Paradise Valley leaders talk matters of note as fall session looms

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

Summer break is nearly over as Paradise Valley Town Council is expected back at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive, Thursday, Sept. 4, meanwhile Town Manager Kevin Burke has steadily been preparing for what he is calling a “monster agenda.”

The Town of Paradise Valley Independent reached out to top officials — both elected and hired — to better understand what residents can expect from their local government as the fall town council session looms.

“I really feel like I have a monster agenda that we are going to be tackling this fall,” Mr. Burke said in an Aug. 16 phone interview.

Kevin Burke

Mr. Burke says major items coming down the municipal pike include the potential creation of a single-hauler trash and recycle system, the potential for a third-party operator for the town’s alarm system and a possible overhaul of council operating procedures all occurring within the next few months.

Mr. Burke points out short- and long-term impacts of rising public safety pension costs, the adoption of new storm water retention guidelines and better controls for short-term vacation rentals are constant items the Town of Paradise Valley is keeping its eye on.

“We should be receiving those proposals the first week of September and we are probably going to have a two-part conversation,” Mr. Burke said of planned council conversations.

Those proposals are geared toward a July request-for-proposal to be submitted for local trash haulers to bid on the service of approximately 5,600 homes within town limits.

“I think that is a pretty major issue,” Mr. Burke said of the town potentially moving to a single-hauler format for its trash and recycling services provided to residents.

The Town of Paradise Valley has a free-market system offering residents the ability to choose their own trash hauler. Trash outfits providing service include Area Disposal, Right Away Disposal, Republic Services and Waste Management.

“We have constantly had feedback over the year-plus that we have heard about this potential change,” Mr. Burke explained of the oftentimes emotional connection those have with trash hauling outfits. “We have folks who are on both sides of the issue.”

On the alarm system front, Mr. Burke estimates a third party operator will be identified soon.

“We have been working on this for some time, we have about 400 residents and we are looking to be putting out request-for-proposals for someone else to do the technology associated with the program,” he said. “For us it is about getting all of the technology out of our shop.”

Since October 2015 Paradise Valley Town Council has been searching for a way to create a cost-neutral alarm system in order to maintain a service offered since 1984.

A potential for new rules regarding short-term vacation rentals in the Town of Paradise Valley may emerge is a local ordinance coined “unruly party protocol.”

Senate Bill 1350 restricts local cities and towns from being able to regulate or restrict the use of vacation rentals or short-term rentals within municipal boundaries.

Municipal leaders and advocates say the proposed legislation is meant to help fuel the idea of a “shared economy” championed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, but the unintended consequences of allowing residential homes to act as boutique hotels is devastating some local neighborhoods.

“We need something to deal with it and deal with it right then and there,” he said of vacation rental home entrepreneurs creating a party atmosphere in tranquil neighborhoods,” Mr. Burke said. “We found a number of practices that might be good incorporation in our ordinances, so we can do something that night. This is a concept we are looking at discussing the first few weeks of September.”

Mr. Burke outlined a series of items coming residents will likely hear local chatter about including the finalization of the storm drainage manual, a Hillside Code update and development items surrounding Area C of the proposed Ritz-Carlton project.

“I still worry about drainage in the town this time of year,” he said of concerns he feels. “I am nervous to see what is going to work and what is not going to work. I know the alarm monitoring service, we all continue to be nervous there, but we are very excited to see what will be coming as a solution for that technology.”

The curious case of rising public safety pension costs continues to be a moving target, Mr. Burke contends.

“From an administrative standpoint, the pension issue is still there — that number keeps growing because of these outside factors,” he said. I think we have a solid 10 to 15 years in front of us.”

Paradise Valley is paying 62 percent of a police officer’s salary toward their state pension plan, carrying an estimated annual total financial obligation of about $1.5 million.

Local leaders say the underlying push to make a change to the General Fund reserve fund policy is to pay that $18 million in unfunded liability to PSPRS, which manages the pension plans for Paradise Valley, eliminating the 8 percent assessment.

In addition to Mr. Burke the Town of Paradise Valley Independent reached out to both Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner and Councilman Paul Dembow so our readers can get a glimpse into what is top of mind for two of the seven calling shots on the local dais.

Jerry Bien-Willner

Jerry Bien-Willner

•As vice mayor what municipal business has your attention as summer is winding down?

Our mayor, council and town government have remained focused on the issues facing our community. Over the summer, we convened a special meeting to enact an ordinance that would address a new state statute that permits companies to erect “small cell” towers and other devices in the town’s right-of-way areas. Our goal was to place the town in compliance with the new law, while taking steps to protect our town’s control over our roadways and sidewalk areas as well as preserving our scenic vistas to the maximum extent possible.

•What do you expect for council to tackle when council comes back together this September?

We have several carry-over items from last term that we need to conclude, along with new items that may come up. Some of the important carry-over items include shoring up our efforts to regulate “party houses” and other undesirable short-term rental impacts, finalizing the town’s storm drainage policies, stabilizing the town’s alarm monitoring system, and taking steps to optimize our government’s responsiveness to town residents.

•What are you most looking forward to tackle this coming council session?

I look forward to working diligently with my colleagues and town staff to keep resident satisfaction as high as possible — some initiatives that will help with that are working to improve cell service, improving how our local government functions while keeping expenses down, and, as always, making sure that our police force and first responders are provided with the tools and support they need to keep our community as safe and secure as possible.

•What has you worried or maybe what is coming down the pike that is likely to garner local opinions?

I always keep an eye out for the issues that are most important to Town residents and visitors: any developments that may impact resident safety, security, quality of life or property values. I am not aware of any threats in those areas on the horizon, but our Town’s leaders must always remain vigilant.

•What’s your No. 1 priority right now serving on town council?

My No. 1 priority is, and always has been, to preserve, protect (and, where possible, enhance) the unparalleled quality of life that we all enjoy in our unique, beautiful and safe town.

Paul Dembow

Paul Dembow

•As a councilman and resident what municipal business has your attention as summer is winding down?

The ‘emergency cell tower’ legislation. We were successful in passing legislation that will protect our residents’ views. Everyone I’ve spoken with wants better cell phone service, as do I. This said, I’ve not heard from anyone who wants a 60-foot cell tower to solve the problem — or certainly no one wants this tower in their backyard. The limited government form that Paradise Valley allows us to help cell towers be erected as long as they are aesthetically pleasing, not getting our town into the cell tower business.

•What do you expect for council to tackle when council comes back together this September?

The budget is the annual item that we need to ensure reflects the direction the town is heading. We can use our increased expenditure limit to address some of the areas of the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System, ensuring our police force has the tools they need to keep us the safest city in Arizona and doing everything we can to preserve the town’s aesthetic and keep property values high for our residents.

•What are you most looking forward to tackle this coming council session?

What I look forward to each council session is a near-constant: working with elected officials I respect and representing a constituency that is informed, involved and committed to the betterment of our town. The people I have the pleasure of interacting foster an almost invariably positive dialogue. My job is make sure we, as a council, don’t detract from the town that I loved so much that I chose to relocate here. Generally everything is functioning well in our town. I don’t know what will come up during this legislative session, but certainly there will be competing priorities and some have the effect of increasing density, blocking our views of Arizona’s desert mountains and ranges, increasing the size of government or are wasteful projects. Progress is inevitable, but the items above are non-starters for me. A specific item that we will be considering is putting in bicycle paths throughout the town. Residents and residents that bike don’t want bike paths installed. I’m a “no” vote on this bike path project.

•What has you worried or maybe what is coming down the pike that is likely to garner local opinions?

Traffic is going to be an increasing problem for our town, and I’m concerned that many people who support increased density perhaps cannot appreciate the reality of our traffic studies. The town has limited options to help the traffic congestion during rush hour. The amount of density that has been approved along Scottsdale road and in the city of Scottsdale will make the increases in traffic year over year an ever-increasing liability that will affect every resident. We will need to plan now and work together, as a council with staff, and as a town with our neighboring municipalities to develop intelligent solutions that offer the least impacts on our residents.

•What’s your No. 1 priority right now serving on town council?

I always have the same priority, listening to our residents. I serve at their pleasure and the issues that I receive calls on are the ones that affect them directly. What I’m hearing most about these days are bicycles, bicycle paths, cell phone service and wasteful spending. I plan on ensuring their voices are heard, while also integrating the concerns posed by increasing traffic and density, because those issues significantly interconnect.

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

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