The Scottsdale Independent offers its Top 10 stories of 2014

1231Ns Top 10 (override) FOR WEBThe Scottsdale Independent covered myriad topics over the course of calendar year 2014, ranging from local elections and major shakeups at municipalities, to the resurgence of a local Scottsdale marketplace and the awakening of interest at what many call “the biggest commercial real estate deal in the state.”

The Independent offers a look back over the last year’s top 10 stories in the city of Scottsdale:

1. Scottsdale taxpayers approve M&O override

“It’s a wonderful day at Scottsdale Schools,” proclaimed Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent David Peterson the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 5.

Unofficial results showed SUSD voters approved a 15 percent override allowing the school district to exceed its state-imposed expenditure limitation for the next seven years.

“We are just extremely excited that our community values education and supports our student and teachers,” Dr. Peterson said in a Nov. 5 phone interview. “We knocked on a lot of doors and it definitely made a difference.”

There were 30,460 “yes” votes compared to 26,344 “no” votes, according to the Maricopa County Elections Department.

The override represents $18.8 million of which $11.5 million are new dollars reauthorized by taxpayers in fiscal year 2015-16, school officials say.

Budgets have been reduced, class sizes have swelled and special offerings have dwindled –all of which district officials say is the result of two recent failed override renewal attempts and a steady decrease in enrollment districtwide.

2. Scottsdale holds municipal election

It appears Scottsdale City Council candidates David Smith and Linda Milhaven have been elected to serve four-year terms on the local governing board, unofficial results showed in November.

Candidates Kathy Littlefield and Dennis Robbins remain in a dead heat for the final seat up for grabs on Scottsdale City Council .

Scottsdale Councilmembers Bob Littlefield, Ms. Milhaven and Mr. Robbins have seats expiring this December. Councilman Littlefield is now termed out and sought one of two seats in District 23 of at the Arizona House of

Representatives at last August’s primary election .

Both incumbents, Ms. Milhaven and Mr. Robbins, and candidates Cindy Hill, Kathy Littlefield, Jennifer Petersen and

David Smith emerged from afield of eight at the Aug. 26 primary election. When the political smoke cleared, Mrs. Littlefield won a seat on Scottdale City Council.

3. The Ritz-Carlton project

It appears the development behemoth known as the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton project may be rising from its recessional slumber.

Community chatter around the project is building in anticipation of new leadership taking over in the Town of

Paradise Valley in 2015, which includes new town council members and a new town manager.

This community conjecture comes following the developer of the Ritz-Carlton resort –Five Star Development –withdrawing its special-use permit preliminary application last July and threatening to build the resort in another community.

At issue is Five Star Development’s desire to change the original SUP approved by town council and later ratified by local residents nearly seven years ago.

The change seeks permission from the town to change the density and build more units on the property –a change town officials historically have been reluctant to grant.

4. Rebirth of the Scottsdale McDowell Road Corridor

When people come you can build it.

1231Ns Top 10 (McDowell) FOR WEBThat mantra seems to be the guiding idea to what both city and elected leaders say will be the keystone to revitalization of the Scottsdale McDowell Corridor.

There was a time when portions of McDowell Road served as a major commercial artery pumping a constant flow of revenue into the coffers of local proprietors and the municipality of Scottsdale.

Once referred to as the Scottsdale “Motor Mile,” the area saw an exodus of business over the past decade as low-and high-end car dealerships sought greener pastures in different parts of the Valley of Sun.

City leaders now identify the McDowell Corridor as an eight-square mile area spanning McDowell Road from Pima Road west to Phoenix and including surrounding neighborhoods north to Osborn Road and south to the city limits, according to Scottdale Senior Planner Kim Chafin.

The city of Scottsdale hosted a series of meetings to solicit advice from residents and proprietors of the McDowell Corridor on how the once-thriving gateway can reestablish its faded glory.

The series ran through October in various locations in both south and central Scottsdale.

Municipal and community leaders say a major goal behind redevelopment of the McDowell Corridor is to bring more people to the area and without that influx of new residents not much will change.

SONY DSC5. Scottsdale Museum of the West on track for opening

The Scottsdale Museum of the West is on track for a soft opening in December of this year while the chairman of the nonprofit board charged with creating the western immersion experience contends what awaits museum patrons is a one-of-a-kind experience.

Scottsdale’s Museum of the West will be constructed and owned by the city of Scottsdale, but operated by the nonprofit Museum of the West organization, according to city officials.

The museum is at the northwest corner of Marshall Way at First Street in downtown Scottsdale.

Scottsdale City Council approved a construction contract last January with Core Construction for the $13.6 million, 35,306-square-foot building featuring a lobby, retail store, orientation theater, sculpture garden, galleries, restrooms and storage.

6. Resident seeks sober home regulations

In about a month’s time Scottsdale City Council will likely have the first draft of potential measures the municipality can take to manage what one resident calls neighborhood “sober homes.”

1231Ns Top 10 (Sober) FOR WEBAngela Ashley, who lives at Buenavante, at Cactus Road and 76th Place in central Scottsdale, presented a citizen petition with just over 300 signatures to Scottsdale City Council.

Scottsdale City Council unanimously voted at its Aug. 18 meeting to accept the petition and have the city manager’s office compile a report outlying the city’s options in instituting any kind of control or registration measures.

“Due to the legal complexity of the subject, we expect that report will be done in roughly (four to five) weeks,” said Kelly Corsette, a spokesman for the city, in an Aug. 19 e-mail.

“Once complete, a copy of the report will be provided to the city council, and to the petitioner as well. After that, the council could decide to agendize for future discussion and possible action, or not.”

A sober home or sober-living facility, as classified by both state and federal guidelines, seeks to help drug and alcohol addicts achieve sobriety, city officials say.

7. Scottsdale City Council continues preservation effort

Members of Scottsdale City Council say they intend to make good on the community promise to ensure acres of land known as the McDowell Sonoran Preserve are classified “suitable for conservation.”

1231Ns Top 10 (Preserve)The city of Scottsdale hosted an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 17 at Florence Ely Nelson Desert Park, 8950 E. Pinnacle Peak Road, focused on two zoning cases that seek to rezone 22,300 acres of land as “conservation open space.”

Scottsdale officials say preserving the lands protects the main ridgeline of the McDowell Mountains and expands the land area of an important wildlife corridor connected to nearly three million acres of Tonto National Forest.

The preserve land includes the majority of ridgeline in the southern McDowell Mountains.

8. Beloved Scottsdale author passes away

Prominent Valley author Cindy Zimmermann died Sept. 5 at the age of 56.

1231TPV Top 10 (Zimmermann)FOR WEBScottsdale police found Ms. Zimmermann’s body in a community pool in the 5000 block of North Casa Blanca Drive on the Town of Paradise Valley border.

Ms. Zimmermann recently published her first book, “A Woman of Interest,” that had been optioned to be created into a major motion picture, friends say.

Police released the name of the drowning victim as Ms. Zimmermann Monday, Sept. 8.

According to Scottsdale Police Officer David Pubins the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office, no signs of foul play were identified.

9. Scottsdale Cottonwoods revamp project approved

Paradise Valley Town Council unanimously approved Thursday, May 23 an amendment sought to the existing special-use permit at Scottsdale Cottonwoods Resort & Suites making way for a full revitalization of the resort property.

A legal protest –a formal written zoning protest signed by at least 20 percent of the surrounding neighbors –had been filed requiring a super-majority vote by the Paradise Valley Town Council to approve any changes to the already-in-place SUP at Scottsdale Cottonwoods Resort & Suites.

Scottdale Cottonwoods Resort & Suites is at 6160 N. Scottsdale Road in the Town of Paradise Valley.

The now-approved SUP application was the second amendment filed over the last few months following town council, planning commission and resident push back on the proposed residential housing element at the long-standing Paradise Valley resort.

1001TPV LIP Story (POLO) FOR WEB10. Fine art adds dimension to Scottsdale polo championships

Paradise Valley resident Jini Simpson has an eye for fine art.

Mrs. Simpson is the kind of gal that will choose an original etching by famed Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi over a life’s necessity.

“I bought that before I bought a washing machine,” she said Sept. 24 at her Paradise Valley home, recalling her purchase of the Piranesi etching the day she was meant to take atrip to Sears, Roebuck & Company with money meant for a new washing machine.

“I fell in love with this. I felt like this was something for me –it just speaks to me. It’s an insane passion. I told my mother I didn’t care about the washer. I was fine beating my clothes on a rock.”

Mrs. Simpson says her love for fine art has spanned a lifetime.

“I bought my first painting at the age of 16,” she noted. “Some people make car payments, we make art payments. This is a real passion for me.”

At the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Horses & Horsepower, Mrs. Simpson offered six pieces from her personal collection including three original lithographs by Spanish painter Joan Miró and an original oil painting by American artist Eanger Irving Couse.

Each work of art was featured during the live 2014 Larsen Art Auction inside the Omni Scottsdale Wine and Spa Lounge at the Scottsdale Polo Championships, held Oct. 25 at Westworld of Scottsdale, 16601 N Pima Road.

Editor’s note: North Valley News Editor can be contacted at 623-445-2774 or follow him at

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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