Sanctuary SUP statement of direction passes divided Paradise Valley Town Council

A view of the Casa 3 development pursued by the ownership at the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa within the bounds of Town of Paradise Valley. (Submitted graphic)

After several weeks of vociferous debate, Paradise Valley Town Council has advanced a statement of direction to the Planning Commission regarding an intermediate Special Use Permit amendment for the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa.

Though the SOD advanced, the vote at the Thursday, Feb. 28 council meeting reflected a divided council as the measure passed 4-3. Vice Mayor Scott Moore as well as councilmembers Julie Pace and Ellen Andeen dissented.

The proposal consists of a SUP application for improvements to Casa 3, which was “historically treated” as an R-43, single-family home. The building sits on the western edge of the Sanctuary property near where Solano Drive and San Miguel Avenue meet and next to residential homes.

The applicant is hoping to expand the home by adding three guest units with one lock-off unit. This would change its use to “commercial in nature,” according to town officials.

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.

Some of those points included a review of the intensity of the property, setbacks on proposed upgrades to the house, noise impacts and potential food preparation/cooking areas. The SOD also called for the commission to “encourage mitigating measures that may buffer the development from nearby residential properties.”

Anna Thomasson

In preparing for her vote, Councilmember Anna Thomasson said she studied previous statement of directions the past Town Council approved. She also said she noticed those SODs were for projects adjacent to residential areas.

Ms. Thomasson emphasized the council’s passion for development and the town’s residents.

“I believe applicants should be treated fairly and there’s a great deal of parameters and restrictions in the statement of direction, so I think the process makes a lot of sense,” she said.

“There’s a lot of (upcoming) opportunities … for residents to be heard. I think the process makes sense and we should treat not only our residents, our mountains and our view corridors with respect and passion, but also our applicants.”

Scott Moore

Inversely, Mr. Moore said he didn’t consider the proposed changes to be “sufficient and adequate buffering.” He also said he couldn’t support the statement of direction because it didn’t have more discouraging language.

“I think (the SOD) should have had a little more stronger language about discouraging this type of intensity, density and height up against a residential neighborhood as not a compatible use,” he said. “I fully support some sort of renovation and development to this property. What that is will be determined through this process.”

Residents also had a chance to speak as three community members expressed their concern for the overall project.

Resident Dorothy Smith said she worries of a precedent this amendment could make regarding perceived buffers on the edge of resort properties.

“If this goes to planning, I certainly hope it will be a majority vote, at least a 5-2 vote, not a 3-3 with one person having to make a decision,” Ms. Smith said. “This is a major, major thing, which I don’t know how it got through before with Casa 2.”

In 2014, the Town Council granted an amendment to Sanctuary regarding Casa 2 to allow for “spa-related” uses and four extra guest units. Casa 2, now the Spa House, sits on the western edge of the property.

Jerry Bien-Willner

Mayor Jerry Bien-Wilner kicked-off the discussion with a suggestion to council, asking its members to be mindful when taking topics that are under discussion to the public via the press or public relation campaigns.

He said he thought this trend developed under past leadership but he “respectfully suggested” councilmembers consider that all the meetings are public and they all are held accountable in those public meetings.

“I would encourage us all to have those discussions, in agreement or difficult, here and try to do that as much as we can and leave that past behind,” he said. “That said, getting people involved in the process, getting the word out is obviously an important part and we’re always working on that.”

The application’s next stop is the Planning Commission, where there will be a public hearing and a citizen review meeting. Planning Commission will hear the application in a future work study session

The Hillside Building Committee will also have a concept review of the application. After that, the Planning Commission will review the application again the governing body makes a recommendation to the Town Council.

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