Scottsdale developers push boundaries of Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton heights

A view of a model outlining how the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton will ultimately be developed. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Scottsdale-based Five Star Development officials — those who are building the Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley Resort Community — deliberated with the town’s Planning Commission once again to discuss a special use permit amendment for a minimal height increase on five of its buildings.

The request, officials say, was more of a formality based on interpretation of the submitted plans, rather than a petition to gain more height.

On Dec. 18, the Paradise Valley Planning Commission discussed a minor special use permit amendment for Ritz-Carlton area A1, at 6651 N. Palmeraie Blvd., near the northeast corner of Mockingbird Lane and Lincoln Drive.

Scottsdale-based Five Star Development, which was founded by prominent developer Jerry Ayoub, is the entity that is bringing the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton development proposal forward and is represented by Jason Morris of Withey Morris PLC.

The Ritz-Carlton development — a more than 100-acre luxury development effort — is beginning to sprout both its commercial and residential footprint.

The development entitlements granted to Five Star Development for the creation of a Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley resort community are broken into seven development-area characteristics:

  • Area A: 200-room resort on 18.1 acres.
  • Area A1: 94 resort-branded villas.
  • Area B: 66 single-family homes on 31.3 acres.
  • Area C: 39 resort-branded, single-family homes on 17.2 acres.
  • Area D: 53 townhomes on 8.8 acres.
  • Area E1: A 54,000 square-foot luxury retail center on 7.2 acres.
  • Area E2: Influx design as the use of 5.7 acres is yet to be determined.

Town Planner George Burton explained the SUP amendment was to modify the height of five buildings to accommodate roof articulation and elevator overruns.

Area A1 of the Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley campus is comprised of seven resort villa buildings. The SUP request is for alterations to five of the seven buildings, A, B, C, D and F, Mr. Burton said. The developer seeks adding 3.5 feet to 5 feet of extra height depending upon the building height.

For building A, the request is to extend the height from 28 feet to 32 feet, 8 inches; the roof articulation adds an extra 4 feet, 8 inches of height.

Buildings B, C, D and F are 36 feet tall, and has a request to grow up to 39 feet 6 inches tall; the roof articulation adds 2 feet extra height, while the elevator overrun adds 1 foot, 2 inches of extra height.

According to Community Development Director, Jeremy Knapp, the SUP stemmed from the request for roof articulation, as the additional inches needed for the elevator overruns could be addressed at the staff level. The roof articulation is purely an architectural aspect, officials said, explaining the added depth will be above third-story living rooms.

Planning Commission Chairman Daran Wastchak expressed some frustration at the request for added height when the volunteer group spent so much time deliberating building height, before town officials explained the request was in response to the submitted documents.

Daran Wastchak

“My frustration, you know we worked — and Jonathan was there and Tom and Richard, you were there — for the entire approval process on the Ritz, we worked over heights,” Mr. Wastchak said.

“We worked them over, and we worked them over and worked them over. It was hard to get them just to where we are. And then to come back and say ‘yeah I know we worked really hard on that, but we need another two feet — that’s frustrating. It really is. I’m not saying no, but I wish we weren’t having this discussion.”

Mr. Wastchak acknowledged that the small amount of height won’t be noticeable from afar, describing the matter as “pushing on a wound.”
Commissioner Charles Covington echoed Mr. Wastchak’s sentiments, noting the Planning Commission is encouraged to cite a compelling reason for deviating from Paradise Valley standards.

“So far I haven’t heard a compelling reason,” he said.

During the public hearing Mr. Knapp shed some light on the issue, noting that the issue probably came about when he was transferred to the community development department following the departure of former director, Eva Cutro.

“This probably came about with my move to this department and me interpreting the SUP, and working with a document that shows not-really-finished grades and some colors that are interpretive in a way,” Mr. Knapp explained.

“Also, maybe a misunderstanding and miscommunication about where we’re going to measure finished grade from — whether that’s from the town’s side or the applicant’s side.”

Jeremy Knapp

There are different ways to go about measuring a building’s height, such as from the finished floor grade or natural ground grade. Mr. Knapp says the applicant’s understanding of where their finished grade was, and where they could measure their buildings from was a point of differing opinion. It appears that an aspect of two feet of fill is causing the stir amongst measured height.

“There was some discussion of where do we actually take the height from,” Mr. Knapp said.

“With me literally reading every word of the document and making that interpretation might have been stricter than what the understanding was at the starting point. I will tell you the applicant, the property owner, has every right to add two feet of fill and bring every building up.”

Mr. Knapp’s explanation appeared to quell the Commission’s concerns.

“That’s great background to have,” Mr. Wastchak commented. “We worked hard to get you to here, yeah but we need that extra two feet — now we’re talking within the play.”

Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton project manager, Richard Frazee, says all of their buildings conform to or are below their allowed elevation.

Five Star Development Project Manager Richard Frazee points to where he intends to build the most innovative Ritz-Carlton design in any market worldwide. (File Photo)

“So, we’re not busting through, including the proposed, however, when you measure the literal face of a building from the actual grade, it is greater than 36 feet,” Mr. Frazee said, explaining an imaginary line at 1,345 feet above sea level. “So, we are complying within the envelop of horizontal opportunity but we are not vertically measuring a building of 36 feet or less.”

Mr. Wastchak confirmed that Mr. Frazee designed right up to where they believed they could go to.

“And, that was the previous department head and previous town manager’s dialogue, was this 1,345 invisible plain and our opportunity to stay beneath it,” Mr. Frazee said. “Jeremy has taken that and literally read it and has wanted to come back and get Planning Commission consensus that because Jeremy and Bob Lee are measuring the vertical face of the building as part of the current building permit process, it is greater than the 36 feet, but it is still less than the opportunity defined.”

Mr. Wastchak says he appreciates the administrative verification, noting that now there will be no question about the building height.

“I have no problem based on that, and we have to defend our answer, so you concur with my feeling on that,” he said. “At the risk of being overly redundant, which I am being, I didn’t want to see you guys pushing the limit of what we already spent lots of time trying to come up with. You’re within it, it’s defendable, the position is defendable as far as I can see.”

The Planning Commission is expected to have a public hearing on this matter Jan. 9.

News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at or follow her on Twitter at

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