Residents opposing Scottsdale’s Desert EDGE proposal sue city

(file photo)

Arizona nonprofit corporations, Protect Our Preserve and NoDDC, Inc., have joined together to sue the city of Scottsdale to enforce the rights of voters guaranteed under the City Charter, in regards to the much-discussed Desert EDGE proposal.

The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy also released a statement on Sept. 26, outlining a number of reasons the Conservancy doesn’t support the proposal.

The Scottsdale City Council is evaluating the Desert EDGE proposal at a 4 p.m. Sept. 26 study session at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

At issue: whether or not Scottsdale voters should have a say in the final decision on whether or not a desert-appreciation venue gets built within McDowell Sonoran Preserve boundaries and a growing fear any project approval can set a precedent for commercial development within protected lands.

Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale unveiled its plan for a proposed desert-appreciation venue on July 31. Envisaged on less than six acres just south of the established Gateway trailhead, the center includes a series of structures coined “pavilions” and has an asking price of $61.2 million.

Backed by more than 1,000 donors, the lawsuit Plaintiffs retained the services of Clark Hill, PLC with Ryan Lorenz as lead counsel, according to a press release issued by Protect Our Preserve and NoDDC, Inc. A Hearing on Order to Show Cause why a permanent injunction should not be issued is expected in October, the press release stated, adding the groups seek the right to vote on the future of the Desert EDGE.

“It is truly unfortunate when citizens are forced to band together to sue their own city to enforce basic rights. Our City Charter, our local version of our Constitution, was amended in 1999 to assure that major projects to be built upon the McDowell Sonoran Preserve could only be built if voters approved the proposed construction,” the co-plaintiffs said in a joint statement. “Based on that Charter promise, we agreed to tax ourselves paying over $1 billion to buy the land that creates our preserve.”

The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy states its mission is to champion the sustainability of the Preserve, for the benefit of this and future generations. The statement details, while Scottsdale residents, visitors and business community would benefit from the educational and research aspect of the Desert EDGE proposal, there are several reasons why the Conservancy doesn’t support the project.

Included in the reasons listed by the Conservancy are:

  • The sustainability of the Preserve is of utmost importance;
  • As owner of the Desert EDGE, the city will ultimately be responsible for the operating shortfall;
  • The Preserve is a preserve, not a park;
  • The Desert EDGE opens the Preserve for future development within the Preserve boundaries, and sets a dangerous precedent for future development within Preserve boundaries.

“The Conservancy further believes that the Desert EDGE will not be successful without widespread community support,” a prepared statement by the Conservancy reads. “Even if all of the above issues are satisfactorily addressed, the Conservancy believes a public vote on the Desert EDGE Proposal would then be needed to demonstrate that widespread community support for the Desert EDGE.”

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be e-mailed at mfittro@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/melissafittro.

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