Paradise Valley signs marching orders for analysis of SmokeTree rebirth effort

SmokeTree Resort and Bungalows in its current form. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

A Statement of Direction has been rendered by Paradise Valley Town Council to give building and design guidelines for the legacy SmokeTree Resort’s renovation.

On Thursday, Oct. 11, Paradise Valley Town Council spent about an hour combing over SmokeTree Resort’s Statement of Direction, which is comprised of 12 elements pertaining to several aspects of the revitalization.

The last item, context-appropriate design, appeared to give Town Council’s focus point of chagrin.

The resort, which was originally erected in 1966, is at 7101 E. Lincoln Drive in the Town of Paradise Valley.

This was the council’s second time reviewing the SOD, and it is set to be voted upon on Oct. 25.

The formal document — one that carries a majority vote of Town Council — guides the Planning Commission, a volunteer committee appointed by council, as it works through a specific development application.

The first presentation of the planning guideline was presented by Community Development Director Jeremy Knapp on Thursday, Sept. 27, at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

Earlier this year, the legacy resort property changed hands for a reported $10 million and new ownership is eyeing a new chapter for the boutique resort on the edge of paradise.

The original resort, which has been maintained in perpetuity, is now under the guise of Phoenix-based Geneva Holdings.

SmokeTree’s application at this time includes:

  • 150 traditional hotel guest room keys
  • 30 resort residential units featuring a lock-off feature
  • Restaurant and bar/lounge
  • Accessory uses such as a fresh food market, coffee shop and pop-up retail
  • Indoor/outdoor event space.

One by one, council members evaluated the words and their perceived intent for each section of the document.

A topic of discussion amongst Town Council was regarding balconies, where they could be, and their noise production. Additionally, they discussed at length what the words, “context-appropriate design” means.

The last bullet point on the SOD states the Planning Commission may require the applicant provide more precise information to verify how the project meets the vision and policies of the General Plan. The document states that these requests may include providing renderings as they relate to neighboring properties, impact related to light or choice of material pallet of the improvements.

Jerry Bien-Willner (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner suggested striking some of the wording related to the General Plan, stating he didn’t fully understand what was meant there, and voiced concern over having too broad of a section.

“If there’s something we want the Commission to look at that’s not listed, let’s put it in, then we’re not leaving things out that are important,” Mr. Bien-Willner said.

Councilmember Julie Pace called the section a “catch-all” section, noting that it could be used by the town’s technicians when they do a deep dive into the planning.

“In case we miss something at our level, we’re not digging deep,” Ms. Pace said.

Mr. Bien-Willner noted how that opens the door for unintended work.

“That could become architectural review, which we’re not asking them to do. It could become a very detailed landscape plan, which we haven’t asked them to do,” he said. “That could get very expensive, that was my concern last time.”

Mayor Michael Collins says the paragraph is not ambiguous, because it’s tied to defined elements in the General Plan. Ms. Pace commented that she understands Mr. Bien-Willner’s concern with the phrase “context-appropriate” not being clear enough.

Mr. Bien-Willner says he’s most sensitive about people requesting a lot of plans and documents outside of the scope of what they’re looking at.

“I’m not trying to get argumentative, but we have 12 points in here — 11 points of substance that we want the Commission to look at,” Mr. Bien-Willner said.

“I think it’s reasonable to expect the Planning Commission would request additional information to evaluate these points. But having a catch-all that’s very broad, and not tethered to expense or necessarily utility, concerns me that’s all. That’s my point. Others may not have that concern — I have that concern.”

Ultimately, the council decided to specify where the term “context-appropriate design” is defined and explained in the General Plan.

Councilmembers Scott Moore and Ms. pace commented that Mr. Bien-Willner had a good edit, as they all interpreted the statement differently.

The SmokeTree Resort and Bungalows dates back to 1960. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

“You’re right, that is really vague that one point, because we all interpreted it differently around the table,” Ms. Pace said. “That’s a good clean-up on that.”

Other edits made to the SOD over the past two meetings include focusing density on the east and center of the 5.3-acre site and encouraging maximum height in the center and toward the east side of the Lincoln Medical Plaza, transitioning to lower heights on the west side of the site.

Also, the use category was edited to review the resort residential component, considering the lock-off feature of guest rooms, parking, guest access and using the hotel rental pool for the owned units.

News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at or follow her on Twitter at

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