Neighborhood unrest unfolds: Residents question Paradise Valley development process

A graphic illustrating the location of the newly proposed medical building at Paradise Valley Medical Plaza (Submitted graphic)

As a May 9 public hearing on the Paradise Valley Medical Plaza nears, neighbors of the development are expressing trepidation and displeasure around the process that has unfolded over the past several months as the property seeks a special use permit amendment that would increase the plaza’s footprint.

The Paradise Valley Medical Plaza, 5410 N. Scottsdale Road, is seeking a special use permit amendment to allow for a new medical building, new parking area, two new parking canopies and new signage.

Paradise Valley Medical Plaza is on a 10-acre parcel of land at the southwest corner of Scottsdale and Jackrabbit roads.

The proposal would add one single-story building on the west side of the campus. The new space is proposed to be used for additional medical offices and/or surgical facilities. Additionally, new covered parking spaces will be added in the central area of the site, since eight covered parking spaces will be eliminated by the new building.

Jason Rose, of Scottsdale-based Rose Moser Allyn Public Relations, who represents the project, says the application seeks an addition of 17% more square footage than the existing facility, and no new height is being sought.

In 2003, the town approved a major amendment to the special use permit increasing the overall square footage of the medical and surgical facilities to 50,000 square feet.

Residents of the adjacent neighborhood are opposed to the amendment, citing concerns over increased traffic and overall disturbance, saying they feel as their opinions on the matter aren’t being heard by the municipality, although residents have spoken out at public meetings and submitted written comments.

The Paradise Valley Medical Plaza is owned by Bayport PV Associates, LP; and represented by zoning attorney Doug Jorden of Jorden Hiser & Joy, PLC.

The new building would also be used for medical offices or surgical facilities.

In March, the plaza was scheduled for a public hearing prior to a vote by Paradise Valley Town Council, but Mr. Jorden requested a continuance of the issue, citing a desire to work out concerns with the neighbors.

A view of the close proximity between residential ambiance and the proposed commercial enterprise at the Paradise Valley Medical Plaza. (Submitted photo)

Negotiations on behalf of homeowners

Just a stone’s throw to the west of Paradise Valley Medical Plaza is a family neighborhood embedded with a rich history, residents there say.

On Monday, April 22, a handful of the neighborhood’s homeowners gathered to discuss the proposed plans at Paradise Valley Medical Plaza.

Most of those in attendance have owned their home for upwards of 15-20 years, raised their families there and host several neighborhood events and gatherings — including a beloved ice cream social.

The group’s main concerns appear to revolve around the lackluster type of neighbor the plaza has historically been, as well as an increase in traffic and overall disturbance that could become routine shall the SUP amendment be approved.

The Paradise Valley Medical Plaza has been working its way through the municipal process for several months, and resident Marty Applebaum says the process has forced the neighborhood to try and catch up to the workings of the municipality.

“There is something about the process of Planning Commission that we’re now in scramble to catch up to, as oppose to the Planning Commission having much more pro-active instincts about impact on the neighborhood,” Mr. Applebaum said.

“It now seems to be incumbent on us, especially the Kiburz family, the most adjacent neighbor here, to negotiate with the developers on the behalf of the community in terms of project scope and its resulting impact.”

The formal application for the project was submitted to the town in August 2018, followed by Planning Commission comments provided to the applicant in October 2018. On Nov. 21, the day before Thanksgiving, the neighborhood received mailed notice of the plaza’s desired improvements.

On Nov. 28, Town Council issued its statement of direction on the project, which serves as marching orders for Planning Commission while reviewing the application.

In December, an informal “open house” took place at Town Hall during a Dec. 6 Town Council meeting, despite there being no planned agenda item for the SUP amendment that evening.

On Dec. 18, Scott Kiburz attended a Planning Commission meeting to express concern with the lack of communication by the medical plaza — citing only the one letter received at Thanksgiving. The Commission voted 6-0 to recommend approval of the SUP amendment to council. Commissioner Thomas Campbell was absent from the meeting.

In January, the neighbors requested a meeting with the plaza companies, and homeowners immediately adjacent to the plaza meet with Property Manager Bill Cook to walk through the plans. Concern with lack of transparency, increased traffic and added surgical centers was expressed at the meeting, according to Ms. Kiburz.

On Jan. 24, the Town Council reviewed the proposed plans, with very little question-and-answer happening between the elected leaders and town staff, Ms. Kiburz says.

On Feb. 7, the neighbors requested another meeting with Mr. Cook to ask for changes. Ms. Kiburz says no response or changes were made by the applicant.

On Feb. 14, neighbors attended a Town Council meeting to speak out against the SUP amendment.

Between Feb. 15 and March 13, according to Ms. Kiburz, one email from the plaza officials was received proposing a wall as an accommodation to neighbors.

On March 14, the item was continued to a later date, with neighbors attending to speak out in opposition of the project.

A neighborhood meeting was held on April 2, and Councilwoman Julie Pace attended to facilitate between the neighborhood and the medical plaza.

Ms. Kiburz says despite multiple emails, public comment, and the aforementioned informal gatherings, the neighbors regurgitated their concerns with the proposal.

In April, emails had been received from Mr. Cook with some revisions to the plan and a traffic report, Ms. Kiburz says. On April 19, neighbors met with Mr. Cook, Mr. Jorden and Town Planner George Burton to discuss the most recent plans and request further adjustments and considerations.

Ms. Kiburz said during the informal neighborhood gathering on April 22 that since the meeting just days earlier, the applicant has made some good progress.

“They’re doing some things that will mitigate the difficultly of living here as they (request to) expand. Have they done enough?” Ms. Kiburz asked.

A view of an entryway into the Town of Paradise Valley. (File photo)

A neighborhood’s point of view

Resident Oriana Lehman Wood says since they were made aware of the project they’ve been engaged, but feels the neighborhood is made out to appear as if they could care less.

“We’ve been engaged since day one when we were fully informed of what’s going on — I feel like we’re being under-represented,” Ms. Lehman Wood said, pointing out the meetings held on this topic have fallen around major holidays and spring break.

“It just feels like they’re stretching out as many meetings as possible. None of us want this to proceed in this fashion. We write our letters, and we show up to our meetings to voice our opinions. Our biggest concern is we are under-heard.”

Eleven-year-old resident Logan Costello and her brother, Dylan, 9, both described their budding lives that have thrived in the neighborhood.

“I love that my neighborhood is full of kids. Especially as I am getting older and starting to babysit, I really like that there are so many young kids playing in their front yards every day,” Logan says. “I like to play with the kids outside. And I also love to ride my bike around my neighborhood with my brother and my friends who live on the next street.”

One such activity with her sibling and friends is a lemonade stand, Logan says.

“I like the same stuff my sister likes, and I like playing basketball,” Dylan said. “My ball rolls into the street a lot, and I like that I don’t have to worry about getting hit by a car.”

Although she’s one of the younger residents in the neighborhood, Logan says it’s important to her to have her voice heard.

“It is important to me that my voice is heard in this process because, as a babysitter, I want to protect the kids that I am watching,” she said. “I also want my voice to be heard so that I can play a part in helping to keep my neighborhood the wonderful place it is.”

Along for the ride

Resident Leanne Mariano points out the Planning Commission is supposed to equally represent the town residents and the development community, but that is not the feeling perceived throughout this process.

“They’re just along for the ride — the notification was inadequate. I got the letter and I was thought ‘Oh yeah, I’ll have to deal with this.’ I set it aside and you miss the boat,” Ms. Mariano said.

Mark Sparks and Justin Wood both questioned why the medical plaza’s officials wouldn’t attempt to reach the residents in any other fashion than sending one single letter.

“That’s what bothers me — why wouldn’t you come and knock on a couple of doors adjacent to your property to introduce yourself,” Mr. Wood said.

Mr. Sparks points to the time lapse between when the application was first submitted, over summer 2018, and the letter the residents received at the end of November.

“Between that process, it’s catch up, unless you’re a policy or Planning Commission wonk. Wouldn’t it be nice to get something in that time?” Mr. Sparks said.

“The bigger issue is, Planning Commission — 6-0? No objections whatsoever — none of the items brought up by the applicant during different concession meetings were even remotely challenged or discussed before.”

The group says no one involved in the project or from the town asked to look at the plaza from any of the backyards or questioned how the project would impact the neighborhood.

Resident Patrick Ford pointed out an $11 million loan taken out on the medical plaza’s property two years ago.

“Somebody has to pay for that loan, and now they need to bring in more surgery center, more doctors to pay for that loan? That’s what this is all about — someone’s gotten themselves in trouble money wise,” Mr. Ford explained.

“This has now been jammed down our throats. This is going to destroy this backyard, going to destroy the backyard next door. We weren’t informed and this is benefiting the ownership on here. They’re the only one winning on this if it goes through.”

A good faith effort

In recent weeks, changes which have been updated to the application for Paradise Valley Medical Plaza includes a reduction in size and moving the one proposed new building further away from the neighbors, Mr. Rose says.

In addition, the applicant has offered to plant trees to serve as a buffer, and some neighbors have agreed to increase the height of their back walls bordering the property, he said.

To mitigate the traffic concerns, a speed bump has been suggested to be installed by the applicants on Vista Drive.

“We offered at our expense to put in a speed bump on Vista Drive if that’s a remaining concern,” Mr. Rose said. “I think it shows the good faith of the applicant in addressing their concerns.”

News Services 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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