Scottsdale Palmeraie ascends to new heights as Paradise Valley resentment builds

The Palmeraie project will, in part, encompass 20 acres of land adjacent to the forthcoming Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley resort community. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

While Paradise Valley Town Council historically takes a siesta during the summer months, municipal officials are taking precautions to ensure some important issues are not skipped over during the time of rest.

On Thursday, June 13, Paradise Valley Town Council approved a resolution to authorize Town Manager Jill Keimach and Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner to advocate on behalf of the Town Council with neighboring cities during council recess regarding development adjacent to Paradise Valley.

The resolution includes two known issues requiring a timely response:

  • Phoenix Sky Harbor Federal Aviation Administration flight paths; and
  • An application working its way through Scottsdale’s municipal process which includes a 90-foot building adjacent to Paradise Valley borders.

“During this break, the summer break, there are two issues that may come up that we want direction from the council,” Ms. Keimach explained of the resolution.

In May, Scottsdale City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution authorizing Mayor Jim Lane to submit comments on behalf of the City of Scottsdale to the FAA regarding issues arising from airplanes leaving and departing Sky Harbor Airport, which has detrimentally affected local residents.

The issue stems from a satellite-based navigation system implemented at Sky Harbor in 2014, streamlining departures and arrivals of the estimated 1,200 daily flights to and from the airport.

Town Manager Jill Keimach (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

“Scottsdale has taken the lead to hire consultants to talk to the FAA and move that flight pattern over into the less dense area along the Salt River,” Ms. Keimach said.

“So we want to join Scottsdale in their partnership. They’re starting a public process for that, and it goes further east — it will be a long process, but we want to start this summer.”

The second issue, Ms. Keimach presented to the council, is regarding neighboring development adjacent to Paradise Valley borders: Primarily an application by Five Star Development on the Scottsdale Palmeraie.

“The example that we’re using is Five Star has a proposal that Scottsdale is going to be looking at. It includes a 90-foot-tall structure, and 150-foot-tall spire,” Ms. Keimach said, noting Scottsdale Planning Commission or City Council meetings could potentially take place during Paradise Valley’s summer break.

Community Development Director Jeremy Knapp clarified the application includes two different structures — not a spire on top of the 90-foot building.

Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane, on left, speaks with Five Star Development CEO and Scottsdale resident, Jerry Ayoub, during a Feb. 13 ground-breaking ceremony at The Palmeraie. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

The Palmeraie is a retail component to accompany the Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley community, being built along Lincoln Drive. The entire campus of both projects spans the border of Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, with the Palmeraie being under Scottsdale’s jurisdiction while the Ritz-Carlton portion is under Paradise Valley’s jurisdiction.

The Palmeraie will, in part, encompass 20 acres of land adjacent to the forthcoming resort community.

“If these two meetings happen during the summer, we want to ask the council for the authority for the mayor and myself to express the values of Paradise Valley and make sure that our residents and views are protected,” Ms. Keimach said.

Scottsdale city staff is expected to be heard in August or September.

The Palmeraie is allowed 60-feet of height, but the application includes a 90-foot building. Per Scottsdale requirements, a 90-foot building would likely require additional setbacks, vertically integrated mixed use and more open space, officials say.

Five Star Development, owned by Scottsdale resident Jerry Ayoub, is represented by Jason Morris of Withey Morris PLC in this matter.

Paradise Valley Town Councilmember Julie Pace discussed during a June 13 study session meeting the Five Star Development agreement and process put in place in 2015-16. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

‘A missed opportunity’

Paradise Valley Councilwoman Julie Pace was visibly frustrated by the developer’s ask for additional height.

“The concern about neighboring development adjacent to PV borders — could that have been worked out in a development agreement back when the previous council addressed the Five Star development agreement, to say you can’t request things to Scottsdale?” she asked.

“When we were negotiating as a town, couldn’t we have negotiated at that point a prevision that stated that the applicant would not request exceptions for heights of this density and vertical scale as part of this development since we gave them so much, at least that’s what it looks like to me, from the town’s perspective.”

A development agreement between Five Star and the Town of Paradise Valley for the Ritz-Carlton community was agreed to in January 2016, Independent archives show.

Ms. Pace asked Town Attorney Andrew Miller to recount the timeline the former council worked on when approving the development agreement and proposed infrastructure.

Town Attorney Andrew Miller (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

“Well, it had several months of discussions but I think the later drafts were kind of short, in terms of the time period, for reviewing some matters,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Miller recalled in December 2015 there was a 4-3 vote on a Special Use Permit, and a vote for the development agreement was carried over to the next meeting in January 2016.

Ms. Pace noted during the meeting that of current councilmembers who were on the council during the Ritz-Carlton agreement, Mr. Bien-Willner and councilmember Paul Dembow voted against the SUP; while councilmember Mark Stanton voted yes at the time.

“There was a motion to reconsider the SUP, that came up in January at the very next meeting, of course as business is — ultimately the motion to reconsider failed, and then we adopted the development agreement,” Mr. Miller said. “I think part of that whole history was, we were trying to get the development agreement and SUP done at the same time.”

Ms. Pace says the philosophy as a town should not be to cave to a difficult negotiation.

“We could have had that restricted covenant, it didn’t happen, and now we’re at-risk to have a 150-foot spire and a 90-foot building right over looking down on all the backyards and everything in our community,” Ms. Pace said.

“This is a missed opportunity we have to learn from, that’s why I bring it up — of how important it is not to rush things; not to make political decisions fast, like what happened with that development project; to give our legal team and staff enough time to vet it and do it properly so that we are not having to clean up like we’re having to do today.”

Councilman Paul Dembow says he can sense Ms. Pace’s frustration and shares her opinion about the deal.

“Anybody concerned about the height, if you look at the monolith, which is the Lincoln, which is the apartments that are there — this will be three-and-a-half-times taller,” Mr. Dembow said.

“That will be so horrifically bad, and we could have asked for height restrictions when they doubled the density of the property from 1.1 million square feet, to 1.8 million square feet. A good negotiator would have certainly asked for ensuring those things didn’t exist with a ton of other things we’re going to have to clean up.”

Mr. Dembow asked Ms. Keimach to do anything possible to keep the height at no-more than 60 feet.

“I think we should really work on that — hard,” he said.

Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner offered a comment on the topic.

“Obviously, and I think it’s been a thread here, our neighbors in Scottsdale are our friends and we work very well with them — that’s never been an issue — but obviously we have concerns about height right up against our border,” Mr. Bien-Willner said.

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

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