Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton pitch approaches ‘realm of compliance’ as negotiations continue

Five Star Development Project Manager Richard Frazee points to where he intends to build the most innovative Ritz-Carlton design in any market worldwide. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Five Star Development Project Manager Richard Frazee points to where he intends to build the most innovative Ritz-Carlton design in any market worldwide. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

The proposal to develop a Ritz-Carlton resort community within the Town of Paradise Valley has been reconfigured to better suit the town, and officials predict more changes — especially those that involve density — may still be on the horizon as the town’s Planning Commission continues its examination of the plans.

The Five Star plan, if approved, would allow construction of a Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton resort, along with a residential community, on a 105-acre swath of land an arrow’s shot from Scottsdale and Lincoln roads. A new site plan for the project was presented to the Paradise Valley Planning Commission Aug. 4 at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

The first plan was put to a public vote in November 2008 and Paradise Valley residents overwhelmingly approved the resort project by a more than 2-to-1 margin. The project approved on the 105-acre site was for a 225-room resort, spa, restaurants and meeting space as well as 100 resort patio homes, 46 luxury detached residential homes and 15 one-acre estate lots on adjacent vacant land, archives state.

The revised application proposal has been chopped into six development areas and, at this point, includes several characteristics:

  • Area A: 200-room resort on 20.3 acres
  • Area A1: 120 resort-branded villas
  • Area B: 89 single-family homes on 28.7 acres
  • Area C: 55 resort-branded, single-family homes
  • Area D: 100 condominiums on 8.3 acres
  • Area E: Influx design as deannexation of 16.2 acres is yet to be determined

Five Star Development, owned by Scottsdale resident Jerry Ayoub, is represented by Jason Morris of Whitey Morris PLC in this matter.

David Sherf

David Sherf

Paradise Valley Councilman David Sherf says he is encouraged by the subsequent drop in density offered by Five Star officials at the Aug. 4 presentation.

“The density concerns raised by myself and other members of council in their first site plan submission on May 4 have been somewhat tempered in the new plan, but not enough to allow me to support the plan at this time,” Councilman Sherf said in an Aug. 5 written response to e-mailed questions.

The council issued its Statement of Direction (SOD) to the Planning Commission in June. The SOD is a guidelines used by the commission in its review of an application.

Five Star officials contend the SOD is a “guideline, not a mandate,” and allows for flexibility.
Known within Town Hall as an SOD, the official document dictates the scope of scrutiny members of the Planning Commission are to use when evaluating a proposed project. This SOD comes with an amendment allowing the applicant and Planning Commission flexibility when evaluating the 25 percent lot coverage charge of all non-resort attached structures throughout the entire project and the possibility of the deannexation of a portion of the project.

Town officials say the council advisory commission will look at a decrease in overall density and has 120 days from June 11 to complete its review of the proposal.

“The new plan does address several points in the SOD, including larger single-family lots on the perimeter, less density on the southwest parcel — now shown as attached townhomes — and better connectivity and relationship of the resort residential units to the hotel,” Councilman Sherf said.  “However, the project setbacks on the perimeter are not sufficient; the lot coverage and density of the resort residential and the townhomes significantly exceed the SOD and four-story buildings are shown, which was also does not follow the SOD.”

Councilman Sherf is serving as liaison between Town Council and Five Star officials.

“Relations and communication with each member of the Five Star development team have been very good throughout this process with each side being able to openly articulate their positions,” he said of the push-and-pull relationship that is the municipal development process.

“What has been disappointing, though, is the disregard of several major points in the SOD in the new site plan.”

The possibility of deannexation

Paradise Valley and Scottsdale officials have met on five different occasions since June to discuss the possibility of deannexing area E from Paradise Valley — about 16 acres of land on the Scottsdale-Paradise Valley border — and allowing Scottsdale to absorb the area into its city limits.

Kevin Burke

Kevin Burke

The move would allow for more intense commercial uses, according to Paradise Valley Town Manager Kevin Burke.

“These were meetings between staff from the two organizations,” he said Aug. 5. “The discussions focused upon the mechanics of how such a deannexation would work and if Scottsdale was open to considering the idea, which they were.”

Mr. Burke says the possibility of deannexation could have multiple benefits to the Town of Paradise Valley.

“First, the retail component of the Ritz project is integral to its success. A robust, very high-end retail draws more guests to the resort and increasing bookings while making the residential more desirable by making it a walkable community to live, shop, and recreate,” he said.  “That retail component is very important to the town’s revenues both in pure financial contribution, but more importantly it is direct revenue rather than through state revenue sharing, which is regularly under attack at the Arizona Legislature.”

Revenue sharing would be a key piece of an intergovernmental agreement that would emerge from ongoing discussions, Mr. Burke says.

“Deannexation allows the town to take advantage of the benefits of retail through a revenue sharing agreement with Scottsdale while not changing zoning nor making precedent-setting interpretations of resort-related retail that might not fit elsewhere in the community,” he explained. “More importantly, through the same agreement and process, it gives the town a seat at the table in affecting what is on the town’s border and making sure another four-story Broadstone apartment complex does not occur.”

But control of land is a downside to deannexation, Mr. Burke says.

“The disadvantage of a deannexation is the town loses some land-use control, particularly in 40 to 50 years when the property may redevelop,” he pointed out.  “However, because the deannexation occurs with an intergovernmental agreement between the two municipalities, there may be an opportunity for a voice in that redevelopment.”

Five Star Development spokesman Tom Evans says its still early in the deannexation game to determined the viability of the land-use maneuver.

“From our perspective, any discussion of deannexation is still early in the process and is being driven by the two municipalities,” he said.  “We are providing support and information as needed to assist with the discussions between the municipalities. We are pleased to be a part of these discussions and will do everything within reason to help create a solution that is a win-win for all parties involved.”

A graphic rendering of how the view could look while inside the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton lobby. (Submitted graphic)

A graphic rendering of how the view could look while inside the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton lobby. (Submitted graphic)

The realm of compliance

Richard Frazee, Five Star Development project manager, says his team is making every effort to come within general tenets of Paradise Valley resort development.

“Perimeter setbacks have all been increased,” he said.

“We continue to see the Statement of Direction as a guideline, not a mandate. All is in response to the Statement of Direction to meet the 2.3 dwelling units per acre,” he said of the recent reconfiguration of the site. “We are at about two dwelling units per acre. We think we have reasonably responded to the request. We think we have really improved the plans through this reconfiguration.”

Mr. Frazee says he believes the newly proposed plan is a viable one for development.

“We have added a vast opportunity to meet the market needs,” he said of the multitiered approach to dwelling units proposed on the property. “We are seeing a village kind of development. We believe we are within the 25 percent lot coverage threshold … we think we are in the realm of compliance.”

Regardless of deannexation, Mr. Frazee says the design will not shift.

“To me, I am indifferent because the town is still progressing in those talks but it will be one contiguous development,” he said.

The topic of deannexation has no bearing on Planning Commission direction as those talks will continue through the 120-day evaluation period, according to Paradise Valley Planning Commissioner Daran Wastchak.

Daran Wastchak

Daran Wastchak

Commissioner Wastchak says he expects the commission to provide a recommendation to Town Council that will be favorable to each party involved — the developer, the municipality and the residents.

“I think it is pretty clear there may be some things the commission ultimately will not go along with, and they are going to have to decide what to do,” he explained. “I think the commission is going to be pretty flexible. I think we will send a final recommendation to the council that is going to be very well agreed up between Five Star and the commission.”

The proposal of the hotel-lobby structure itself and subsequent layout is of little concern to the commission, Mr. Wastchak points out.

“I think everyone rallies around and supports that concept,” he said of the hotel structure. “The discussion as you know all too well is going to revolve around the densities — that is where the real challenges are. The balance is going to be how much product do they get out there that is reasonable for Paradise Valley.”

“What happens on the perimeter is going to be very important,” he said. “There is a very strong consensus amongst commissioners that the perimeter will need to look and feel like every other street in Paradise Valley.”

The Paradise Valley Planning Commission is expected to have its recommendation to Paradise Valley Town Council on the proposed Ritz-Cartlon project by this October.

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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