scottsdale.”

NED O’HEARN, one of the four who resigned from the city’s General Plan task force this month

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1 Comment

  1. Beth has not attended the GPTF meetings. It is bad journalism to take sides and only interview one point of view. Molever bullied the four who resigned and the rest of the task force. I witnessed it first hand. Beth needs to revise her article and publish the truth.

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