City council approves north Scottsdale residential development

A new residential development in north Scottsdale will abut the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.   (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Toll Brothers is one step closer to seeing its vision of a luxury residential neighborhood sprout on an 80-acre plot of land at 118th Street and Jomax Road in north Scottsdale.

During a June 13 Scottsdale City Council meeting, Scottsdale’s elected officials and municipal leaders were walked through a request to make myriad changes to an 80 acres of land at 118th Street and Jomax Road.

Ultimately, the applicant, who is represented by prominent Valley zoning attorney, John Berry, is requesting a zoning district map amendment, and associated roadway and public easement abandonments to allow for a 51-lot, single-family subdivision.

The 118th Street subdivision request asked Scottsdale City Council to approve:

  • A zoning district map amendment at the northeast corner of north 118th Street and east Jomax Road;
  • A resolution approving to abandon three roadways and public easements;
  • A development agreement; and
  • Authorize a budget transfer totaling $650,000 from four capital projects.

On May 10, the Planning Commission recommended approval 4-0, which was followed by city council’s 7-0 approval on June 13 at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

“I think this is a great project, I think the density of this project — you’ve done a great job working with neighbors and mirroring surrounding areas,” City Councilwoman Virginia Korte said during the public hearing. “I think that’s very appropriate and that’s why I’m supporting this.

A view of Scottsdale City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd. (file photo)

Municipal process

Presented by Scottsdale Senior Planner Keith Niederer, the 80-acre plot identified for the new subdivision is on the northeast corner of 118th Street and east Jomax Road.

The property abuts the McDowell Sonoran Preserve to the east; Desert Summit single-family residential subdivision to the west; single-family residential parcels to the north; and single family home sites, and undeveloped land owned by the Arizona State Land Department to the south.

To be developed into 51 homes by Toll Brothers, the city council approved four detailed criteria to move forward.

The first ordinance adopted amends the zoning district map on 68 of 80 acres to increase density from 20 homes to 51.

City staff outlines proposed density on the 51 lots will be: 0.80 units per acre on 38 lots; 0.54 units per acre on seven lots; and 0.31 units per acre on six lots.

The draft proposal aims to preserve natural features, such as boulders and vegetation, the staff report states.

Zoning attorney John Berry pleads his case before the Scottsdale Planning Commission during its Tuesday, Jan. 25 meeting. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez).

“The environmental sensitive lands ordinance, when it was drafted and amended over the last couple of decades took into consideration that north Scottsdale’s development is different than what we would call the flat lands,” Mr. Berry said.

“So it’s not a vehicle to sneak more lots in, it’s a vehicle to respond to the unique Sonoran Desert environment in north Scottsdale by allowing homes to be smaller, you preserve more desert.”

Secondly, the council approved to abandon a 110-foot-wide roadway and public utility easement, 20-feet of roadway and public utility easement, and an additional 15-feet of roadway and public utility easement.

Public Works Director, Dan Worth, says he believes the total abandonments is about 3 acres, or 145,000 square feet.

Councilman David Smith raised the question of value of the three acres worth of abandonment. Mr. Smith points out the applicant deemed the total abandonment to be worth $60,000, while city staff valued it at $215,000.

“So 3 acres by the applicant was deemed to be $20,000 an acre, and by staff it’s $70,000 an acre?” Mr. Smith asked.

“The number of $20,000 an acre or $70,000 an acre — neither one seems consistent with the development which will one day, after it’s finished, be selling homes for $2 to $2.5 million — it seems like a bargain.”

Mr. Worth says city staff used the valuation of half of the entire 80 acres, purchased in 2015, as the comparable to come to that number.

“We valued the abandonment at 1.65 per square foot, that’s what they paid for half of their property,” he said.

In order to construct 118th street, the city must provide right-of-way to Toll Brothers, Mr. Berry says. Following the right-of-way, the developer will have 12 months to build the street.

“If we make offers and negotiate an acceptable agreement with each of those 10 property owners, we will acquire the property in time,” Mr. Worth said. “If we have to resort to condemnation in one or more cases, then it depends on council’s direction.”

Mr. Worth says staff has requested $650,000 to pay for the right-of-way.

“The math I would do, is the value of the abandonment, about $215,000, is being compensated by the value of the construction (of 118th Street), about $900,000. I think we’re coming out way ahead,” Mr. Worth said.

“We’ll spend $600,000 to get a million and a half worth of road.”

Thirdly, a resolution was approved authorizing a development agreement that included terms in which Toll Brothers will develop 118th Street, in exchange for the easements.

“As compensation for the Roadway and Public Utility Easement abandonment, the applicant is willing to construct or pay for the construction of north 118th Street north, to east Rio Verde Drive for a period of time,” a city staff report states.

Lastly, the council approved a fiscal year 2016-17 budget appropriate transfer totaling $650,000 from four capital projects:

  • $100,000 from the trail improvement project;
  • $150,000 from the sidewalk improvements project;
  • $250,000 from the traffic signal construction project;
  • $150,000 from the bikeways program project.

Mr. Worth says these identified funds are annual funds, which will be replenished on July 1, at the start of the new fiscal year.

The development will now go through the municipal planning and engineering process, Mr. Berry says.

“As to the timing of the construction of our subdivision, we don’t anticipate being in the field so to speak, doing any type of major construction for a year to a year and a half before we would be out there moving dirt and putting in pipes,” Mr. Berry said.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at or can be followed on Twitter at

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