The Town of Paradise Valley Independent offers its Top 10 stories of 2015

TPV Top StoriesThe Town of Paradise Valley Independent covered myriad topics over the course of calendar year 2015, ranging from approval of a new Ritz-Carlton resort behemoth to landmark airspace regulations concerning unmanned aircraft vehicles to the hiring of a new town manager and the actions of a newly seated town council.

The Independent offers a look back over the last year’s top 10 stories in the Town of Paradise Valley:

1. Paradise Valley Town Council OKs Ritz-Carlton resort juggernaut

Paradise Valley Town Council Monday, Dec. 21 approved a special-use permit allowing Five Star Development to build a Ritz-Carlton resort community — the largest commercial development in the municipality’s history.

Paradise Valley Mayor Michael Collins along with councilmembers Mary Hamway, Mark Stanton and Maria Syms voted for the measure while Vice Mayor Paul Dembow and council members David Sherf and Jerry Bien-Willner held unwavering to their assertion the proposal to build the luxury resort community is too dense, has too many unknown variables and lacks firm financial commitments to benefit the community at large.

While Paradise Valley Town Council approved the SUP permit by a 4 to 3 vote, the governing board unanimously approved a continuance of the subsequent development agreement until 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016.

Concerns regarding stipulations within the development agreement — the nuts and bolts of the deal between the municipality and the developer that, in this case, speaks to tax revenues, phasing of construction and identification of a luxury resort operator — appear to be the roadblock to approval for some members of Paradise Valley Town Council.

2. Paradise Valley passes town drone ordinance

A view of an unmanned aerial vehicle now under restrictions in the Town of Paradise Valley. (File photo)

A view of an unmanned aerial vehicle now under restrictions in the Town of Paradise Valley. (File photo)

Paradise Valley Town Council has unanimously approved rules and guidelines for unmanned aircraft to be flown for both private and commercial uses within town limits. While the term “drone” has been embedded within media nomenclature, the true definition of the word suggests a completely autonomous aircraft with programmable GPS waypoints.

The devices are used for a variety of purposes. Real estate agents use them to obtain aerial photographs of top-tier properties. In the public sector, unmanned aircraft are often used for surveillance purposes in municipalities such as Phoenix.

The Paradise Valley drone ordinance will include three distinct sectors of regulation: The private realm, the commercial realm and the public realm, officials say. Ordinance No. 691 is an addition to Town Code Article 10-12.

3. Chief Peter Wingert now in charge of TPV police department

Peter Wingert

Peter Wingert

Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert is officially on the job.

Local dignitaries, elected leaders and law enforcement officials gathered Monday, June 29 at Paradise Valley Police Department, 6433 E. Lincoln Drive, as presiding Municipal Judge Ty Taber swore Chief Wingert into service and assigned the top cop to the standards of the town’s code of ethics.

Chief Wingert most recently served as police chief for the Town of Wikenburg and previous to that post he was undersherrif of Flathead County, Montana Sheriff’s Office.

4. Town looks for solutions to prevent storm water damage

Paradise Valley officials hosted a “Community Conversation” April 23 to ponder possible efforts residents and the municipality can take to better manage, retain and mitigate hazardous water flows some say have been exacerbated by local development.

Town officials say studies must first be done before they can determine how to improve current flood situations, pointing to $500,000 earmarked in next fiscal year’s budget for at least one comprehensive wash study.

The town’s drainage system consists primarily of privately-maintained natural washes with limited underground drainage systems, bridges and culverts.
Paradise Valley’s unique topography, which includes Mummy Mountain, the Phoenix Mountain Preserve and the north side of Camelback Mountain, represents a unique challenge to controlling floodwater.

Paradise Valley Councilwoman Mary Hamway, who is spearheading the town effort, laid out potential options to pay for what town officials have said in the last year could amount to about $17 million worth flood retention projects.
Among the options: institute a storm water management fee, create special assessment districts allowing for voter-approved project financing or to pursue various tax scenarios including the creation of a secondary property tax specifically for flood mitigation projects.

5. Scottsdale Schools superintendent to resign; claims ‘hostile’ workplace is reason behind the move

David Peterson

David Peterson

The sudden resignation earlier this month of Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent Dr. David Peterson came after nearly two years of bullying, intimidation, harassment — and even extortion — according to a recent report provided to the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board.

The report, a “Chronology of Events” leading up to the resignation of Dr. Peterson, takes specific aim at the actions of two Governing Board members: Pam Kirby and Barbara Perleberg.

Superintendent Peterson abruptly announced his resignation Friday, Dec. 11, after only about one year into a three-year contract renewal.

In the report, Dr. Peterson claims that over the last 24 months Ms. Kirby and Ms. Perleberg cultivated a bullying culture that included “intimidation and extortion,” which ultimately forced him to resign — and even contemplate legal action against the district.

Both board members deny the allegations, but do acknowledge there existed a poor relationship between superintendent and Governing Board. Both members claim they always acted in the best interest of the district.

6. Bomb threat puts Cherokee Elementary on lockdown

Cherokee Elementary School in the Town of Paradise Valley, Parkview Elementary School in The Dysart Unified School District and Fulton Elementary School in the Chandler Unified School District all received bomb threats on Tuesday, Oct. 20, according to officials.

Cherokee Elementary School, 8801 N. 56th St. in Paradise Valley, received a threat via telephone around 2 p.m., according to police and school officials. The school went into a modified lockdown prior to the 3:15 p.m. release time when students were released into a different area of the school while officials investigated, stated published news reports.

No bomb was ever found at the school.

7. New audit report shines light on SUSD inefficiencies

While the Scottsdale Unified School District was on instructional pace with comparable Arizona educational entities in fiscal year 2012 —it’s administrative costs, transportation system efficiency and financial reporting practices were not, according to a May 14 Arizona Auditor General performance audit.

The district, from fiscal year 2004 to 2009 reported millions of dollars in electricity costs as in-classroom instructional spending, which is in violation of the Uniform Chart of Accounts. In fiscal year 2012 alone the audit claims the district inaccurately reported $5.5 million of in-classroom spending In addition, the audit reveals while Scottsdale Schools plant operations were at a lower cost per square foot to its peer districts in fiscal year 2012 its cost per pupil was 8 percent higher, which resulted in the district spending fewer dollars in the classroom.

During that same period of time Scottsdale Schools did operate an efficient food service program, which was provided at a lower cost than its peer districts, the audit shows. But administrative costs per pupil were 11 percent more, which equates to $687 per pupil compared to the $620 peer group average while transportation costs were significantly higher, the audit shows.

During that year SUSD was operating four of its 31 SUSD bus routes with seven or fewer riders.

8. Burke brings sewer debt issue into focus

The amount of money dedicated to pay for the management and treatment of wastewater generated by town residents and commercial enterprises is operating at a structural deficit —something the town council is looking to cure.

A view of the Town of Paradise Valley municipal government in action. (File Photo)

A view of the Town of Paradise Valley municipal government in action. (File Photo)

Since the late 1980s the Town of Paradise Valley has been paying the city of Scottsdale a yearly fee to manage and treat the municipality’s sewer water flow as the town does not provide the service. Paradise Valley owns the sewer infrastructure —wastewater collection lines, sewer caps and wastewater flow meters —but it does not own wastewater treatment facilities and is unable to properly treat and manage wastewater, town officials say.

In fiscal year 2014-15 the Town of Paradise Valley paid Scottsdale $1.6 million for this service, numbers show.

The main issue stems from debt service taken on by the town in 1998. The added debt was needed to provide to fund capacity at the Scottsdale wastewater treatment plan, Mr. Burke says.

9. Town moves forward with public safety radio antenna location

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Town of Paradise Valley Wednesday, July 30 for the construction of a radio communications antenna allowing the municipality to connect into the Central Arizona Regional Wireless Cooperative.

Paradise Valley Town Council, among other things for the project, approved the IGA with Maricopa County for the construction of the antenna building at its July 23 meeting.

The measure passed 6 to 0. According to Resolution 1311, Paradise Valley Town Council approved the location of the new radio communications equipment to be in the vicinity of the 4200 block of north Highlands Drive and the 4300 block of East Upper Ridge Way in the Clearwater Hills neighborhood.

The regional wireless cooperative allows first responders to use existing radio channels to talk with different public safety agencies as needs arise, according to www.rwcaz.org. To complete tenets of an IGA with the Phoenix Fire Department the Town of Paradise Valley has to be included in the regional wireless cooperative, records show.

10. Mountain Shadows property receives new look on life

Thursday, Dec. 3 marked the first day of the new chapter at what was once known as the Mountain Shadows Golf Resort in the Town of Paradise Valley.

A partnership between Westroc Hospitality, Woodbine Development Corp. and Crown Realty & Development is spurring the creation of a $65 million luxury resort and 18-hole golf course. The property now under development is at 5517 E. Lincoln Drive in the Town of Paradise Valley.

Under construction is a full-service boutique resort featuring 183 guest rooms in a two-building complex, an adjacent building containing 80 hotel–condominium units, and a corner restaurant offering now to be run by a renowned local operator, sources familiar with the project say.

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.