Scottsdale City Council candidates debate impact of local apartment boom

Scottsdale Elections Photo

Scottsdale voters will take to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 8 to elect three people to Scottsdale City Council and a mayor after foregoing a primary election process.

Scottsdale City Council candidates are Dan Schweiker and incumbents Suzanne Klapp, Virginia Korte and Guy Phillips while mayor candidates are Mayor Jim Lane and challenger Bob Littlefield.

The Scottsdale Independent and Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting two debates in addition to a weekly question-and-answer series provided by the Independent to help voters better understand where candidates stand on local issues that matter.

The first debate, sponsored by Comerica, will be Tuesday, Sept. 27, focusing on the mayor’s race while the second debate, Tuesday, Oct. 4, will focus on city council candidates.

Both debates are from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Doubletree Resort by Hilton, 5401 N. Scottsdale Road and will be moderated by Scottsdale Independent Editor Terrance Thornton.

This week’s question-and-answer installment is on how these political candidates view the influx of multifamily housing throughout the city of Scottsdale and how those dwellings could shape the future of the municipality.

The mayoral race

Both Mayor Lane and challenger, Mr. Littlefield, agreed to respond to specific questions looking at the significant attention being given to the influx of multifamily housing with Scottsdale city limits. This is what they had to say:

Jim Lane

•Does the apartment boom underway nationally — and here in Scottsdale — help or hurt the community’s brand?

Jim Lane

Jim Lane

It can do both. That’s why, in traditional Scottsdale style, we need to value quality over quantity.

There are two sets of issues when it comes to multifamily. First, many private properties in town are already planned for multifamily. This is a decision previous city councils and voters have made. It has enshrined a property right that cannot be taken away by law. Some of these properties are now building as times have become better.

Then there are rezoning requests to change land-use designations from something else to multifamily residential. Some of these proposals have been inappropriate such as one near Scottsdale Stadium in southern Scottsdale, another in north Scottsdale and another in the Cactus Corridor right now. I’ve opposed these proposals.

But others make sense such as new multifamily in our downtown where we want a live, work, play environment. It’s working.  Our downtown is thriving with new jobs and millennials who want to live close to work and in a more pedestrian oriented environment. Indeed, Optima Camelview near Scottsdale Fashion Square has such innovative design it was used as the backdrop for ESPN’s coverage of the Super Bowl, which was staged in Scottsdale boosting tourism.

Then there are empty commercial car dealerships along McDowell Road. We can let them sit empty and become eyesores or we can rezone and repurpose them to bring more people into the area to further the revitalization and provide customers for cool new places like McFate Brewing Company.

Overall, we can’t say “no” to everything like my opponent has done with his anti-business approach nor can or should we say “yes” to everything. We need to do it the smart, the Scottsdale way which is something we have done during my tenure to keep our economy strong and taxes low.

And, the proof is in the pudding. Property values are rising city-wide, putting more money in people’s pockets because our community is headed in the right direction.

•If you are elected, what approach will you take to multifamily housing in Scottsdale?

My approach will be like that described above. My opponent’s? Who knows. He says he’s against apartments yet voted for the tallest and most dense apartment project in Scottsdale history. Then, when citizens sought to put the project to a public vote he eviscerated their Constitutional rights to favor the developer, declaring an “emergency” — something that’s usually only done in cases of famine, floods and true emergencies. Residents never did get their chance to vote.

He says he opposes apartments yet he’s taken special-interest political action committee money from the apartment lobby. And, his campaign contribution reports show he’s supportive of apartment projects that contribute to his campaign.

Ultimately, I am pro-business — unlike my opponent who’s even been supported by the special interest that tried to shut down Basha’s — because it’s pro-resident. A good local economy means we can and will have the revenues to fund our police, fire, parks and other programs that make Scottsdale the best city in America.

Bob Littlefield

•Does the apartment boom underway nationally — and here in Scottsdale — help or hurt the community’s brand?

Bob Littlefield

Bob Littlefield

The issue of apartments is a perfect example of what is wrong with how my opponent and his allies on the city council are approving development in Scottsdale. Rather than enforcing the standards which would protect our community’s brand they are simply letting the developers do whatever they want, regardless of whether it is good for our community or not.

Over the last three years my opponent and his allies on the City Council have approved 10,000 new apartment units. That is simply too many. 10,000 new apartment units will make our already bad traffic problem even worse. Also, they are approving apartment complexes that hurt Scottsdale’s brand because they are too tall (blocking residents’ views of our stunning natural landscape), have no setbacks and are, frankly ugly.

Yes, ugly — many of these apartment buildings literally look like the Soviet-era apartment buildings you see in old movies about east Germany! Bottom line, the Scottsdale mini-boom in apartments my opponent so loves is hurting our community’s brand, not helping it.

•If you are elected, what approach will you take to multifamily housing in Scottsdale?

Over the last three years my opponent and his allies on the city council have approved 10,000 new apartment units. At last count 2,000 of these units are already built and 4,000 are under construction.

While we can’t reverse those approvals we can stop approving more until the demand catches up to the oversupply my opponent and his allies on the City Council have created. In addition, we can stop approving the ridiculous design concessions that are hurting our community’s brand and over-stressing our infrastructure.

The council race

City council candidates agreed to respond a line of questioning looking at the significant attention being given to the influx of multifamily housing with Scottsdale city limits. This is what they had to say:

Virginia Korte

•Does the apartment boom underway nationally — and here in Scottsdale — help or hurt the community’s brand?

Virginia Korte

Virginia Korte

I don’t believe the “apartment boom” impacts Scottsdale’s brand. Our city’s brand is too strong and established to be impacted by a trend like apartments.

I think that building apartments — especially in the downtown area, along the McDowell Road Corridor — is providing the type of housing preferred by people who are seeking the urban lifestyle. Those who are looking to live in those settings with all of the nearby amenities they can walk to are contributing to the resurgence of downtown and the revitalization of McDowell Road and Southern Scottsdale.

The old adage that “businesses follow rooftops” is playing out in both of these areas of our city. Obviously, that makes our economy stronger. It also keeps our taxes more manageable.

•If you are elected, what approach will you take to multifamily housing in Scottsdale?

I’m aware that some people don’t like the number of apartments that have been built during the past several years. However, that’s the nature of the marketplace being driven by what many people want and can afford. That fact is borne out by the high occupancy rate of apartments.

I feel diversity makes our community stronger. While some people don’t want to own a home, like those of the millennial generation and other people are downsizing, we must keep in mind that not everyone can afford a home. Apartments provide affordable housing for young people, those on fixed incomes and even some of our city employees.

Clearly, we don’t want to sacrifice our city’s character. But it is critical to recognize how Scottsdale is evolving.  We need to have a vision about how we to plan to accommodate a variety of lifestyles and values.

Suzanne Klapp

•Does the apartment boom underway nationally — and here in Scottsdale — help or hurt the community’s brand?

Suzanne Klapp

Suzanne Klapp

Multifamily housing helps Scottsdale maintain its brand as an upscale, welcoming, friendly community to people of all ages — to single individuals, with or without children, to families and to employees of local businesses. Our brand is enhanced with housing choices for all types of people either re-locating to Scottsdale and not currently willing or able to buy a home, those who are downsizing, or those residents seeking a maintenance free, lock-and-leave lifestyle.

The multifamily projects that have been built in our city over the last few years are very upscale with amenities and convenient locations that attract a variety of people to move here or to stay here. They also add economic benefits by attracting more employers to locate in Scottsdale and by adding more residents who will spend their money locally.

•If you are elected, what approach will you take to multifamily housing in Scottsdale?

My approach is to encourage Scottsdale’s eclectic, independent lifestyle and for the city to remain competitive with communities either surrounding us or nationwide. One style does not fit all, either here or elsewhere. Housing, whether single-family or multifamily, must adjust to demand. Demand here has been high and remains high for quality multifamily housing units with amenities attractive to residents of all ages. High demand is reflected in our city’s low multifamily vacancy rates and higher rental rates.

I have visited with residents in numerous multifamily projects around the city, and I will continue to welcome these citizens to Scottsdale. They are excited about their choice of homes, and in many cases are grateful to live in complexes that are intergenerational. The younger people love getting to know our older residents, and older residents in multifamily housing welcome making new, much younger friends. The mingling of age groups is necessary for a healthy and rewarding community which many of our residents desire.

Guy Phillips

•Does the apartment boom underway nationally — and here in Scottsdale — help or hurt the community’s brand?

Guy Phillips

Guy Phillips

While some apartments are part of the community mix, the overbuilding of multifamily high rise apartments that the council and mayor approved is detrimental to our city in a multitude of ways including more traffic, crime, infrastructure inadequacy and reduced views Scottsdale is (was?) famous for.

•If you are elected, what approach will you take to multifamily housing in Scottsdale?

Because Scottsdale is landlocked we are running out of available land to build on. Therefore it is critical we allow multifamily apartments only where it is zoned for such and by way of remodeling or rebuilding older units. Scottsdale has already approved over 10,000 units. That’s another 20,000 cars on the streets. Who will pay for the congestion, sewer, water, electricity, roads and public safety? The Scottsdale property owner. That’s you!

Dan Schweiker

•Does the apartment boom underway nationally — and here in Scottsdale — help or hurt the community’s brand?

Dan Schweiker

Dan Schweiker

According to a recent article the in Arizona Republic, Scottsdale rents are rivaling those of New York City for upscale apartments. It would be hard to argue that the people who can afford these rents will bring down the demographics of Scottsdale. Plus, as the article explained there are changes happening in two distinct groups of people.

First, some of the Boomer Generation, myself included, have started the process of downsizing. The space, possessions and locations which were once important start to shift as our lives change. Where once large homes on large lots filled to the top with possessions were tantamount to being successful. As time goes on many are finding that they no longer want the responsibility or headache of them. Plus, that drive into the city from its far reaches is not as attractive as it once was. We want to live closer to where we work, play, eat and have doctors.

On the other end of the spectrum, the millennials have seen their parents homes foreclosed and the family investment in real estate disappear. For now, they do not want the risk or responsibility of homeownership. To them, renting is the perfect option. Over time, they may want to have that sense of ownership. When that time happens, we will see as has happened several times in the almost 40 years I have lived here, those same apartments will be sold as condos. I do not see a risk in this happening. Plus, I am pretty libertarian about these types of things.

Government should not be picking winners and losers when it comes to apartment building. If you have land zoned for it then my strong feeling is that the government should stay out of your business and allow you to develop your property. After all, they are the ones risking their money on these projects. If they do not turn out as expected, the taxpayer is not on the hook.

•If you are elected, what approach will you take to multifamily housing in Scottsdale?

If it is zoned multifamily I will not stand in the way of its development. Plus there are areas of town, where neighborhoods have deteriorated and the influx of high rent apartments can help spark a turnaround in the area. More people mean more restaurants, shops, schools and services. All of which bring sales tax dollars to Scottsdale which helps keep our property taxes low. These apartments are more like our resort living than many of our homes in older neighborhoods.

I will strive my best to keep government out of our lives but not unnecessarily trying to determine, which project is approved and which one is turned down. If the zoning fits let the person making the investment determine whether they want to build homes or apartments.

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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