Town Manager Kevin Burke and Town staff should be complimented for holding a meeting on Sept. 13 to attempt to mitigate the damage done by the Hillside Committee’s meeting on Sept. 8 regarding the proposed massive house and 500-plus-foot driveway proposed above all existing homes in the middle of the north slope of Camelback Mountain.
Approximately 25 concerned residents attended the meeting even though it was scheduled on only 24 hours notice at the initiative of newly elected Town Council Member Julie Pace and Mr. Burke.
Mr. Burke and the town staff listened for more than one hour as residents expressed their profound concerns with both the process of the town’s consideration of the project as well as opposition to the project.
Town residents made comments such as observations that in 40 years of experience in town civic affairs, residents had never witnessed anything as disrespectful of the views of town residents as the Hillside Committee meeting on Sept. 8.
The town manager readily acknowledged that mistakes were made, including scheduling the Hillside Committee meeting on the very controversial project high on Camelback at the same meeting at which there was a very full agenda of other proposals to consider.
Attendees at the Sept. 13 meeting complimented Mr. Burke for posting a video of the Sept. 8 Hillside
Committee meeting on the town’s website. Anyone watching that video will see the following:
1. The applicant was ill prepared to the point of being disrespectful to the town’s process and residents.
- The representative of the architect professed not even to know the dimensions of the proposed structure when questioned about constructing a structure across a mountainside wash. (It would be the length of a football field).
- The representative of the engineer could not accurately name or describe the fencing method proposed to try to catch boulders from rolling down Camelback after being dislodged by cutting into a boulder field on a 52-degree slope for a 500-plus-foot driveway and large structure.
- When asked about the level of confidence that the boulder retention method would be effective in preventing boulders from rolling down Camelback, the engineer’s representative said that currently it was “90 percent.” Really!
2. The members of the Hillside Committee asked excellent questions and showed genuine concern about the project, but many of their questions were unanswered.
3. In contrast to the absence of meaningful information from the applicant, members of the community presented important information and thoughtful, legitimate concerns and questions about the project.
4. The Hillside Committee and the applicant did not receive all of the necessary input from the town residents, in part due to imposing a three-minute time limit on town residents, which apparently is unprecedented for the Hillside Committee.
- The microphone was shut off on Scott Moore, just elected to the town council and a veteran member of the Hillside Committee, when he was in the midst of a detailed, technical presentation about problems with the project that the residents wanted to hear and the committee and town staff should certainly have wanted to hear in full.
- The presentation of a lawyer for three adjacent property owners, complete with power points containing new information and issues not previously known to the town nor heard by the concerned residents attending the meeting, was cut off.
The proposed project would scar and dominate the heart of Camelback Mountain and desecrate the views for much of Paradise Valley and its resort visitors. Forever. The four to five years of construction would ruin the sanctuary ambiance of the Sanctuary Resort.
A project so large and impactful deserves thorough consideration by the town, including welcoming and encouraging, not discouraging and suppressing, the views of town residents.
Whatever is the ultimate outcome, the process must be transparent and certainly not give the impression that the town is merely “checking the boxes” of steps towards completion of a pre-ordained outcome orchestrated through years of opaque collaboration between the applicant and town staff.
The Sept. 13 follow-up meeting by Town Manager Burke after the Sept. 8 Hillside Committee meeting was a constructive step in the right direction.
Editor’s note: Mr. Selden is a resident of the Town of Paradise Valley