Sanctuary on Camelback seeks SUP amendment, interstitial exploration

A first blush look at how interstitial innovation can create new keys at Sanctuary on Camelback Resort & Spa. (Submitted graphic)

Paradise Valley Town Council is expected to send down marching orders of evaluation to its Planning Commission Thursday, Feb. 23 as the Sanctuary on Camelback Resort & Spa pursues to amend its established special use permit.

The request outlines the resort’s pursuit to create additions to its existing casitas, the creation of two new casitas that will bring an additional 45 new keys to the property and a new pool and snack bar.

In addition, the resort is pursuing modifying its parking layout to accommodate the planned improvements.
The Sanctuary on Camelback, 5700 E. McDonald Drive, is a beloved resort in the Town of Paradise Valley embedded within the landscape of Camelback Mountain on a 53-acre site in the heart of the municipality.

The resort recently unveiled $2 million worth of renovations to its spa casitas and spa suites as part of a two-year capital investment. The three-stage campaign also saw the 2016 introduction of spa house, a mountain enclave for small groups, and a complete redesign of the resort’s mountain casita accommodations in 2015.

A graphic rendering of the proposed new pool area. (Submitted graphic)

Known within Town Hall as a Statement of Direction, the official document dictates the scope of scrutiny members of the Planning Commission are to use when evaluating a proposed project.

Back in 2011, to help entice resort redevelopment, Paradise Valley Town Council overhauled the established development process and created four distinctions of amendment’s to local SUPs.

The current revitalization of the Mountain Shadows property along Lincoln Drive is a direct result of the SUP overhaul effort, town leaders say. Since that time, according to town code, there are four defined criteria for the SUP process: administrative, minor, immediate and major.

Paradise Valley zoning is simple — it’s all residential. But for those who want to build or operate something other than a residence, town code stipulates a special-use permit is required.
There are 38 properties, including churches, resorts and medical facilities that are operating under SUPs throughout town limits, according to Independent archives.

Paradise Valley Town Council gathered Thursday, Feb. 9 to discuss the evaluation parameters of the advisory commission.

“The applicant is proposing adding 45 new keys or bungalows to the site plan,” said Paradise Valley Senior Planner George Burton at the study session discussion.

“They will raise the floor ration to about 14 percent. The keys (new bungalows) do vary in size from 550 to 850 square feet and will add about 20,000 square feet of floor area.”

Mr. Burton says as proposed Sanctuary will not have a total floor ratio of 22 percent while lot coverage will grow to 17 percent.

Statement of Direction

While final language will be presented to town council Feb. 23, Mr. Burton laid out general stipulations for members of the commission to evaluate. They are:

  • Lighting, screening of mechanical equipment, setbacks, heights and parking circulation;
  • A review of certain setbacks for new casitas;
  • A look at on-site water retention for new construction.

“This an intermediate application; part of the process that the council created several years ago was to encourage actually resorts and others to redevelop,” said Andrew Miller, Paradise Valley town attorney at the study session.

“If you are coming for a discreet application on one part of the SUP that would not open the entire property then it would discourage the property owner from doing redevelopment.”

Paradise Valley Councilman Scott Moore was searching for more information at the onset of the study session discussion.

“They do have a lot is stipulations in their original SUP,” he pointed out. “I’m certainly not comfortable with the Planning Commission reviewing storm water on-site retention — that is something that should be at the staff level.”

Mr. Moore points more detail could help members of town council better vet the upcoming SOD document.

“For me, I think it would be the other way around,” he said of general scopes kicking off the SOD discussion. “I want to know what staff has put forward then go review it for project detail.”

An innovative approach

Nicholas Loope, president and founder of HL Design Build, is the architect employed by the owners of Sanctuary to carry out development actions at the resort site.

“Sanctuary has been in existence for quite some time. Part of the request was to make an intermediate amendment to the special use permit, which all of the hotels operate under in Paradise Valley,” he said in a Feb. 14 phone interview.

“Sanctuary is looking to increase its ballroom for 2,000 square feet. We are also looking at identifying opportunities on the hillside property where there would be opportunities for interstitial units.”

Mr. Loope points out he is looking to build units in what he called “the space between.”

“If you think of the hillside villages of the Greeks Islands,” he pointed out. “They used up, if you will, the negative space of the hillside. Even used the space underneath the units. We have identified some areas to do that.”

According to Mr. Loope, the amendment request would allow for those opportunities to be developed in the future.

“The request covered both of those possibilities to expand the ballroom and take advantage of the interstitial space and develop keys in those locations.”

An overview of the site plan at Sanctuary on Camelback. (Submitted graphic)

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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