Understated elegance: Town council remains steadfast on established aesthetics

The intersection of Lincoln Drive and Tatum Boulevard has been a major part of discussions surrounding the Visually Significant Corridors Master Plan. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

A plan crafted to enhance and showcase the town’s identity on its main thoroughfares seems to be a bit too over the top for some council members, who prefer more subtle and “understated” improvements.

While discussing the plan’s implementation on Thursday, Oct. 11, the Paradise Valley Town Council voiced its desire to move on from some proposed beautification improvements and updates in the Visually Significant Corridors Master Plan.

While ideas of decorated streetscapes and two street corner improvements are included in the Visually Significant Corridors Master Plan, Paradise Valley officials say they’re not sure it’s the right look for the municipality.

Besides crosswalk treatments at four town gateway entry and exit points, the town council moved to abandon a number of proposed beautification and infrastructure projects within the plan.

The council first voiced concern over some of the design aspects included in the plan during its first look at the plan on Sept. 27, including a decorated design in the center of Lincoln Drive and Tatum Boulevard’s intersection, which has since been removed from the plan, town officials pointed out.

“It might be much,” Mayor Michael Collins said at the October meeting of the handful of beautification projects proposed in the master plan.

“It might be a little more than the native, subdued, understated — I call Paradise Valley understated — understated elegance.”

Questions over whether or not to require homeowners in the designated visually significant corridor areas to abide by right-of-way landscaping guidelines within the plan were settled. The council chose not to require compliance, and use the visually significant corridor plan as a guideline only.

“One of the biggest things public works (departments) can get into trouble with is ongoing maintenance, especially when it comes to irrigation, controller, electric,” Councilmember Scott Moore said of his reasoning for not wanting to require landscaping guidelines.

“These things will cost people money; they will have to water — and it may be something they’re not comfortable with — it’s an added utility expense. I pay $400 water bills, I think it could be significant to someone on a budget.”

The five council members present at the discussion — Councilmembers Paul Dembow and David Sherf were absent — discussed looking at options for an incentive if residents did comply with outlined landscaping palettes.

“If you can maybe come back with some ideas on that, on what that incentive might look like,” Mr. Collins directed to town staff.

Councilmember Julie Pace described her experience with the city of Mesa, where they offered matching money or a credit for residents who bought into the municipal plan.

The Town of Paradise Valley Visioning Committee in 2011 identified opportunities existing along Lincoln Drive and Tatum Boulevard that could serve as “showcase corridors,” according to town officials.

Since 2016 the Planning Commission, town staff and hired consultants Environmental Planning Group and Michael Baker International have been developing the plan.

The 2012 General Plan identifies visually significant corridors as “designated highly visible, prominent streets, including Lincoln Drive and Tatum Boulevard.”

The master plan outlines design elements to be implemented within the town as new projects arise — from which plants to implement to site furnishings and screen walls — as well as proposes iconic design elements to make the intersection of Lincoln Drive and Tatum Boulevard stand out.

Ultimately, the town council decided to maintain a small portion of proposed elements. Creating unintended consequences, upkeep, usage and cost were areas of discussion for council members.

Mayor Michael Collins (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

“As beautiful as the pillars of the community garden and contemplation corner are — I think, tell me if I’m wrong — it almost invites nuisance visitors. And, would be, I think, counter productive to that policy position we’re trying to move toward,” Mr. Collins explained.

“We used to never, except 56th Street, put benches on sidewalks or any type of feature that would be an incentive for someone to take up camp there for any extended period of time.”

Bigger monument entry signs at the gateway entry points, differentiated concrete markers and two park-type areas for pedestrians and residents gave council members pause. Mr. Collins noted the larger “Welcome to Paradise Valley” signs make him nervous; while Mr. Moore described the town as needing “low maintenance” aspects.

“I start to get nervous a little bit about the signs,” Mr. Collins said.

“The signs I’ve seen that are proposed in the plans for the gateway, based on the Ritz-Carlton project, which are like our existing signs on steroids really bother me because that says ‘Las Vegas’ almost to me, which is not that understated elegance.”

Mr. Collins says he likes the document as a resource for providing guidelines to residents when improving the frontage of their property.

“Where I think it pushes a little far is the structural embellishments, specifically at Tatum and Lincoln, but also some of the structural embellishments elsewhere,” the mayor said.

“I would lean away from being in support of those types of improvements.”

While the northeast corner of Lincoln Drive and Tatum Boulevard has a very nice monument and community garden, it wasn’t always that way, Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner pointed out.

“Probably 30 years ago, or longer, the northeast corner of Tatum and Lincoln had a house on it that was for sale forever. That house was always for sale, and it wasn’t getting sold — I think that gives you some historical background for the Goldwater memorial; (the town) was having that really difficult situation with that house,” Mr. Bien-Willner explained.

“The other corners, I think, abut neighborhoods that are thriving that don’t have that need. I agree wholeheartedly, apart from the expense, even though the improvements look nice, we’re in a different world in terms of trying to control… it’s great to have pubic spaces but we don’t have facilities for people to be hanging out 24/7 in a public space in town, nor would our residents want that, so creating those opportunities is a risky thing.”

Mr. Bien-Willner says he would support some type of upgraded crosswalk or sidewalk, if and when a redevelopment is needed.

Lincoln Drive is one of the areas included in the Visually Significant Corridors Master Plan (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Noise created by different types of streetscape was a concern for Ms. Pace, she explained, and noted that she likes the plants incorporated throughout the town.

“I agree with some of the comments here today — I like the way PV looks when you come in, I like the plants, the trees, I like the way it rolls at that intersection. I think it is equally our image as what is proposed,” she said of the visually significant corridors plan.

In the end, the council directed staff to keep the four entry point cross walk treatment options, and to look at landscaping at the Lincoln Drive and Tatum Boulevard intersection.

“I see two things kind of remaining: the Lincoln and Tatum in a different fashion then what it is today, and the gateways in a different fashion then it is today,” Community Development Director Jeremy Knapp said.

“I would suggest maybe we consider looking at some enhanced landscaping maybe around the sign, to frame the sign, that isn’t an impact to the neighborhood.”

News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at mrosequist@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Mrosequist_

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