Proposed Camelback Mountain home continues to distress neighbors

A view from the apex of Camelback Mountain. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A view from the apex of Camelback Mountain. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Residents living around the proposed construction of a home at 5507 E. San Miguel in the Town of Paradise Valley are fighting to push back an initial hillside committee review that is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 8.

In addition to neighboring residents being unable to attend the review, they are concerned with legal rights of way, and the overall safety of the project due to an extensive amount of construction proposed on Camelback Mountain.

The 10,000-square-foot property, to be built on an undeveloped plot of land, was previously seeking a variance from the Board of Adjustment in March to expand the driveway from 8 feet to 24 feet.

After the Board of Adjustment issued a 60-day continuance, the homeowner and architect altered plans to fit within guidelines.

“It turned out that by realigning the driveway a little bit and making some other changes to the site, the architects were able to come up with a plan that did not require a variance,” said Doug Jorden of Jorden, Bischoff & Hiser in an Aug. 11 phone interview.

Mr. Jorden represents the applicant in this case: TMS Ventures LLC.

Now, the property is ready for its initial review by the Hillside Committee but the neighbors are asking for a 30-day postponement.

In an Aug. 7 letter to Mayor Michael Collins, a group of residents laid our their concerns with the property:

  1. Legal right of way is in question;
  2. Considering a building permit for a house without including points of access;
  3. Lack of parties involved being able to be present on Sept. 8.

“They’re proposing to build a new home on the property and this is just the first review, starting the hillside process,” said Paradise Valley Planner George Burton in an Aug. 9 phone interview.

The review process consists of two reviews, a preliminary review and a formal review, before being able to get a building permit.

Town code states the Hillside Ordinance is meant to maintain the “valuable scenic resources” known as the Camelback, Mummy and Phoenix mountains.

A view of boulders that sometimes fall down residential areas at the base of Camelback Mountain due to flooding exacerbated by drainage issues. (Submitted photo)

A view of boulders that sometimes fall down residential areas at the base of Camelback Mountain due to flooding exacerbated by drainage issues. (Submitted photo)

According to town code, “these lands form, their foothills, and other areas over a 10 percent slope, offer a desirable setting visible to the entire metropolitan area and an intrinsic aesthetic value to the town; therefore they require unique standards resulting from the characteristics of hillside terrain.”

“The lot that they’re talking about is the highest one on the mountain that is not owned by the city of Phoenix,” said 40-year Paradise Valley resident, Glen Hait, in an Aug. 10 phone interview. “So that in itself would be disruptive of views of Camelback.”

In addition to the disruptive views, another neighbor David Appel says safety is a large issue.

“I think everybody who watches a 10,000-square-foot house, with a 600-foot driveway going in is going to be worried about the boulders falling on their heads at night,” said Mr. Appel in an Aug. 11 phone interview.

“When the engineers have looked and found that the formations and soil have been unstable, it causes you to be legitimately concerned.”

Mr. Appel says there is a reason a house hasn’t been built in this location before. In years past, there have been discussions about granting an easement for a public road, but Maricopa County didn’t accept the proposed easement.

“Paradise Valley doesn’t acknowledge it as a public road so there’s really no way to get to the property,” said Mr. Appel. “So how would they get there? Helicopter in? Hike?”

Mr. Appel feels that in order to create an access way to the property, his home could be destroyed in the process.
“They would literally have to destroy your yards, gates and driveways. Our homes would have to be reinforced,” he said.

Additionally, Mr. Appel brought up the question of the homeowners safety.

“Can you imagine a fire truck going 600-feet up a mountain?” he asked.

Another major issues neighbors are concerned about is the drainage from rain storms.

“Putting a house up there would change the drainage pattern of rains coming down off of Camelback, and at least from the plans that were shown to us, could create potential to cause some damage to the houses all the way from that site all the way down to McDonald Drive,” said Mr. Hait.

The neighbor’s letter to Mayor Collins stated, “Summer reviews are difficult as many residents are not in town. Unfortunately, the date chosen, four of the closest neighboring lot owners will be unable to attend due to long standing overseas commitments.”

However, Mr. Burton says the preliminary review will not be very detailed. It includes an application, an aerial photo, an artist’s rendering of the proposed home and general discussion and input. There will be no action taken at this initial meeting.

“Once they get the input, then they will start working on the formal plans,” Mr. Burton said. “That’s where the bulk of the information will be.”

The plans are public documents housed at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive, and available for residents to review. They can also submit their comments and concerns in-person, whether they attend the initial hillside review meeting or not, he said.

The architect in this process copyrighted the plans, and therefore the neighbors had to request a court-ordered subpoena in order to receive a copy, according to Mr. Burton.

News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at mrosequist@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Mrosequist_

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