Paradise Valley Town Council candidates talk local zoning rule changes

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Paradise Valley residents will go to the polls Tuesday, Aug. 30 to elect three members to town council while also electing a mayor.

Paradise Valley Mayor Michael Collins, who is running unopposed, is seeking re-election while four council candidates are seeking one of three seats. Paradise Valley council candidates are: Scott Moore, Julie Pace, Mark Stanton and Daran Wastchak.

To be elected at the primary, candidates must receive a majority of the total valid ballots cast. The town’s races will be consolidated with the county, state and federal races appearing on the same ballot and this year the municipality will not be holding an all-mail election, according to Town Clerk Duncan Miller.

In partnership with Cullum Homes and Rose, Moser & Allyn Public and Online Relations, the Town of Paradise Valley Independent is hosting a town council candidate forum at The Village at Mountain Shadows from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11.

The forum will be moderated by North Valley News Editor Terrance Thornton and will feature opening statements, a debate of local topics that matter and an opportunity for audience involvement.

This week’s question-and-answer installment asks council candidates if they think new zoning classifications should be considered within town limits and how existing zoning rules play a role in the established quality of life in the Town of Paradise Valley.

This is what they had to say:

Scott Moore

*Do you think the Town of Paradise Valley should be open to new zoning classifications that could spur new resort development and untapped commercial opportunities?

Scott Moore

Scott Moore

No. We have a very well-defined process for resorts called the special-use-permit process, which provides for high-quality resort development in specific areas of the community where the impacts of those resorts can be mitigated. Those SUP areas are part of the General Plan that our voters approved by a significant margin just a few years ago. The SUP process has served our community well in helping us plan for the development of Montelucia, Mountain Shadows and the new Ritz-Carlton project. They provide for an extensive amount of public input and review by the Planning Commission and town council. We’ve already identified the areas of town where such development is appropriate. Paradise Valley doesn’t need to identify areas above and beyond this for resort or commercial development — it’s a residential community with resorts that are meant to compliment its character, and we’re on sound enough financial footing that we don’t need nor want to search for new commercial opportunities.

*What role do you think zoning plays in the quality of life in the Town of Paradise Valley?

Zoning plays an extremely important role because Paradise Valley was founded to be, and meant to be, a residential community based upon large-lot residential development. While there are certainly exceptions, this central premise has helped create the very character and quality of life we enjoy today. Those exceptions — specifically the resort development in our community — are meant to enhance and generate revenue needed to fund critical services such as public safety. The balance created by proper zoning is what makes everything about our quality of life possible, from our community’s residential character to quality resort development to funding critical town services.

Daran Wastchak

*Do you think the Town of Paradise Valley should be open to new zoning classifications that could spur new resort development and untapped commercial opportunities?

Daran Wastchak

Daran Wastchak

As a member of the Paradise Valley Planning Commission, I have seen firsthand how the current zoning impacts the ability of our community’s resorts to be successful. The new Mountain Shadows and Ritz-Carlton developments are both located within the “resort/country club” zoning areas identified in the town’s 2012 General Plan, representing approximately 6 percent of the town’s land area. The Planning Commission and town council worked closely with both resort developments to create special use permits that balance a mix of residential development, the resort properties with amenities, and small amounts of complimentary commercial building. The final result of these careful negotiations is a preservation of both the unique character of Paradise Valley and securing long-term revenues for our town that flow from successful and prosperous resort partners. Because the General Plan zoning we have today is successfully allowing for new resort development and limited commercial opportunities, I do not see a need to open new zoning classifications.

*What role do you think zoning plays in the quality of life in the Town of Paradise Valley?

Zoning is central to preserving quality of life in Paradise Valley. With over 91 percent of the land in Paradise Valley zoned as either open space (23 percent) or one-home-per-acre or more (68 percent), our open, rural landscape in the heart of the more densely populated and bustling Phoenix metropolitan area is what makes Paradise Valley, “Paradise Valley”. One-home-per-acre defines who we are as a town; it was the reason Paradise Valley was founded in 1961; it is the reason many, if not most, of our residents chose to buy a home here. The Paradise Valley 2012 General Plan limits where greater density can be built within the Town. Sticking to the zoning established in this plan, approved by over 80 percent of the voters, will allow us to preserve Paradise Valley’s quality of life.

Mark Stanton

*Do you think the Town of Paradise Valley should be open to new zoning classifications that could spur new resort development and untapped commercial opportunities?

Mark Stanton

Mark Stanton

The unique character and foundation of Paradise Valley has been maintained by our zoning classifications that protect our neighborhoods and put families in the community first, not developers. This is what makes Paradise Valley and our quality of life special and different from places like Scottsdale and Arcadia. I’ve grown up and lived most of my entire life in Paradise Valley, and as councilman, I’ve worked hard to keep our laws responsive to the families that live here.

Only under the rarest of circumstances should any change to our zoning laws be considered. We have a voter-approved General Plan and a long history of taking public input on projects, from public hearings on the Mountain Shadows re-development to the vote on the Ritz-Carlton, and we should continue to get feedback from the public on upcoming projects and proposals.

*What role do you think zoning plays in the quality of life in the Town of Paradise Valley?

The families that live here in Paradise Valley are here for the quality of life that puts a premium on residential neighborhoods. That’s what makes Paradise Valley the town we love and I will continue to protect the families who cherish our community’s quality of life.

Julie Pace

*Do you think the Town of Paradise Valley should be open to new zoning classifications that could spur new resort development and untapped commercial opportunities?

Julie Pace

Julie Pace

No. I do not favor new zoning classifications to spur new resort development or commercial enterprises. My priorities are to preserve the low density residential character of Paradise Valley and buttress the vitality of the economic, social, and aesthetic contributions of our existing resorts. We need to focus on limited government to ensure no property tax so that the town does not expand commercial enterprises as an alternative to imposing a property tax. Managing the town budget and staying fiscally conservative will be a priority for me.

The new Mountain Shadows and Ritz-Carlton resorts include commercial and large residential components. Rather than opening the door to new zoning changes to promote additional commercial enterprises, we should evaluate and ensure the resort projects under construction are the quality that our town desires and expects.
Paradise Valley’s resorts are located next to low density residential neighborhoods with beautiful homes in high quality neighborhoods. The homes on some of the higher volume streets for traffic serve as Town ambassadors that help define Paradise Valley. We owe a duty to the residents of those areas to help preserve their quality of life, rather than allowing new zoning for additional commercial enterprises. The traffic management that occurs every weekend near the Cholla and Echo Canyon trailheads show the challenges of managing the impact of additional traffic. We do not want any of the streets carrying through traffic in

Paradise Valley to develop into something like Scottsdale Road. We need to preserve our quality of life and that is why I am running for council.

*What role do you think zoning plays in the quality of life in the Town of Paradise Valley?

Responsible zoning decisions are essential to our quality of life. The town recognized this objective when enacting the visionary Hillside Zoning Ordinance. Zoning should not be abused by out-of-state real estate speculators to obtain variances to flip properties without regard to our Town’s heritage. A major reason I am running for council is to preserve our low-density residential character and to preserve the views of our mountainside areas that are enjoyed by ALL Paradise Valley residents and guests.

To utilize zoning to preserve our quality of life, I propose the following:

1. Move the Hillside Committee concept plan review for mountainside construction so that it occurs before zoning variances are considered by the Board of Adjustment. This will ensure more information about proposed projects before key irrevocable decisions are made.

2. Expand the notice requirements to town residents of zoning requests and building plans that could affect them, especially because most properties are an acre or more and the current distance requirement is not sufficient to ensure notice to surrounding neighbors.

3. There should be transparency and accessibility regarding building plans and information.  We have a lot of talented and experienced people in our town who can provide comments and meaningful input if sufficient time is available and access to the information is more convenient.

4. Prohibit dynamiting the mountains.

5. Require an assessment of the impact on neighbors of zoning and building plans, including drainage, erosion and infrastructure.

6. No Board of Adjustment meetings to request variances in August.

To illustrate the impact of zoning decisions and the need for reforms, last summer a proposal was submitted to the town to approve a 64-foot tall spec home high on Camelback Mountain–the height of a 6-story building! I led the community efforts to defeat this proposal.  The applicant had no intention of living on the property and it was an out-of-state investor who wanted to get the extreme zoning variances approved so the plans could be flipped.

Next came a proposal to carve and dynamite a 480-foot long scar high across Camelback Mountain for a driveway and to construct a 300-foot long house higher than any existing structure. This would forever change and dominate the views of Camelback for all residents of Paradise Valley. As illustrated by these examples, responsible zoning procedures are important to protect the interests of Town residents and to preserve the quality of life in Paradise Valley and this is what I stand for.

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