Unprecedented Paradise Valley project will deviate from Hillside Ordinance

A proposed project at 5500 E. San Miguel is an unprecedented project and would be the first time that Paradise Valley processed an encroachment into the Hillside, deviating from the established Hillside Ordinance.

Julie Pace

Julie Pace

Numerous variances are sought including exceeding the 24-foot building height requirement to build a 64-foot high structure exceeding the  8-foot retention wall limit to go to 20-foot retention walls, exceeding fill dirt limit of 8 feet, encroaching into the setbacks to put large patios that block the ridgeline and view of Camelback Mountain from many places below the proposed house.

Surprisingly, town staff has recommended approval. None of us understand why staff would allow for deviations of this nature from the long-standing, established Hillside Ordinance.

This proposal will forever change the aesthetics of Camelback Mountain. It is not proposed to blend in or complement the surrounding area. It is not proposed to match the size and scale of the surrounding homes, but instead would be three times higher than the 24-foot height requirement to build on Camelback Mountain.

The neighbors have gotten together in Stone Canyon and the surrounding area to protest the proposal. The neighbors are going to hand out packets to over hundred neighbors during the weekend starting on Saturday morning. There are about eight to 10 neighbors and we are going door to door to deliver packets and talk to people.

The neighbors are asking that town staff re-evaluate the proposal and look more closely at options, designs, requirements, size and scale of surrounding homes, and aesthetics of Camelback Mountain — something that we all have an obligation to protect and respect.

The neighbors are asking town staff to withdraw its recommendation ASAP.

I sat on Mesa’s redevelopment commission for years and we handled the board of adjustment and planning and zoning functions in a one-stop experience for those submitting applications. We gave great deliberation to guidelines and requirements to keep the character of an area, including historic designations.

We were very, very careful before granting variances. It is a concern as to why the town would want to ignore the Hillside Ordinance in this circumstance.

Everyone can argue hardship

Any of us building on the hillside can make an argument about hardship. Is there documentation that supports the hardship that the out-of-state developer is claiming? We have asked the town staff to provide information and support for what the hardship is supposed to be, whether it was caused by the owner of the property because they failed to address the erosion on their property and fill dirt was added as a pad to try and keep property from eroding further. But that means that is not the natural grade to complete measurements from.

We all have difficult driveways. It is part of complying with the Hillside ordinance, which all the neighbors followed. We understand that this proposal is for a spec home and property owned by out of state REIT/owner.

Extreme deviation is not warranted

We are concerned about such an extreme deviation from the hillside ordinance. A 64-foot building with 20-foot-high retention walls will be too massive and very damaging to aesthetic impact of Camelback Mountain for the entire Paradise Valley community.

When the out-of-state developer bought the steep sloped property, he knew about the Hillside Ordinance when he bought it. He is trying to obtain the approvals for such extreme variances to flip the property.
Designs can be built on the property that meet the size and scale of the neighborhood, this design is far too extreme and does not warrant a staff recommendation.

We have asked that staff reevaluate their initial recommendation and change the recommendation. There are ways to build on the property if the size and scale are reduced. The size and scale should remain in character with the homes surrounding the property. Each home that touches the property has been upgraded, renovated, and are of very high quality.  None of the neighbors want to stare at a 20 foot retention wall or a 64 foot high building or being prevented from seeing the ridge lines of Camelback Mountain.

Existing pad on property is not natural grade

Also, I researched the issue about whether a home had previously been built on the lot and I was mistaken. No home has been built on the lot, but a pad was built on the lot. We have asked how the town views the natural grade for measurement purposes if a pad was built on the lot but never used.

And, regarding the standard of minimum variance sought to cure the hardship, there is no need for the town to grant the requested variances. The developer is asking for way, way too much just to see what they can get approved. It is like a kid in the candy store who gets one lollypop and then asks for everything in the store.

They should have submitted a proposal that met the hillside ordinance and asked for limited variance if something is needed. A 12,000-square-foot, massive house is not in character for the location and there is no basis to allow for encroachment into the Hillside rules.

Damages for loss of diminished value

Significant deviations like the one proposed also far exceeds the promise that Paradise Valley made to the surrounding homes to honor the Hillside
Ordinance except for rare circumstances of legal nonconforming uses that may have to be addressed with a variance.

Before we purchased and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on renovations and construction at our home, we hired architects and had evaluations done by various professionals as to what we could expect would be built around us and all of them based their conclusions and advice on the Hillside Ordinance requirements.  Deviating with the size and scale being proposed would be a breach to the homeowners in the area.

The neighbors also did the same with their investment at their homes. This type of gigantic project is too much and would diminish the property values of each of the homes surrounding the property.

We have a request in for a meeting with town staff.

Editor’s note: Ms. Pace is a resident of the Town of Paradise Valley

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