Paradise Valley Town Council begins Ritz-Carlton proposal scrutiny

Ritz 1

A graphic rendering of the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton project. (Submitted graphic)

The stakes are high as Five Star Development Inc. submits its ambitious plan for the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton resort community.

But the initial proposed heights and density for the 82-acre resort behemoth is proving to be too tall an order for the appetite of Paradise Valley Town Council as the governing board is in the midst of its formal review of the development pitch.

Paradise Valley Town Council Thursday, May 28 held its first public review of what town leaders call a Statement of Direction at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive. Known within Town Hall as an SOD, the official document is approved by the town council and dictates the scope of scrutiny members of the Planning Commission are to use when evaluating a proposed project.

Paradise Valley Town Council is expected to approve an SOD based on the Five Star Development proposal for the Paradise Valley Planning Commission at a June 4 public hearing.

The SOD will evaluate the areas of:

  • Resort lot coverage;
  • Residential lot size;
  • Attached residential lot size;
  • Heights of all structures;
  • Lobby building height;
  • Retail use;
  • Perimter setbacks;
  • Right of Way and traffic.

The Five Star plan, if approved, would allow construction of a Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton resort, along with a residential community, on 82 acres of a 105-acre swath of land at about Scottsdale and Lincoln roads.

A graphic rendering of the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton project. (Submitted graphic)

A graphic rendering of the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton project. (Submitted graphic)

The project will encompass land governed by both the municipalities of Paradise Valley and Scottsdale.

The final application filed comes nearly seven years after the town approved plans for a Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton project — plans that were never carried out. Five Star and municipal officials blame the Great Recession for the lack of movement on the development.

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

The matter 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, archives state.

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 new application proposal has been chopped into six development areas and, at this point, include these characteristics:

  • Area A: 200-room resort on 20.3 acres
  • Area A1: 80 resort-branded villas
  • Area B: 101 single-family homes on 28.7 acres
  • Area C: 59 resort-branded, single-family homes
  • Area D: 250 condominiums on 8.3 acres
  • Area E: 200 condominiums on 16.2 acres

The give and take

Paradise Valley officials say they are cognizant of the fact a developer pitch shaped by fanciful jargon churned by hired hands is really a starting point for negotiation.

Paul Dembow

Paul Dembow

Paradise Valley Vice Mayor Paul Dembow says the whole property must be evaluated for parking and traffic flow.

“I am concerned that we are not looking at this holistically,” he said at the May 28 work session discussion. “Are we sure this is not going to create a parking nightmare on Camelback?”

According to Paradise Valley Community Development Director Eva Cutro, the municipality is still awaiting the results of a comprehensive traffic study that addressed parking needs for the site.

“We do not know that at this time” Ms. Cutro said in response to Vice Mayor Dembow’s questioning.

Ms. Cutro says Five Star Development anticipates to have the majority of parking for the resort located underground.

“The resort will be parked underground. This is still a plan for a Ritz-Carlton resort that includes a residential component, but it also contains a retail element.”

In addition, the resort’s main lobby could ascend up to 47 feet within the development area coined “A,” but will be created by a 2- to 20-foot slopping cascade of in-fill dirt with a six-foot portion cut out for the main lobby building to be built in the middle.

“The applicant is proposing to bring in 2- to 20-feet of in-fill,” she said of the unique approach to the lobby construction. “They say they need the 47 feet to gain the spectacular view of Camelback Mountain.”

While the proposal is intriguing and could bring that “wow” factor to Paradise Valley, Councilwoman Maria Syms says she wants to know what is going on in Scottsdale.

“Is there any chance of going after any zoning variances on the side of Scottsdale” she asked. “It is hard to evaluate the property without knowing what is going to go on in Scottsdale. Anything in Scottsdale is fair game until we lock it down right here.”

Mr. Morris, Five Star’s legal representation in the matter, says the Scottsdale portion will have to be rezoned in any case as today it holds a defunct residential zoning code and must be changed to a planned regional center designation.

Jason Morris

Jason Morris

“They are going to be natural conversations,” Mr. Morris opined of the give-and-take relationship between elected leader and developer. “For that reason we the applicant came to the town to plan jointly with the city and the town.”

Mr. Morris contends his client has no intention to try and push through any critical commercial uses on the Scottsdale side, something he admitted happened in previous years.

“We have no desire to bait and switch,” he said pointing out the complicated process a dual municipality project can be. “It is very complicated and it has never happened in this municipality.”

But Mr. Morris says a rezoning has to occur in Scottsdale.

“It isn’t even zoned for the development purpose in front of you,” he said. “We do have the opportunity to apply for that zoning, but there is no intention to try to sneak anything through.”

Paradise Valley Councilman Jerry Bien-Willner says understanding better what is going on the Scottsdale side is the next logical step of evaluation for him.

“To understand what it is because it is not in the town, but directly our neighbor — that’s the next step for me,” he said of wanting to pursue how the two municipalities can work together.

Mr. Morris says it could be done.

“I think it is possible, but that would require a considerable amount of coordination,” he explained.

‘The ask is pretty big here’

Paradise Valley Councilman David Sherf, who serves as council development liaison to Five Star on this matter, says the resort is only one part of the development pitch.

David Sherf

David Sherf

“The resort is really only 30 percent of the project,” he said at the work session. “There is really quite a bit the applicant is asking for. It’s an aggressive plan, but I do think the resort will be the nicest in Arizona.”

Councilman Sherf says he has concerns over the sheer amount of density proposed.
“The ask is pretty big here,” he said of the residential element. “And, we are going to cut from somewhere. This is ludicrous. The voters would have never agreed to this. This plan is egregious.”

Paradise Valley Mayor Michael Collins feels too many homes and condos are proposed.

“I don’t support the density proposed,” he said. “This, for me, misses the mark. The units proposed are unacceptable.”

While the residential element will continue to negotiated, Mayor Collins says he would like to give the developer more flexibility with the resort structures rather than the residential units.

“I think the developer should be given the most latitude with the main lobby and resort building,” he said.

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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