Paradise Valley sharpens language as new Hillside Development Regulations emerge

The picturesque landscape that is the Town of Paradise is something the hillside development regulations were created to protect. (File photo)

Paradise Valley Town Attorney Andrew Miller delivered to the local governing board Thursday, Sept. 13 a formal update to Hillside Development Regulations.

The presentation, which was offered at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive, served as an outline for Paradise Valley Town Council defining Hillside code definitions, a new pre-application process and defined criteria for removing a property from the Hillside development designation.

Andrew Miller

Hillside lots within Paradise Valley town limits are those found in areas with a slope of 10 percent or greater, or designated as Hillside by town code.

According to town officials, the ongoing Hillside update dates back to 2015, when it was re-emphasized and included in the 2016 Town Council Quality of Life Initiatives. As part of that effort, a community conversation was held in April 2016 where safety was a central theme.

Throughout 2017, the Planning Commission worked on a Hillside code update, ultimately forwarding the draft to town council with a 5-1 recommendation vote.

Major tenets of the Hillside code update hinges upon new safety standards and a formal pre-application process meant to define development timelines, town officials say. Since May 2018, Paradise Valley officials have:

  • On May 10 Town Council approved language to an update of Article 22 Town Code specific to Hillside Development Regulations;
  • On June 14 Town Council approved language for a new Hillside Safety Manual;
  • On June 17 Planning Commission reviewed the proposed language and updates to the Hillside Development Regulations;
  • On Aug. 7 a citizen review was conducted with zero public input and no Commission consternation; and
  • On Aug. 21 the Planning Commission hosted a public hearing with zero public participation and a formal recommendation for adoption.

Mr. Miller outlines formal definitions were devised for the chairman of the Hillside Building Committee, the Committee itself and a formal process for removing a property from the Hillside designation.

But one item of interest by elected leaders was the creation of a formal pre-application process.

“For most developers it is nothing new,” Mr. Miller explained. “The pre-application process is very generous — and it’s free. Unless you fail to proceed those applications will expire,” he said noting the 18-month lifespan of a completed pre-application process. “Some of these cases are pretty complex and people change their minds and come back to us.”

Furthermore, Mr. Miller explains a new formality for removing a property from the Hillside designation.

“We added language that the removal is subject to council discretion,” he said. “Before it was informal but now we have it clarified and in the code.”

Paradise Valley Town Hall is at 6401 E. Lincoln Drive in the Town of Paradise Valley. (File photo)

A formal pre-application

Paradise Valley Councilman Scott Moore zeroed in on the creation of the pre-application process during the Sept. 13 public hearing.

“If the pre-application is free, but if council is supportive, I would suggest we make it uniform with our processes and fees,” he said. “What is the pre-application submittal requirements? Is there something that says this is what you are required to bring for the pre-application process?”

Town officials say the pre-application process is an opportunity for an applicant to receive municipal consultation regarding the chances of their project coming to fruition as presented.

Mr. Moore outlines his desire to be as accommodating as possible for applicants, but also holding those interested parties accountable for development timeliness.

“Do you want to define that term for the application?” he asked. “Now that we have pre-application — I think of the pre-application as an informal process. You are not vested until as your engineering plans don’t count until you complete the application.”

Paul Michaud

Paradise Valley Senior Planner Paul Mood explains the pre-application clock — one where filed development documents are valid for an 18-month period — doesn’t begin until the pre-application is complete.

“We are not taking incomplete applications,” Mr. Mood assured Mr. Moore. “The date we take the application is when we start the clock. We will make sure that (applicants) are not delivering things piecemeal. They have been put on notice.”

Jerry Bien-Willner, Paradise Valley vice mayor, says the formal process should not carry any ideas not defined by ordinance.

“I think we may want to clarify, because we don’t want to set any kind of preconceived notions,” he said of the definition of a completed pre-application process. “I think we should try to avoid that — there has to be some process that is codified.”

Mr. Bien-Willner also points out the municipality ought to be as forgiving as possible prior to a completed application.

“I don’t think anyone was expressing any hostility to working with someone new to the town,” he said of the oftentimes daunting task of filing engineering documents with a municipality. “I think that once the application is deemed complete then the timer begins.”

Paradise Valley Deputy Town Manager Dawn Marie Buckland echoes a similar sentiment.

“We want to make sure any application not deemed complete, there will be no time stipulations,” she said. “Once an application is deemed complete those stipulations would take effect — I definitely think we need to define it.”

Paradise Valley Town Council is expected to see revised language for the Hillside Development Regulations at its Sept. 27 meeting at Town Hall.

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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