Scrutiny of Paradise Valley bicycle plan rests with Planning Commission

It’s streets like this one in the Town of Paradise Valley that become training grounds for road bike enthusiasts of all walks of life. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

The next phase in the lifespan of the Paradise Valley Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan has begun.

Paradise Valley Town Council approved its Statement of Direction regarding the plan with a 6–1 vote at its June 22 council meeting at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive, sending the plan to the Planning Commission for further evaluation.

Paradise Valley Councilman Paul Dembow was the lone dissenter.

Councilman Mark Stanton, who made the motion, said approving the SOD was not the final decision on what is to be included in the plan.

“This is a process and this is not done,” Mr. Stanton said during the June 22 meeting. “I think this is the right direction for us to go in to get the Planning Commission moving. I would support the statement but I would likely propose a couple of recommendations when it comes to a motion.”

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

The Planning Commission will begin deliberations at its Tuesday, July 25 meeting.

One of the recommendations Mr. Stanton included in the motion was the removal of the phrase “and avoid public urination” from the statement because public urination is already against town law.

Many councilmembers said they got the impression from those who emailed them and those who spoke at the meeting felt the SOD’s language singled out cyclists,

This was the crux of Mr. Dembow’s dissension as he wanted the statement rewritten because he thought it was “derogatory to bicyclists and singles them out.”

Mr. Dembow proposed adding more verbiage that would avoid alienating a single group and better inform all those who use the roads in the town.

Jerry Bien-Willner

Paradise Valley Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner lobbied a proposal that council would only change specific wording in the SOD, but thoughts of making sure the plan did not single out one group would be conveyed to the Planning Commission to which Mr. Stanton agreed.

“Now is probably a good time to move it on to the next phase so that people can have direct contact with the commissioners and get some of these positive impacts reflected in the document,” Vice Mayor Bien-Willner said.

Paradise Valley Mayor Michael Collins presented an abridged version of the proposed bicycle and pedestrian master plan at a June 8 study session. During that study session, council discussed and drafted the Statement of Direction.

In August 2016, the council authorized a contract with Coffman Studio for the development of a bicycle and pedestrian master plan, a motion that carried 5–1.

Residents have provided a significant amount of feedback since that time — both negative and positive.

A statement and reactions

Prior to discussion from each of the councilmembers, Vice Mayor Bien-Willner shared a bit about the process of a Statement of Direction and what it’s purpose is in regards to this plan.

“This Statement of Direction is not a legislative act, it’s not intended to be comprehensive and address every point,” he said. “What it is, is a tool that the council uses to focus the attention of the Planning Commission on the next step in this process, which is to review at the Planning Commission level.”

Council outlined several points it wanted the Planning Commission to review in drafting the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.

Those points included:

  • Emphasizing safety and enforcement;
  • Emphasizing the resort loop;
  • A focus on pedestrian facilities;
  • A focus on bicycle facilities;
  • An avoidance of “urban” design elements;
  • An addressing to mitigate conflicts;
  • No new signage;
  • A pairing of this effort with the Visually Significant Corridors Plan;
  • An identification of rough costs and phasing; and
  • A priority of projects identified.

With these guidelines in place from council, Paradise Valley Councilman David Sherf said he thinks residents have two main misconceptions about the project.

The first misconception he lined out was some people thought the council was going to restrict biking on certain streets. The other was some residents thought the town was fighting against cyclists in the community.

David Sherf

Mr. Sherf said both notions are not true and the town’s main goal with the SOD is to find a middle ground for everyone involved.

In order to reach that, he said the town has put in effort to work with the cycling community, among others, to get its input in this project.

“There’s a lot more work that I think is going on behind the scenes that maybe we should have let people know about,” Mr. Sherf said. “We’re spending a lot of time on this and we’ll get this right.”

Paradise Valley Councilwoman Julie Pace joined the meeting via phone and said she sees the SOD as a chance to address safety concerns regarding all who use the road.

“I think that some of the points in the Statement of Direction was to emphasize that across the board,” she said. “I think the point was made very well we have to remind vehicle traffic as well with some of the rules and to help them understand when to let bikes pass and when to watch out for that.”

Paul Dembow

Despite the approval of the statement by many on council, Mr. Dembow did not like the language in the statement and shared his own Statement of Direction, which he believed represented all those who the plan would affect.

Mr. Dembow also said he would like the police department’s feedback on how the town can better improve its laws to make it safer for bicyclists and he is against any changes to McDonald Drive.

With these concerns in mind, Planning Commission Chairman Daran Wastchak reassured Mr. Dembow his concerns would be considered as the Planning Commission works to craft the master plan.

“I appreciate that the council weighed back in and gave us some clear direction on this so that we have a sense from the council,” Mr. Wastchak said. “We have the benefit of their input as we move forward.”

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