EDGE supporters: Scottsdale City Council ought to render final word

A view of a recent city workshop where residents were able to learn more about the proposed Desert Discovery Center. (File Photo)

When our group of local community leaders, business executives, philanthropists and volunteers began work to fulfill the 30-year vision for a Desert Discovery Center in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, we expected passionate dialog.

In fact, we signed up for it.

We knew that this project, its purpose, its location and its cost should be debated. We welcomed the early criticism of 10-year-old foundational concepts. We solicited the opinions of hikers, bikers, preservationists and lifelong neighbors who agree this land is a sacred space that needs to be protected. That feedback fueled the architects and designers who reimagined the Desert EDGE to minimize visual impact, reduce the footprint and limit the cost to create a project that our great-grandchildren will be proud of.

But somewhere last year, the conversation moved from constructive to delusional. A small, vocal group of opponents, some of whom are now running for city council, lost their way. Perhaps emboldened by the attention they received from candidates and media, their conspiracy theories became more bizarre, their public records requests became more wasteful, and their rhetoric became disconnected from reality.

On the eve of a very important series of public meetings about this legacy project, these critics have become economic terrorists, threatening our largest employers with bogus hotel reviews, filling our largest supporters’ in-boxes with hateful emails, falsely attributing support for their position to local businesses, community leaders and beloved nonprofit organizations, and calling for absolute disruption of the municipal processes by which these projects are considered.

A small group of loud, self-interested folks is pushing, threatening and bullying our city council to send the Desert EDGE to a public vote. The Desert EDGE was a promise made by founders of the Preserve and to the voters of Scottsdale who already approved it. The Preserve Commission concurs that it is appropriate in the Preserve and consistent with the management objectives of the Preserve as outlined in the Preserve Ordinance.

The city attorney has stated that it is allowed in the Preserve and that Preserve funds may be used to build it. The project also received support from the city’s Development Review Board, the Tourism Development Commission and the Planning Commission. In addition, the Tourism Development Commission recommended $24 million in funding for the project.

The folks opposed to this have the right to obtain a public vote — either through the referendum process or a citizens’ initiative. After years of following the city processes and being subject to more public scrutiny, meetings, open houses and council actions than any other project in recent city history — it is distressing that the council would shortcut the representative process by sending it directly to a public vote.

To send this project directly to the voters is a dangerous precedent that has the potential to chill economic development throughout the city. Please consider how business should be conducted in Scottsdale and how public process and representative government works. Honor the integrity of the public process and the community leaders involved. Respect opponents’ right to a referendum and the previous votes that set the stage for this legacy project.

Editor’s note: the above letter was submitted to the Scottsdale Independent newspaper with the following signatures:

  • David Akin
  • Geoff Beer
  • Vicki Bell
  • David Bentler
  • Marc Bromley
  • Tammy Caputi
  • Rick Carpinelli
  • Andrew Chippindall
  • Carol Damaso
  • Don P. Damaso
  • Jim Derouin
  • Janie Ellis
  • Karen Fehr
  • Cynthia Golisch
  • John Gulick
  • Melinda Gulick
  • Don Henninger
  • Bill Heckman
  • Mark Hiegel
  • Camille Hill
  • Jose Iturri
  • Frank Jacobson
  • Nancy Kitchell
  • Amram Knishinsky
  • Virginia Korte
  • Fred Mercaldo
  • Paul Messinger
  • Linda Milhaven
  • Jack Miller
  • Loren Molever
  • John Pappas
  • Doreen Reinke
  • Laraine Rodgers
  • Michael Seiden
  • Gary Shapiro
  • Bill Smith
  • Diana Smith
  • Robert Stankus
  • Mark Stanton
  • Anne Summerson
  • Lois Drinkwater Thompson
  • Gail Williams
  • Chip Wittrock
  • Levi Wittrock
  • Renee Wittrock

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