Firebrand neighborhood activated by Mountain View Medical Plaza pursuit

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Mountain View Medical Plaza redevelopment. (graphic by Orcutt Winslow)

A handful of Firebrand Ranch residents are voicing concerns about the proposed rebuild of Mountain View Medical Plaza, which is on the northwest border of Paradise Valley, as the rebuild application begins municipal deliberations.

On Dec. 18, residents of Firebrand Ranch attended the Planning Commission’s study session meeting to address concerns about the demolition and rebuild of the medical plaza, at 10555 N. Tatum Blvd., abutting the city of Phoenix.

The Planning Commission is in its early stages of working through a Statement of Direction, first approved by Town Council with a 6-0 vote in November.

A Statement of Direction is a document issued by Town Council giving the Planning Commission guidelines of scrutiny for the pending medical facility overhaul, which includes a complete demolition of the existing site. Following Planning Commission’s scrutiny of the project, it will return to Town Council for final approval.

Plans show Mountain View Medical Center is requesting to demolish all structures on the property in three phases, replaced with six new buildings — two of which are planned to be 2-stories tall. In addition, they would add more parking and replace the existing parking canopies with new parking canopies.

The three phases for the property are eyed to be completed between 2019-24, the plaza’s application states.

Town Council reviewed the SOD throughout this fall, pointing out areas they would like the Planning Commission to examine such as the use of the property, height, setbacks, impacts on residential neighbors and signage.

The medical center, built over 30 years ago, is seeking to redevelop its 9.79-acre site to stay competitive in the marketplace by attracting premier medical providers to Paradise Valley, an application submitted by Orcutt Winslow Architects states.

Possible tenant types listed in the application include: Physician practices, dental offices, out-patient imaging services, sleep and pain centers, and more.

A map shows the Mountain View Medical Plaza, just northwest of Firebrand Ranch neighborhood. (Graphic by Town of Paradise Valley)

Firebrand Ranch outcry

Resident Marjorie Schumacher was one of two residents who were permitted to address the Planning Commission on Dec. 18, an action that is not usually granted during study sessions. Ms. Schumacher read aloud a letter from her neighbor, Joanne Ceimo, who was unable to attend the meeting.

Senior Planner Paul Michaud says six letters from the neighborhood were given to him by Ms. Schumacher, in addition to others already received at Town Hall.

“Our neighborhood got together the other night for a Christmas party, and we all got to talking that we were not notified of this whole project officially. We got two anonymous letters in the mail,” Ms. Schumacher explained of her neighborhood banding together to write letters to the town.

The letter she read aloud from Ms. Ceimo outlined concerns, including noise pollution, air pollution, light pollution and traffic pollution.

“Once again our development in Firebrand Ranch is under siege by commercial interests who probably don’t live among us but are seeking to negatively impact our quality of life, our right to a certain amount of peace and quiet and the investment we’ve made in our homes,” Ms. Ceimo’s letter states.

“The proposed redevelopment of Mountain View Medical Center at Tatum and Shea is a travesty. Who’s interests are being served here and for what purpose? Certainly not mine or the other residents of Firebrand Ranch.”

Ms. Ceimo’s letter noted that many of the residents in the neighborhood are young children and retirees, addressing the issue of Valley Fever risks, which can be brought about by dust raised during construction.

“There are many young children in our development, several under the age of 1. We also are home to a significant number of retirees. There’s a group home and assisted living center that abuts the proposed redevelopment site,” the letter states.

“These three categories — the very young, the old, and people with significant health issues — are at an increased risk for complicated risk of Valley Fever. Were members of council aware of this?”

Another letter included in the Planning Commission’s meeting packet, penned by resident Dr. Kenneth Goldstein on Dec. 4, asks the Town Council to disapprove the project, citing traffic concerns, a sufficient plaza intact with the existing medical plaza and the community already being well-served with local offerings.

“The Firebrand Ranch subdivision, like most of Paradise Valley communities, is residential,” Dr. Goldstein stated in his letter. “It offers a quality of life that has taken me most of my 78 years to find and enjoy. Please don’t destroy it.”

A common issue voiced by the Firebrand Ranch residents is the communication process. The applicant is required to hold a neighborhood meeting at least 10 days prior to the Planning Commission’s public hearing on the item. The date for this public hearing has not yet been set,

Mr. Michaud said, but noted in emailed communication to Dr. Goldstein that it will likely be in January on a weekday evening.

Planning Commission Chair Daran Wastchak told the residents at the meeting that he doesn’t want the community to feel like something is being snuck past them.

Daran Wastchak

“We want to make sure you guys absolutely don’t feel like things are being snuck (past) on you, or anything like that. Stay engaged, keep an eye on what we’re doing,” Mr. Wastchak said, noting that he isn’t sure public comment will be taken at the other study sessions prior to the public hearing.

Community Development Director Jeremy Knapp noted that town officials always take comments in writing.

Planning Commissioner Jonathan Wainwright chimed in, noting that he used to live in the Firebrand Ranch neighborhood, and has a lot of affection for the community.

“My concern about the letter that was written, is we’re not the council. I think there’s a feeling there that decisions are being made right away — they’re so far away from being made,” Mr. Wainwright said.

“But the sooner you get involved in it, the better. The worse time to get involved is at a council meeting when they’re about to take a vote.”

When it comes to Mountain View Medical Plaza, Mr. Wainwright says he doesn’t think moving on from the project completely is in the cards.

“I think, probably, the feeling of the council and the commission is that it’s always good for things to be redeveloped. You don’t want a tired old medical complex that’s not getting leased out,” Mr. Wainwright said. “You don’t want a dirt lot. So, I don’t think the notion that ‘well, we don’t want anything to happen,’ I think that’s probably unrealistic.”

A company called Technical Solutions, run by Susan Bitter Smith and her husband, has been hired to handle the community outreach, Mr. Wainwright said.

“They are an excellent community outreach, and believe me they’ll want to talk to you. I think the point of view should probably be, lets see how it can be redeveloped in a good way, rather than not developed in a bad way,” Mr. Wainwright said. “I think that’s probably the direction its’ going to go.”

Orcutt Winslow’s architectural graphic shows the proposed setup of Mountain View Medical Plaza. (graphic by Orcutt Winslow)

SOD deliberations

During the rest of the Planning Commission’s review of the redevelopment, Mr. Michaud walked through identified areas to focus on: Use, setbacks, impact on nearby residential properties and lot coverage. A following meeting will cover other subjects, such as height, landscaping, traffic, signage and infrastructure.

Two representatives for the project were present at the meeting, which Mr. Wastchak noted as their first time having face-to-face time with the Commission.

John Cantrell, architect and project manager of Orcutt and Winslow Architects and John Bozzo, managing partner of RW Partners offered their perspectives on some of the aspects of the application, including the uses and projected three-part construction phasing.

“I think to be perfectly honest, it’s highly doubtful we would have veterinary. The urgent care, we don’t have now,” Mr. Bozzo said of some of the listed uses of the facility.

“We’re just at the very early stages of pre-leasing and finding out what uses would be interested at the site. I think urgent care would be a use that we’d find a lot of interest in at the site, so we would like to pursue that. We’re OK with limiting that to a maximum of one, and we’re OK with limitations on hours, location and anything else you guys deem advisable.”

Mr. Wastchak noted that he believes there is more and more demand for an urgent care.

“To restrict that or cut that might be a hardship for a state-of-the-art facility or complex,” Mr. Wastchak said.
Planning Commissioner James Anton asked how far away is the next closest urgent care facility for residents.

“Across the street, I believe,” Mr. Bozzo said.

Mr. Cantrell, says that for veterinary, it might be advisable to consider how close another veterinary facility is for residents.

“It’d be one thing to think about that this isn’t an animal hospital, it’s a private practice — no outside kennels or anything like that,” he said. “Where is the closest vet you can take your dog or cat to? It might be a convenient location if there’s nothing else around; might be something you want to leave in. That’s why we put it in, a service that could benefit the community.”

When the discussion moved on to the three-part construction phasing that’s projected to last until 2024, the commission asked if there is any way to condense that into two phases for the benefit of the neighbors.

“We’re trying to accommodate as many of our existing tenants that way to stay,” Mr. Bozzo explained. “We also have existing least issues we’re contractually obligated to honor where we can’t bulldoze everything at once.”

Mr. Bozzo says they’ve tried to structure the phasing so that each phase is started right away.

News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at mrosequist@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Mrosequist_

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