Paradise Valley Planning Division maintains foundation of quality of life

Paradise Valley Community Development Director Eva Cutro at Town Hall Tuesday, April 18. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

From corralling the interests of billion-dollar resort pursuits to regulating the breadth of a single-family residence renovation, the planning services division represents the heart and soul of the Town of Paradise Valley.

At the helm of the Town of Paradise Valley Planning Division is Community Development Director Eva Cutro, who has just celebrated 19 years with the municipality.

In addition to Ms. Cutro, the Paradise Valley Planning Division is staffed with two planners: Senior Planner Paul Michaud and Town Planner George Burton.

Between the trio of planning professionals there are 56 years of multifaceted development experience behind the counter at Paradise Valley Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Dr.

The Paradise Valley Planning Division falls under the community development umbrella at the Town of Paradise Valley. Accomplishments over the most recent fiscal year, include:

  • Over 900 code compliance complaints estimated, researched and resolved;
  • Over 10,000 building inspections anticipated to be completed;
  • Over 500 fire plan reviews and inspections estimated to be done.

Over the past several years, the Town of Paradise Valley Independent has covered the rebirth of the Mountain Shadows Golf Resort, the redefining of a tired resort into the Andaz Scottdale Resort & Spa and the largest commercial development in the town’s history: the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton resort community.

The skills brought to the table by Ms. Cutro, Mr. Michaud and Mr. Burton are focused on making sure the Town of Paradise Valley continues its illustrious history of reflecting affluence and pride in the community.

George Burton

More paths than one

While each of the trio have attained top-tier planning certificates and degrees, none of them necessarily envisioned themselves as municipal planners.

Mr. Burton was pursuing both a history and geography major for his undergraduate degrees while Mr. Michaud saw himself as a budding architect rather than an urban planner. Each pursued the study of geography.

Ms. Cutro pursued a degree in philosophy with an eye toward sociology, but also had legal studies in her education acumen.

While each took a different path to professional planning services, all professed a deep love and appreciation for both the design and aesthetic of the idea of place.

“The best thing about planning is I feel like I have made an impression and this will be here forever,” Ms. Cutro said at Town Hall Tuesday, April 18.

In her early professional years she was working for Monmouth County, New Jersey, where she was focusing on farmland preservation efforts that were leading edge during that time.

“I loved it,” she said of her early planning years in Manmouth County. “That lent to more planning. We were the second in the nation to do a farmland preservation study. It was really satisfying work, but it didn’t pay all that well.”

Mr. Burton has learned the process of municipal planning from the ground up.

“This has been my primary job,” he said April 18 at Town Hall. “It was a process. I (was) actually behind the counter as a building clerk for about seven years. I love the maps and planning out place and space with which you live and work.”

Mr. Burton, who was working his way through school, was the regular waiter of a former town manager of the Town of Paradise Valley.

“He was hand-picked by our town manager,” Ms. Cutro says of Mr. Burton’s waiting days at a Top Shelf Mexican Restaurant.

Despite his lack of specific planning education background, Mr. Burton was studying geography at Arizona State University. Then-Town Manager Tom Martinsen was so impressed with Mr. Burton’s customer service, he recommended he fill a clerk’s position.

Mr. Burton is marking his 17th year of employment with the town this year.

Mr. Michaud appears to have followed a more traditional pursuit by studying both geography and urban planning and serving various planning roles in municipalities throughout Arizona.

Stops have included the city of Florence, the city of Apache Junction and the city of Las Cruces, N.M.

“I pursued architecture first,” Mr. Michaud said, but also noted the allure of the opportunity to help shape whole cities making the idea of urban planning a noble pursuit.

Mr. Michaud has been with the town for a total of 9 years but has 23 years of myriad planning experience in both Arizona and New Mexico.

“They are really looking at the issues,” he said of Paradise Valley residents. “I have worked mostly in the public sector; I prefer the public sector — I get to work with people where you can make real connections.”

Mr. Michaud points out his approval of the Paradise Valley municipal process.

“I like the process and going through it,” he said, noting the town employees have been together for so long it works as a second family for many there.

“To me it is like a family. They know you on a personal level,” he said. “I don’t think all of it in the process is overly exciting but I do like it and it really is about customer service.”

Paul Michaud

Holding the line

The Town of Paradise Valley is known for the one-home-per-acre residential mantra, but the municipality is dependent largely on sales tax remits received annually from the iconic resort properties within municipal bounds.

“I would have to say the resorts,” Ms. Cutro said of what she liked the most about working within the town.

“It is exciting to see them first open. As so much is constantly changing they really need to be top-notch, so we get to work with the most modern techniques and materials in the world. We are constantly keeping up with the latest and greatest.”

But the latest and greatest has to come in the development envelope defined in large part by the town’s General Plan, which is a municipal document that was widely approved by voters in 2012.

“We don’t have high-rises, although that would be much more lucrative for the developer,” Ms. Cutro points out. “But we have also adapted to the times. It is really important for us to keep up with current trends as they come up.”

Ms. Cutro says current hotel trends point to a necessity for innovative design and creative financing that oftentimes translates into first-class structures with auxiliary housing in tow.

“It is wonderful to work with the top engineers in the world,” she said. “People’s needs are changing and what you get is our process — you are not getting a decision that is made in a vacuum. It really is a public process.”

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

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