Scottsdale residents watching two major G.P. Amendments

By Curtis Riggs | May 20, 2009

Concerned about destroying zoning overlay
SCOTTSDALE – Activists, residents and government watchdog groups will be watching closely while two major General Plan Amendments make their way through the process at city hall this fall.

While there are few details about either possible amendment to Scottsdale’s General Plan, citizens already know one proposal is for a gas station of some type at Pima and Dynamite (2-GP-2009) and a 40,000-square-foot assisted living center at Lone Mountain and Scottsdale Road (3-GP-2009). Proposals for both commercial ventures planned for residential properties were filed by the May 1 deadline.

The Scottsdale Planning Commission and the Scottsdale City Council will be reviewing both applications this fall.

Many in north Scottsdale are more concerned by the project slated for Pima and Dynamite because it could not go forward unless city officials scrapped the Desert Foothills Overlay, which was approved several years ago and prohibits the up-zoning of residential property to commercial.

“It’s a constant battle. It took 25 years to get the character area established,” Scottsdale City Councilman Tony Nelssen said in reference to the zoning overlay/character study, which calls for the area to have a “rural, single-family, equestrian” character. The Desert Foothills zoning overlay/character study is the only plan ever approved in Scottsdale.
“There is going to be pretty good resistance against it,” Nelssen said about the venture proposed by property owner/developer R.L. Miller, at Pima and Dynamite.

Residents will have several opportunities to hear about, and speak about, the two applications in coming months: The Scottsdale Planning Commission will hold a study session about the two applications in the City Hall Kiva at 4 p.m. on May 27. On June 4, an open house will be held at the La Mirada Desert Center, northeast corner of Pinnacle Peak and Pima, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The Planning Commission will hold a remote hearing at the Via Linda Complex on Aug. 26. The Planning Commission will hold a hearing on the two applications on Sept 23; the city council will hold its hearing on Oct. 27, 28 or 29.

Former Scottsdale Planning Commissioner Jim Heitel said he has not spoken with any resident in the area who supports rezoning the corner because of the zoning overlay in place.

“If anyone on the Scottsdale City Council wants to bust up the Foothills Overlay, that is a discussion that needs to take place in a public forum,” he said.

To north Scottsdale activist Howard Myers, having the zoning overlay/character study in place is the only reason needed for residents to oppose it.

“People need to be reminded this is a character district and the only one in the city to go through,” he said.

Coalition of Pinnacle Peak (COPP) Vice President Linda Whitehead also points to the overlay and a 2006 rezoning application to sum up COPP’s position on the two cases. The Lone Mountain Bank case was defeated unanimously by the city council in 2006 because of the zoning overlay/character study.

“Five of the people who were on the city council then are still on the council,” she said. COPP’s response to the applications should not surprise anyone familiar with Scottsdale politics.

Myers said he, and others concerned about the two applications, are now setting up meetings with new city council-women Suzanne Klapp and Lisa Borowsky to explain the importance of the character study/zoning overlay and all of the effort which went into making it a reality.

Scottsdale City Councilman Bob Littlefield said he is “not too favorable” to either application because of the way they would change the characters of the neighborhoods.

“The one on Pima threatens the character study,” he said.