Scottsdale zoning map amendment to allow utility easement construction

A Scottsdale rezoning request approved the municipality's planning commission seeks to allow commercial construction within a utility easement. (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

A Scottsdale zoning map amendment request approved by the municipality’s planning commission seeks to allow commercial construction within a utility easement in central Scottsdale. (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

A Christian Brothers Automotive franchise is pursuing construction of an auto-repair facility in a place where no construction has gone before in the city of Scottsdale.

The Scottsdale Planning Commission Wednesday, June 22, rendered a unanimous recommendation vote to Scottsdale City Council for both a zoning district map amendment and conditional use permit on a 1.33-acre site at 11416 E. Desert Cove Ave.

The proposed site is within a utility easement — in this case held by Arizona Public Service that was granted to the utility provider by the United Life Title company of Arizona in March 1973 — where typically any construction is prohibited.

Scottsdale City Council will have the final say on the matter as the local governing board is expected to hear this item at its Tuesday, Aug. 30 meeting, according to a Christian Brothers representative.

Will Wottowa of Scottsdale is calling into question the proposed site and pursued commercial operations. He doesn’t think an auto-repair facility belongs at the proposed site because of the easement, which is home to utility power lines.

“I don’t think the planning commissioners even know what is going on,” he said in a June 27 phone interview. “There is a lot of open space and rights of way. Scottsdale has put all of these stipulations to make the place look good, but I don’t think this project is really good for Scottsdale and it could set a nasty precedent.”

Mr. Wottowa says he feels it’s a bad idea to allow construction within utility easements through zoning map amendments and conditional use permit approval.

“This doesn’t even get into the electromagnetic fields or microwaves these erector-set power lines create,” he said. “They are calling these cell towers but that is very misleading — they are not cell towers.”

Dave Schlief, an APS land agent, says the towers in question are transmission power lines, but due to provisions provided in 1973 for this parcel of land, the utility is agreeing to the construction.

“Most of our easements do not have provisions to have buildings under or around our power lines,” he said in a June 28 phone interview. “We pretty much don’t allow that to happen.”

But the easement granted to the utility company in the 1970s does allow for construction on this site under certain conditions.

“This document provided provisions when it was recorded to allow a building to be constructed between two elevations — above ground level and below the power lines,” he explained.

“I am not going to say the safety issues don’t exist, but we had several long meetings with APS, SRP and the developer and we are sure that what they are planning is within the safety area. Typically, we would not have allowed this. If this did not have provisions in it, we would not have agreed to build under the transmission lines.”

But Christian Brothers officials contend the proposed facility will be free of safety concerns and will be in full compliance of state regulations.

“Having worked with both of those utility providers extensively, we have put together a site plan that allows the operation and is compliant,” said Christian Brothers Director of Development Jonathan Wakefield in a June 28 phone interview of expressed safety concerns for building around transmission lines.

“From a legal standpoint, yes absolutely, we are convinced that there is no more safety concern on this lot than any other lot that is not encumbered by transmission lines.”

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

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