As part of the voter-approved $16.35 million bond proposal geared toward public safety, Scottsdale City Council has approved a resolution to acquire 1.5 acres of vacant land to rebuild fire station 603.
However, the land may take a bit of litigation to obtain, after the landowner spoke out in opposition at the June 21 public hearing. In preparation of that litigation, Scottsdale City Council approved a $50,000 contract for legal representation to move forward with purchasing the $1.25 million dirt lot.
The plot of land in question, located just west of 84th Street on Indian Bend Road, has been identified as the best location to maintain a four-minute response time to its coverage area, in addition to allowing for a larger fire station.
Fire station 603, now located on McDonald Drive just east of Scottsdale Road is the oldest and smallest fire station in the city. It was built in 1971 and has several short-comings, which includes a lack of updated safety equipment, city officials say.
Recently, the city contracted with Emergency Services Consulting International to provide an updated Standard of Coverage and Deployment Plan, which included facilities and fleet assessments. The SCDP determined the existing fire station 603 facility is not fully functional and does not meet current standards as established by the Scottsdale Fire Department.
“Where it currently resides it has a limited coverage area,” said Scottsdale Fire Chief Tom Shannon during a June 21 phone interview.
“Current coverage is 4.73 square miles, and more importantly we have a number of population of 16,000 that is covered in that area. We also have an area of about 3.64 square miles and about 11,000 not covered adequately.”
Multiple sites were considered for this new station.
The proposed site is vacant, located on a major street and is primarily surrounded by commercial uses, the city council report states. Existing infrastructure adjacent to the site will need little modification to accommodate the station.
The 1.5 acre proposed site — that achieves a 30 percent reduction to the population outside of the response coverage — was valued at $1.25 million. The appraisal is dated Jan. 27, 2016, according to the city.
“From the fire station perspective, it’s about numbers, the area coverage and the number of residents we reach,” said Chief Shannon.
Opposition and litigation
Although scheduled to be a consent agenda item, the topic of the land acquisition for fire station 603 was moved to the regular agenda to give opportunity for discussion.
Public Works Director Dan Worth presented the council with a presentation regarding fire station 603. Within his presentation, he presented maps, a timeline of conversation between city staff and the land owner and expressed the need to relocate.
“The location on Indian Bend Road was clearly the best choice for relocation of fire station 603,” said Mr. Worth.
Other locations significantly dropped off in terms of coverage area and response timeliness, he said.
As a part of public testimony, the land owner Robert Hing presented his opposition to the land acquisition. Mr. Hing also owns the Scottsdale Resort and Athletic Club built in 1971, next door to the vacant lot.
Mr. Hing explained the property is under contract with a purchaser, and threatened litigation if the council proceeded with the acquisition.
Representing the purchaser Jene Constantine, director of development with Investment Property Insights, explained her timeline to the council during her public comment.
“We went into escrow with Mr. Hing in early March, so I was a little surprised to see the timeline put forth by Mr. Worth that showed a parallel path without knowledge, of what was going on at the city level with acquisition efforts,” said Ms. Constantine.
Furthermore, her client has filed a rezoning application with the city to build senior housing on that site.
“We’ve been moving forward now for roughly six months, I would say, with Mr. Hing, in good mutual faith, that this property was available for purchase,” said Ms. Constantine.
Several council members stated their support for property rights; however, the council agreed the land use was best suited for the safety of residents.
“It’s not a matter of the quality of the station. It’s not a matter of anything other than response time,” said Mayor Lane.
“I’m not trying to be overly dramatic when I say this — this comes down to a matter of life and death. There’s not anyone on this council that doesn’t support our fire fighters and the job that they do. And we are certainly very, very concerned about our community and our citizens.”