Villas at Cheney Estates unearths accurate flood plain, gains Paradise Valley OK

The roundabout entry way at The Villas at Cheney Estates.

Paradise Valley Town Council approved several measures Thursday, Nov. 16 putting into motion the creation of a new housing subdivision on a precarious piece of undeveloped land abutting the Camelback Golf Club and adjacent to Cheney Estates.

The Villas at Cheney Estates is envisioned as an eight-lot private residential community on a 9.6-acre parcel at the northwest corner of Northern Avenue and Scottsdale Road.

In all, Paradise Valley Town Council approved five ordinances, which were:

  • A text amendment to amend Article II and Article IX, which considers a cluster plan District within the town’s zoning ordinance;
  • A rezoning request from R-43 to R-43 Cluster Plan allowing for the construction of the Villas at Cheney Estates;
  • A special use permit for private roadway gates at the northwest corner of the Northern Avenue alignment and Scottsdale Road;
  • Approval of the Villas at Cheney Estates preliminary plat, which is subject to several provisions including among other design specifications, a caveat specific to an inspection of the codes, covenants and restrictions of the forthcoming subdivision; and
  • The approval of two subdivision wall signs with lighting restrictions.

Short-term rental considerations, FEMA flood plain discoveries and subsequent effects to the existing neighborhood — and their propensity to see more water flow or golf balls — topped the list of concerns from residents and both council and commission members over the past several months.

The Paradise Valley Planning Commission approved a recommendation vote of, at the time, several concurrent applications combined on Oct. 3, with a 4–0 vote. Three commissioners absent from the proceedings were Charles Covington, Richard Mahrle, and Thomas Campbell.

On Nov. 16, Paradise Valley Senior Planner Paul Michaud presented to council members the ins and outs of the various applications followed by public comment where some voiced concerns over the pending production.

“We wanted to bring an end to turmoil that was happening and still try to keep the character of the town,” said Rod Cullum of Cullum Homes during the public hearing at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

“Our mission is to try and deliver a great project from guidance from the council and some really good guidance for the Planning Commission. We feel like we have found a win-win for all parties involved. We are committed to addressing the concerns of the council.”

A unique aspect of this project, among others, is it shares a border with the city of Scottsdale to the east along Scottsdale Road. In order to accommodate the proposed development, a deceleration lane will run along the property to not disrupt the flow of traffic on Scottsdale Road, a major arterial.

Mr. Cullum outlined major issues alleviated including parking and over-night-stay restrictions to curb the potential for short-term rentals meanwhile flooding plain considerations and flood insurance requirements remain a cause for concern.

An conceptual design of The Villas at Cheney Estates. (graphic from Town of Paradise Valley)

Flooding along Golf Drive

Paradise Valley resident Wayne Renken who lives along 70th Street says that his property, which is adjacent to the end of Northern Avenue and the beginning of Golf Drive, is now apart of a 100-year flood plain as identified by the federal government.

“I and two of my neighbors through no fault or actions on our part were informed that our property will be moved into the 100-year floodplain region due to the issuing of a new FEMA flood map that was requested by the developers of the Villas at Cheney Estates,” he said during the public hearing.

“There have been many communications relating to how this has happened, but no plan has been put forward to protect our three properties from flooding and remove them from the floodplain.”

The Paradise Valley Municipal Complex is at 6401 E. Lincoln Drive. (File photo)

Mr. Renken alerted members of town council to the discovery, an error that was made when both a FEMA flood map was adopted in 1997 and a special use permit allowing renovations of the Camelback Golf Club in 1998 did not properly account for flood water flow.

“The current 1997 version of the FEMA flood map shows my home is outside of the 100-year flood boundary, but it is not accurate,” Mr. Reneken said. “There were some errors made when it was created and two developments without proper permits have increased the height of flood waters.”

Following Mr. Renken’s testimony, Councilman David Sherf inquired as to how these newly-found issues could be alleviated.

“What is the process to mitigate what is allegedly going to on with the floodplain?” Councilman Sherf asked. “And, the town is to pay for that; not the applicant, the developer?

Paradise Valley engineering staff suggest improvements to Golf Drive — where the flooding is occurring that will effect Mr. Renken’s property and others — to alleviate that flooding would carry more than $300,000 in cost.

“We are not going to take on any of the costs because we are not doing anything that has changed the flood plain,” Mr. Cullum explained, noting the project makes no changes to the existing or pending water flow. “I think it would be unfair to burden us for an error from FEMA. I feel like we brought this to light; unfortunately, but we are not doing anything but improving the site.”

Paradise Valley Town Manager Kevin Burke further clarified the town carries no liability.

“This project is not changing the flood plain, what it has done is revealed an error in the approved flood plain plan,” he pointed out. “We don’t believe the town has any responsibility to pay for that flooding impact — that is why we reached out to the golf course as the improvements would need to occur on their property.”

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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