Emotions run high as Town Council mulls over Sanctuary SUP

A view of the Casa 3 development pursued by the ownership at the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa within the bounds of Town of Paradise Valley. (Submitted graphic)

As the night drew on, Paradise Valley Town Council discussed and hammered out details on a statement of direction regarding a special use amendment for the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa.

This was the second review of the SOD occurring at a Feb. 14 study session after the regular meeting at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive. An SOD acts as marching orders to the Planning Commission on what the council wants reviewed regarding a proposal.

The proposal consists of a SUP application for improvements to Casa 3, which was “historically treated” as an R-43, single-family home. The building sits on the western edge of the property near where Solano Drive and San Miguel Avenue meet.

The applicant is hoping to expand the home, add three guest units with one lock-off unit. This would change its use to “commercial in nature,” according to town officials.

A lengthy discussion

Town Council spent nearly three hours ironing out the statement’s details with the conversation, at times, turning contentious. However, no final decisions regarding the proposal were made.

Some councilmembers appeared to take sides regarding certain aspects of the proposal, such as the 100-foot setback from neighboring residential use.

Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner reminded the council a final consensus was not needed at this point.

“We can say whatever we want in a statement of direction,” Mr. Bien-Willner said. “We have a board that is supposed to be taking these things up and showing independence on them. We don’t have to solve all the issues on this tonight. We need a statement of direction for them, not the ultimate decision. Otherwise, having a Planning Commission is a little bit futile.”

The guidelines for an SUP outline a 100-foot setback from adjacent residential uses for a resort. Vice Mayor Scott Moore pointed out this was not an explicit rule, but if a property doesn’t reach that standard, it should have a compelling reason.

Mr. Moore also disagreed with using both the R-43 and SUP guidelines to assess the property and setbacks. Paradise Valley Councilman Paul Dembow responded it has been used in the past.

All in all, Mr. Dembow as well as councilmembers Mark Stanton and Anna Thommasson each expressed concerns with requiring the house to fulfill the 100-foot requirement.

Councilmember Paul Dembow (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

In reviewing the SOD, Councilwoman Julie Pace wanted to add that Casa 3 had historically served as a buffer between the resort and neighboring residents.

Mr. Dembow voiced opposition to adding this, saying he didn’t agree with the house serving as a buffer any more than any other house in the resort served as a buffer.

Ms. Pace then requested town staff research if the house was historically seen as a buffer and add her requested text in if it was true. Mr. Bien-Willner followed with saying he didn’t think staff could comfortably make that determination. Community Development Director Jeremy Knapp seconded that point.

“Do we or do we not in this town have, historically, had a buffer of single-family home with residents?” Ms. Pace asked. “Is that whole concept tonight just lost with this council or do we think it exists or do we never think it existed?”

Mr. Dembow responded saying he didn’t think it was in town code anywhere. Mr Bien-Willner said he didn’t want to get into policy issues at this stage, but rather save it for when the proposal comes back to council.

Another area of contention revolved around the intensity of the property.

Mr. Bien-Willner and several other council members supported adding a call for the Planning Commission to evaluate potentially limiting adjacent keys to be in connection with the rental of the gallery house or if the resort is fully booked. He said the idea with this would be to lower intensity of the house.

Mr. Dembow appeared hesitant on this point.

“I don’t know if I want to get into their business that much,” he said. “I just can’t support it.”

Statement of direction

The council’s statement of direction, so far, has more than 10 points for the Planning Commission to consider.

Some of those points include review of potential noise impacts, landscaping, on-site retention regarding improvements, traffic and renderings relating to neighboring properties.

The council also added a point for the Planning Commissions to “review and understand the food preparation and cooking areas on the site.”

The statement also addresses setbacks, intensity of property and additional buffers such as landscaping.

The next draft will be up for approval at the Town Council’s Feb. 28 regular meeting. If the governing body approves the statement, the Planning Commission will then have its marching orders in reviewing the proposal.

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