Community consternation could evolve into legacy Paradise Valley entryway

Paradise Valley Town Hall is at 6401 E. Lincoln Drive. (File photo)

Chicane, meandering, roundabout and right-of-way are all words that could describe a million-dollar effort to beautify a portion of Doubletree Ranch Road in the Town of Paradise Valley.

But “chagrin,” may be the best adjective to describe the community interpretation of the roadway beautification project that was originally meant to stretch from Invergordon to Scottsdale roads.

Over the course of several months, Paradise Valley residents have voiced numerous concerns around the purpose of the $3 million project calling in to question the municipal motivation to repair a road with nearly seven years of life left in the concrete.

Paradise Valley Town Council Thursday, Nov. 1 discussed at length the merits of the local capital improvement program as well as the Doubletree Ranch project.

Following a three-hour discussion, Paradise Valley Town Council decided upon narrowing the scope of the project to simply be an enhancement of the community entryway at Doubletree Ranch and Scottsdale roads.

A narrowed design on the proposed project will materialize again Thursday, Nov. 15 at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

Paradise Valley Town Council had a discussion on the municipal capital improvement plan last April — of which the Doubletree Ranch Road project appeared as line item 27 — then a community meeting held in early September on the roadway project was held on the heels of numerous concerns raised by homeowners along the thoroughfare in question.

At the onset of the current five-year capital improvement plan discussion in April, topics included undergrounding of power lines, road improvements related to the new Ritz-Carlton resort and a sewer system assessment, Independent archives state.

The 2018-23 CIP has 47 projects totaling $35 million of General Fund dollars. The 2018-19 fiscal year funding is $15.2 million, documents show.

Proposed projects for this year’s CIP, in addition to the Doubletree Ranch Road project, included:

  • Remodeling Town Hall, the police station and public works department;
  • Sewer system assessments;
  • Bicycle/pedestrian improvements; and
  • Lincoln Drive sidewalks.

The goal for Doubletree Ranch Road, town officials contend, is to match the General Plan cross-section for a minor arterial, and include meandering alignments, medians, bike lanes, sidewalks and landscaping.

A view of the portion of the Doubletree Ranch Road project that could become a legacy entrway monument alerting motorists they are entering the Town of Paradise Valley. (Submitted graphic)

The unintended consequences of beautification

Paradise Valley Councilwoman Julie Pace says community input matters in the Town of Paradise Valley.

“I personally like to read them, and it does give us a flavor of what people are looking at,” she said of community communication within the municipality.

Julie Pace

“We want the actual emails. We want it all. I would like to encourage that we get that information before we make those decisions. Are people actually losing their front yards?”

Resident interpretations have swirled around how construction of a meandering sidewalk along Doubletree would impact the front yards of homeowners along the minor arterial roadway, as identified in the General Plan.

“Technically, no, all this is within the town’s right-of-way,” said Paradise Valley Community Development Director Jeremy Knapp.

“There is nothing in this project that goes out of the town’s right-of-way. Now there may be a portion of the right-of-way that has now been landscaped, so some may feel it is their front yard.”

Although Councilwoman Pace acknowledged the usage of public right-of-way, she did express empathy for the resident perspective.

Jeremy Knapp

“We are considering moving roads closer to front doors,” she said. “We need to be a little sensitive that we are not damaging people’s homes.”

To her original point, Mr. Knapp explains, more than 30 comments have been provided to Town Hall, as well as a handful of letters to the editor at the Independent, suggesting the proposed project was not well-received.

“The majority of those comments in writing have been negative,” he said. “A lot of concerns have been about the roundabout. Concerns around traffic and cut-through traffic. There have been concerns of the safety of meander itself.”

Ms. Pace says safety of all motorists, pedestrians and homeowners ought to be paramount considerations when evaluating the merits of any public project.

Paradise Valley Councilman Paul Dembow agrees, but also takes the charge of tax dollar stewardship seriously.

“From a fiscal responsibility level, I don’t think we are moving forward with this project,” he said of the Doubletree effort. “We should have done a better job on communication. I am a total ‘no’ on this.”

Paradise Valley Mayor Michael Collins. (File photo)

Through community chagrin, a compromise emerges

Paradise Valley Mayor Michael Collins says he is an advocate of the current five-year CIP plan adopted by Town Council.

“I have been an advocate for this project — and the CIP — for the past five years as it has moved its way through council,” he said during the study session discussion.

“It didn’t get here by accident and it didn’t get here overnight. I see my name attached to this as the mayor’s pet project. For the most part, I accept that. I support the Doubletree project just as much as I supported Mockingbird … or Standford Drive. I think these are projects many in our community are in favor of.”

Mr. Collins contends he seeks to represent the majority of Paradise Valley.

“My perspective is that you have to represent all the residents of the town,” he noted. “I don’t know any other policy statement that has been affirmed by the residents that has had as much resident input and positive outcome as the General Plan. Part of my job is to move those projects forward that are supported by the vast majority of residents.”

Jerry Bien-Willner

Paradise Valley Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner says, from a cost-benefit analysis, the Doubletree beautification effort didn’t make good sense. Furthermore, concerns regarding the project itself continued to permeate through Town Hall, he says.

“We get a lot of questions about roundabouts,” he said of one of the main concerns that was expressed to him by members of the community. “Do we have a white paper on this? Or an opportunity to explain to our residents what the benefits and the negatives are? Clearly folks on Doubletree have had concerns about the design.”

Also, Mr. Bien-Willner says Town Hall ought to look at its public communication effort on this item as many in the community have expressed sentiments of a lack of information provided to homeowners.

“In the past, I have seen our process go right, so I am not sure what happened here,” he said. “I would like for us to look at that. Maybe it’s because we have a lot of moving pieces and I do not know how this one-off situation occurred — I hope we look at that.”

Paradise Valley Town Council is expected to host a study session discussion Thursday, Nov. 15, on the potential of a boiled-down Doubletree Ranch Road project, which could result in a new entryway into the community at the intersection of Scottsdale and Doubletree Ranch Road.

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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