Sanctuary SUP pursuit clouded by Paradise Valley noise, short-term rental concerns

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa is seeking a special use amendment for one house on its property at 5700 E. McDonald Drive in Paradise Valley. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

During the Paradise Valley Planning Commission’s first review of Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort’s request for a special use permit amendment to change and update what’s known as Casa 3 on their property, the commissioner’s voiced some initial concerns with proposed plans.

On April 3, the Planning Commission spent more than an hour on the topic, as Community Development Director Jeremy Knapp walked the group through the proposal.

On Feb. 28, the Town Council approved Casa 3’s statement of direction by a 4-3 vote, with Vice Mayor Scott Moore and councilmembers Julie Pace and Ellen Andeen dissenting.

The statement of direction — which serves as marching orders from the council to the Planning Commission — included 12 bullet points for the commission to consider.

Since the plans were reviewed by Town Council to create a statement of direction document, the Sanctuary has amended their plans, Mr. Knapp says.

Overall, proximity to neighboring homeowners — some of which are just a stone’s throw away from the Casa 3 — were among top concerns for commission members when evaluating the impact noise and disruption could make in this SUP recommendation.

“There’s four, high-level changes since Town Council issued their statement of direction,” Mr. Knapp told the Planning Commission.

The changes include removal of the lock-off component; detaching the three additional keys and rotating them to a north/south orientation; reorienting the pool and outdoor patio space on the lower level; and adding a new terrace space between the Gallery House and the three additional keys.

The Casa 3 project expands and adds a guest house to what’s known as the Gallery House, on Sanctuary’s property.

The request for Casa 3 is to remodel and expand the existing home, match the existing architecture within the resort property, relocate the pool, add landscape and hardscape improvements and add three new hotel keys with patios. The proposed height for the standalone house is 36 feet 7 inches, which includes a new story addition on the north side of the house.

“There are three specific areas of the property, the hotel itself, casas and casistas,” Mr. Knapp said.

“Casas without commercial activities are subject to hillside requirements. There are casas that are within the SUP property that essentially act and function as single-family residential, they’re standalone parcels. Casas with commercial activities are required to request a SUP amendment; that’s the request you have in front of you — the house plus three additional keys for transient occupancy, which single-family homes couldn’t have.”

Numerous emails opposing or listing concerns of the project have been sent to town officials and staff members, and changing the use of Casa 3 appeared to be a top concern for many commissioners.

Meanwhile, Sanctuary’s General Manager, Mike Surguine, says in recent years the resort has had other SUP amendments approved — the most recent one capping the total number of guest rooms allowed at 170.

Pictured beyond the shrubbery is Casa 3, the single family home on Sanctuary’s campus being sought to have updates and rooms added. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Local disruption

The Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort has some blueprints for what its future will entail, which includes adding rooms over time to reach a maximum of 170 rooms.

Casa 3’s request for three additional rooms is included in the resort’s allowed 170 maximum rooms, Mr. Surguine says.

“Also in that 170 was an SUP amendment passed in 2012 with the ability to add 20 keys down where the tennis courts are,” Mr. Surguine says. “Everyone may be shocked, but tennis is not terribly profitable. At some point, it’s going to make sense for someone to do that.”

Additionally, the previous SUP amendment approved expansion of the resort’s existing ballroom, which Mr. Surguine says will be necessary when the room count is increased.

At this time, there are 109 rooms on the property.

“We certainly planned to do them,” Mr. Surguine said of the already-approved rooms in response to Commission questions.

Ultimately, the order of construction projects comes down to timing, the general manager says.

“We’ve done a number of disruptive capital projects over the past five years, it really impacts the operations, so while business is very good, we said ‘let’s take a year or two and maximize our business levels.’ We are going to have a recession at some point — it will make sense to build during that time.”

It was the disruption the resort caused to nearby homeowners, which some commissioners worried about. Reportedly, the Paradise Valley Police Department has been called a handful of times to address noise complaints, Mr. Knapp said.

“Eventually we’re going to have to address the noise issue, and the complaints emanating from this unit. I think we need to be thinking from very early on about how that can be — I’m not sure it can ever be eliminated given the nature of the complex, but certainly mitigated,” Commissioner Charles Covington said. “I don’t think oleanders will be enough.”

Commission Chair Daran Wastchak agreed with Mr. Covington, describing how the existing home already has noise complaints, which will now be modified.

“Is the modification to the existing condition going to make that situation, which is currently a problem or a concern, are the modifications going to make that situation better or worse?” Mr. Wastchak asked.

Mr. Covington and Commissioner Pamela Georgelos said they think the noise issue will only get worse.

“You’re taking a single structure that is being rented as one house, and all of a sudden you’ve got that house that’s going to be a two-story structure plus the additional three keys; so you have the potential for much greater noise emanation,” Ms. Georgelos said. “

I’m not seeing that there’s sufficient setbacks to try and eleviate that, or additional landscaping that will try and buffer noise. I think this is one of the really big issues on this SUP. I think we do need to start digging into this sooner rather than later.”

Blueprints show the proposed amendments to Casa 3, which includes three new rooms and a second story on a portion of the house. (Submitted graphic)

Concerns moving forward

Mr. Wastchak asked the Commission to give some initial feedback to the applicant, as the statement of direction is to be recommended early this fall.

“I’m very concerned about having this move from a single-family residence, which is the buffer originally created for this project, to something other than a single-family residence,” Mr. Wastchak said.

Daran Wastchak

“Turning this into more keys, when I know we have lots of other keys that have already been approved for the project already that haven’t been built yet, and yet we’re asking for some more keys. I’d almost say this stays as a single-family (residence) and you don’t touch it yet.”

Mr. Wastchak agreed both the municipality and the private entity want the same things — redevelopment and to make their property nicer.

“But I think that you either decide to make this single-family residence nicer, and not add the additional keys, or you make preparations for that to be added later once you have additional keys. I’m not leaning in favor of this being anything other than a single-family home, as a buffer, as it historically was intended to be,” Mr. Wastchak said.

Mr. Wastchak pointed to conversations a few years ago when the Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley applicants wanted to add a rooftop amenity to one of their buildings.

“There were concerns from neighbors on mountains way away that at night time, when it’s cold and sound carries, you would hear that way against the months — they were a quarter mile away,” he said. “I think the residents to the west have valid concerns about existing conditions that won’t be improved, but in fact made more challenging.”

Ms. Georgelos pointed to the fact of another house on the property, which was turned into a commercial use, Casa 2. Is this a slippery slope, she asked?

“It’s the beginning of what? Changing the entire buffer that was single-family residences and all of a sudden they’re becoming commercial uses — I don’t think that was the intent, and I don’t think that should be the direction,” she said.

“I’m not along the lines of what you just said — let’s make this be a great single-family residence. There are all these other keys that have been approved. To put more keys in this area, I don’t know what that necessarily accomplishes.”

Commissioner Thomas Campbell is also concerned about the impacts to the neighbor, he said.

“I’d like to explore more and learn more, to see how we can mitigate them if we can at all, before I would do a blanket statement to forget the expansion,” Mr. Campbell said.

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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