Janik: COGS formally opposes current Scottsdale development direction

A view of progress meeting nature as many homes throughout portions of Scottsdale abut the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, which are beloved preserve lands within municipal bounds (File photos)

The Coalition of Greater Scottsdale strongly opposes the current practice of increasing height and density to dramatically increase the city’s population at the expense of both resident’s quality of life and the city’s fiscal health.

One of Scottsdale’s strengths has always been its low-scale, low-height, uncongested, laid-back, western character. Building heights were kept low maintaining views while also keeping congestion low and manageable. Scottsdale’s wide diversity of housing and lifestyle opportunities, from urban environments to large rural, desert, and equestrian properties has appealed to a wide demographic increasing the city’s appeal and keeping property values high.

— Betty Janik of the Coalition of Greater Scottsdale

Residential development was dominated by single-family houses with some condos to support a more maintenance-free lifestyle. Scottsdale’s resident median age was in the mid-50s, which was ideal to maintain a balance of ages but also to maximize the city’s income per capita.

North Scottsdale further supports that diversity with a variety of large lot and lifestyle options, adding a rural desert experience that does not exist elsewhere. Scottsdale is a leader in living within the environment and North Scottsdale, with its lush Sonoran Desert, and Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance to protect it, and has become the showcase of learning how to live within the environment instead of drastically changing it.

The current practice of increasing height and density throughout Scottsdale is forever changing this character and Scottsdale’s appeal to both tourists and residents, who have contributed significantly to Scottsdale’s prosperity, vitality, reputation and economy. It has been proven that development does not pay for itself so the more development we allow the higher the financial drain to the city.

In addition, while some apartments may be necessary, apartment dwellers in general do not contribute near as much to the city financially, yet will demand the same services and facilities, which will exacerbate the financial drain on the city.

VISION: What has been coined the Museum Square project is beginning to pick up steam as municipal deliberations are approaching. (Submitted graphic)

Downtown is being transformed from its appealing combination of low-density residential, unique shopping experiences, art galleries, and small hometown feel, that attracted both tourists and residents, into a high-density urban experience similar to many other cities nationally that people came to Scottsdale to get away from.

Instead of being known for the unique western Old Town shops, 5th Avenue, and our Arts District we are now known for the highest concentration of bars in the Valley, creating a party scene that attracts an entirely different demographic and also has increased, noise, pollution, and crime.

All of this is driving out the demographic that supported the city financially while replacing it with a different demographic that won’t bring the city near as much income per capita further adversely impacting our financial sustainability.

— Betty Janik of the Coalition of Greater Scottsdale

The city used to have Character Areas to define and maintain our desirable character, neighborhood/specific area characteristics, and lifestyle, but they are all but non-existent now, are being ignored when zoning decisions are made, or intentionally changed by the city to support increased density.

The key to having a financially sustainable city is not continuing to grow but maintaining desirability to both visitors, who contribute significantly to the city financially, and more affluent residents who also contribute financially a net positive to the city. Just increasing the city’s population without regard to demographics, or its impact on quality of life and desirability, has pushed the city into a negative financial position as the cost to the city, to provide services and facilities to support that increased population, dramatically exceeds any additional income that may result from the population increase.

In addition, the negative impact on quality of life, is driving out the exact population demographic we need to attract to keep the city financially healthy. The financial impact is already being felt and is a major reason why the city as in excess of $800 million in unfunded projects and can’t pass a yearly budget that is financially sustainable.

Overall, the city lacks a vision of the future that balances growth with maintaining the city’s desirability to the demographic that will financially support the city. COGS, and its members, worked diligently and extensively in presenting this position for the proposed General Plan 2035.

Pictured, a historic photo from the 1970s shows similarities between Old Town Scottsdale then and now. (File photo)

However, special interest groups, with a desire to pursue extensive development of higher density residential units and commercial facilities all over Scottsdale, succeeded in convincing a council majority to completely disregard all the community input contained in the draft General Plan 2035. As a result, the council has failed in its obligation to present a new 10-year General Plan to the public for ratification.

For the above reasons, COGS strongly believes that further height and density increases, and/or change in use of Scottsdale property, should not be under-taken unless it can be proven that there are significant benefits to the city, including demonstrated long term positive financial impacts.

Continuing the current policy of increasing the height and density, beyond current zoned density, is driving the city into a huge financial abyss while reducing Scottsdale’s desirability to the demographic that we need to continue to attract to have any hope of being financially sustainable.

Editor’s note: Ms. Janik is the president of the Coalition of Greater Scottsdale

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