Cantor: Getting to know residents of Scottsdale is crucial to effect change

I have read the column by Tim Burns regarding “quality of life,” “development,” and “housing,” mostly describing the division in our city between north and south, history vs future, development vs redevelopment, and more…. Why is it that I have read it three times, three times!!!!

Nancy Cantor

Having served with him on the now shelved, never to go to a vote of the people for approval, General Plan Update, I am confounded by the reasoning given. Not a clue would have been helpful, but nope on the shelf it went.

Lots of folks are dismissing the voices of southern Scottsdale residents on infill development. Charging us with fear of change and not wanting to let go of the past glories of our Old Western Scottsdale.

If one is to believe it, developers “expend considerable time and effort to analyze trends to deliver product that is marketable to the consumer,” then why did we spend the time and effort and dollars to create the Vision and Values statement for the shelved General Plan Update?

The Arizona Town Hall people spent two days working with around 100 of us from all over this city that reaches from McKellips Road on the southern border to the road to Bartlett Lake on the north boundary.

It was a multigenerational approach with students from our high schools in Scottsdale holding the same kind of brain storming with the Arizona Town Hall. The other group, the one I was in and Burns, too, I believe, had troopers like Jane Rau from the far northern territory and Sonnie Kirtley from the southern lands in the shadows of the Papago Buttes.

No one feared change as long as there were plans that reflected what the residents valued. Take note that is the real key, valuing the residents.

Every planning document churned out by hundreds of “volunteers” over the last 40 years from serving on city committees addressing the “future” for Scottsdale has a “Vision and Values” statement.

Statements to guide any who choose to read them as to the residents thoughts at the time the document was created on “Vision (for the future ) and Values (respecting the history as a foundation for the future)”.

The tricky part for me today is that our City Council has rubber stamped every infill project that has been set before them without attention to the community values. They grant every amendment without open discussion with the community on the neighborhood impacts. Asking people what they want is a critical step to be avoided at all costs.

Most developers spend precious little time interacting with our southern residents. The outreach on the Papago Plaza redevelopment project was forced when residents of the neighborhoods bordering the property finally had enough of lousy outreach.

Some of them found out about the project the week before it appeared on the Planning Commission agenda. More first heard about it the week before the City Council meeting when it appeared on the agenda for approval.

City Council had to strongly suggest to them, the developer, to hold meetings to gather community input as to what was important to them as neighbors. That order came as the redevelopment infill project was approved. So whatever was or was not discussed, the project was a go.

I attended one of those meetings, because I wanted to hear what my southern Scottsdale neighbors offered as input, but also to hear how their concerns and suggestions were accepted.

Discussion did take place. Most of the concerns addressed could not be accommodated. Massing on the property, changes to the site plan, mobility within the project and connections to the surrounding community, setbacks and open space.

Please note: Open space in our southern neighborhoods includes things like setbacks, total open space within a project, pocket parks, city parks, school playgrounds, ball fields, and the Indian Bend Wash Green Belt. They are essential to our quality of life as is the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is to residents in those surrounding neighborhoods, and those of us throughout the city, who appreciate the Southwestern desert environment.

I am not a supporter of this city’s attitude towards “millennials.” The more I talk to them the more I find out how they feel about the way Scottsdale chooses to classify them.

Sure they can afford to live in luxury apartments and condos starting at $800 plus a month if they work more than one job and have roommate(s).

They can afford it for a couple or three years. And then they move on because they have learned that economically living in Scottsdale does not benefit their plans for the future due to wages not keeping up to Scottsdale’s cost of living …… even if this is the city they grew up in, the place where they work is located, and mom and dad still might live.

We have a couple of “newer” organizations that are spin-offs of our Chamber of Commerce and that organization’s philosophy.

Both determined to take on the split between the northern and southern divide, and both to establish new priorities for our mature neighborhoods and residents with one willing to accept subsidy from the City of Scottsdale Industrial Development Authority for the purpose of rebranding our southern mature neighborhoods in order to “promote us.”

Their input has been included by developers as outreach to surrounding neighborhoods.

Now let’s look at the over 65 residents, caught in the real estate property values neighborhood assemblage carnage. Say that five times fast.

People who have raised their kids here, contributed time and effort to maintain that well known quality of life regularly used to market all of Scottsdale. Remember, Scottsdale is a “World Class City.” Who said that means ignoring the disappearing middle class who valued their homes over the years as a haven for family and friends as well as their primary investment, AND who want to down-size and continue to live in “hometown where they and their kids grew up and have grown old.”

They cannot stay in their area. The rents and home prices preclude their continuing to live here. That is a kick to the head. Shameful.

Homes recently bought by investors are gutted and many left to stand that way creating a neighborhood blight complete with thigh-high weeds and a variety of pests.

These houses push city property maintenance codes to the max. This helps drive property values down so investors can purchase more than one property in a neighborhood. Remodel the dwellings and either sell them off or operate them as part of the rental businesses like AirBnB.

Moreover, those kinds of businesses are not well managed thanks to state laws that tie the hands of our local government.

There is nothing being done to address issues like these in Scottsdale. And don’t try to excuse it by saying “it happens everywhere.”

If the split is seen as a problem, then come to grips with the problems, understand them, solve them and let there be sound dependable growth and economic revitalization.

And if you are thinking about the Bond Election do not take these words as a slam to those ballot questions.

For the last 15 or 20 years I have sat in on Bond Committee meetings to listen to discussion and reasoning for ballot language and structure. I, too, would be more comfortable with a line item ballot. Yes we need to manage those funds much better than we have.

Those two things will not keep me from voting for the bond.

Infrastructure deterioration throughout this country is destabilizing. Citizen participation in the process of governance for their local government is decreasing which has allowed elected officials to further exclude the resident citizen voice.

Changes are most needed. I know of no one in my “southern mature neighborhoods,” that live next door to our neighbors in the central or north neighbors, who do not understand that we are all one city.

We do hope the city leadership would do their homework and get to know, really know, all of us. Lip service will not do.

Editor’s Note: Nancy Cantor is co-chair of Coronado Neighborhood Schools Alliance, a founding member of Community Council of Scottsdale and a proud Coronado High School graduate and parent of graduates.

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