Planning Commission to recommend rezoning in north Scottsdale to city council

The Scottsdale Planning Commission listens to presentations during its Wednesday, Jan. 25 meeting. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez).

The Scottsdale Planning Commission has approved a recommendation to rezone a north Scottsdale site from commercial to residential despite heavy objections from neighbors who feel the proposal will negatively impact the character of the area.

Commission approved the proposal at its Jan. 25 meeting and now goes before the Scottsdale City Council for final approval.

Applicant John Berry had requested a non-major General Plan amendment asking the city to rezone 14 of the 15.5-acre site at 7225 E. Dove Valley Road from commercial to urban neighborhood.

He also requested a zoning district map amendment to change the area from central business district/environmentally sensitive lands to medium density residential lands on the same 14 acres of the site.

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

Mr. Berry intends on building 78 one-story homes on the property.

Mr. Berry said zoning on the remaining 1.5 acres should remain commercial in order to allow for a Dick Van Dyke Studio commemorative path to honor the history of the Carefree Studios.

This studio, located at the site, is where “The New Dick Van Dyke Show” was once filmed.

“This is not a difficult land-use case,” Mr. Berry said during the public hearing.

“We are taking commercial — which allows drive-through restaurants, 8,000 trips a day — and replacing it with one-story homes, 5.5 units to the acre, that generates 500 cars a day. It’s a down-zoning.”

The commission also approved a recommendation for an abandonment of the eastern 30 feet of a 55-foot-wide roadway easement along the western edge of the property.

Scottsdale Planner Keith Niederer presented the proposal first, followed by Mr. Berry who acknowledged the heavy opposition to the proposed project.

Mr. Berry pointed to initial hostility to other projects such as Troon North and Terravita — but said they all turned out fine in the end.

“The fear of change is often worse than the change itself,” Mr. Berry said.

He showed how he and the owner, Michael Lieb, tried to work with the public to address concerns such as putting in view corridors, lowering the original density from 120 units to 78, changing two-story to one-story houses and allowing more open space.

There will not be a subdivision wall that surrounds the property. Mr. Berry said the environmentally sensitive lands ordinance would not allow it.

He did say, however, a view fence would border the road curve at the western edge of the property and it would not obstruct any views.

Mr. Berry cited a traffic study that projects 8,830 trips if the site were to become a shopping center vs. 509 trips if he is allowed to build residential dwellings.

Commissioner David Brantner asked if the intersection of Scottsdale and Dove Valley roads would need a traffic light.

Principal Transportation Planner Phil Kercher said based on projections, the intersection does not warrant a traffic light but the department would continue to monitor the area to see if that would change.

There were many at the meeting from both the Terravita and Winfield communities who denounced the project, saying it would not be in character with the surrounding area. Some felt the proposed density of 5.57 units per acre is too high compared to Terravita’s density of 3.29 units per acre and Winfield’s 2.96 units per acre.

Terravita HOA board member Don Buch appealed to the commission to encourage Mr. Lieb to lower the density further to keep with the character of the surrounding neighborhoods. He also wanted to guard against narrow streets and the use of dumpsters in the community.

“We are not eager to hasten urbanization in this part of north Scottsdale,” he said.

Several in the audience tried to refute Mr. Berry’s assertion that he contacted residents about the proposed development. Some claimed he misrepresented support for the project.

Planning Commissioner Larry Kush (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Scottsdale resident Michael Roeser claimed he, nor any of those who signed petitions, never had any communication from Mr. Lieb. Mr. Berry said he had email chains proving otherwise.

Mr. Roeser also felt Mr. Lieb and Mr. Berry did nothing to address high-density concerns.

Scottsdale resident Dan McNeill feared the community would consist of rental properties, which he feels could lead to an increase in crime.

Commissioner Larry Kush disagreed, and thinks the area is in need of affordable housing such as apartments or rentals.

“Every time I hear ‘we don’t want rentals,’ it’s just another way, to me, of saying ‘we just don’t want those kind of people up here,’” he said. “That just troubles me because I think everyone has a right to a house.”

Tensions continued to rise as Scottsdale resident Lorra Moyer questioned Mr. Kush’s credibility on assessing the situation.

“I’ve never seen so much vitriol than with this package of comments,” Mr. Kush commented after hearing the comments from the community.

Mr. Kush added he has received phone calls from people calling him names.

With the approval of the recommendation, the proposal will now move to a future city council meeting, where council has the final say on the amendments and abandonment.

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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