Phillips: myriad zoning pursuits to impact Scottsdale neighborhoods

Timing is everything.

Joanne “Copper” Phillips

That’s why multiple rezoning cases have been filed in the past few weeks, with so many Scottsdale residents away for the summer, unable to protest, unable to attend open houses, and unable to protect their neighborhoods, lifestyles and property investments. Scottsdale neighborhoods are under siege!

Every week, groups of property owners must defend their neighborhoods against intense up-zoning and rezoning. It makes you wonder why we have a General Plan at all.

But what exactly is a General Plan and why do we have one? The Scottsdale City Charter establishes that the city have a General Plan. It has three interrelated functions: It is an expression of community goals and priorities; a decision-making guide; and fulfills legal requirements created by state law.

According to the ARS 9-461:

“…any city or town having a population of ten thousand or more persons, shall submit each new general plan adopted … to the voters for ratification at the next regularly scheduled municipal election or at a special election scheduled at least one hundred twenty days after the governing body adopted the plan… If a majority of the qualified electors voting on the proposition approves the new plan, it shall become effective as provided by law. If a majority of the qualified electors voting on the proposition fails to approve the new plan, the current plan remains in effect until a new plan is approved by the voters pursuant to this subsection. The governing body shall either resubmit the proposed new plan, or revise the new plan as provided by this section, for subsequent submission to the voters at the next regularly scheduled municipal election or at a special election scheduled at least one hundred twenty days after the governing body readopted the new or revised new plan. All subsequent adoptions and submissions of the new plan or revised plans must comply with the procedures prescribed by this section until the plan is ratified.”

2001 was 17 years ago and the voters have never ratified a revised General Plan, so what gives?

On Scottsdale’s website, it indicates that in 2012, after the rejection of the revised General Plan, community feedback demanded an inclusive process to create a new General Plan for community consideration. A town hall consisting of 100 participants, a task force of 25 members — not all Scottsdale residents — and citywide public outreach followed, culminating in a public council study session in December 2016.

And, the City Council majority dismissed every bit of input, every recommendation, and every change of the town hall, task force and every resident of Scottsdale provided. Apparently, the community had a very different concept of how Scottsdale should be developed, not to the liking of the council majority, so “Council directed Planning Staff to retain the 2001 General Plan and add the newer state-required elements and updates to this plan.”

Then, the revised 2001 General Plan was shelved-no adoption, no resubmission to the voters at the next municipal election, Nov. 6, 2018, which circles back to the current situation.

One of the changes recommended by the community was to redefine “rural land use” from a single definition of one house per 1-5 acres to two divisions: one house per 1-2 acres and one house on more than 2 acres.

This change would prevent developers from easily rezoning 5-acre zoning to 1-acre zoning. Instead, they would need to abide by a more stringent and costly process to them but afforded more protections to existing homes.
Developers would have to prove their project was compatible and contributed to the existing neighborhood and character area (a major amendment). This was a huge sticking point for council members and planning commissioners (who are primarily developers), and so the General Plan 2035, with all that community involvement, was vetoed by the council majority.

Several council members and planning commissioners have said that nearly all of northern Scottsdale should be rezoned one house per acre (R1-43), regardless of the current large lots that now comprise these neighborhoods, that are called for in the General Plan.

The same plan that states:

“In guiding the formation of the major amendment criteria, it is important to consider the major mission elements of the city, these being – Preserve Scottsdale’s unique southwestern character; Plan for and manage growth in harmony with the natural desert surroundings; Promote the livability of the community; Enhance and protect neighborhoods; and, Ensure and sustain the quality of life for all residents and visitors…. Land uses should contribute to the building of community unity and cohesiveness; Land uses should provide opportunities for the design of uses to fit and respect the character, scale and quality of uses that exist in the community.”

There is not a single part of this city that does not have massive high-rise complexes, a result of rezoning. Nearly every neighborhood has been impacted by rampant rezonings that have resulted in traffic gridlocks, higher crime, noise, pollution and lost mountain views.

Consider carefully why you moved here and then decide if that is worth saving. Then think about who put us in this position-be careful of who you vote for in November!

Editor’s note: Ms. Phillips is a resident of Scottsdale

The Scottsdale Independent is published monthly and mailed to 75,000 homes and businesses in Scottsdale.

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