Vision of Paradise Valley General Plan realized through Lincoln Road development focus

Paradise Valley Town Council hosted a public hearing Thursday, Sept. 13 on the myriad commercial development projects moving through the municipality this fall. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

As the economic pendulum continues its swing toward commercial prosperity, the Town of Paradise Valley may begin to see the seeds of its General Plan come to fruition.

In fall 2012 Paradise Valley voters overwhelmingly approved a General Plan update — a land-use document meant to help guide the decisions of elected leaders — with certain development areas hinged to existing luxury resort properties.

A paramount distinction within the document are development guidelines established to create the Lincoln Road Development Area, which is broken in to several designations with the east and south corridors covering a total of 170 acres.

Atop that acreage within Paradise Valley town limits are a handful of commercial development projects destined to redefine the landscape of the affluent Phoenix enclave. They are:

  • The Lincoln Medical Plaza at 7125 E. Lincoln Drive.
  • Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa at 6114 N. Scottsdale Road.
  • The Applewood Pet Resort at 6909 E. Lincoln Drive Paradise Valley.
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Paradise Valley at 6720 N. Scottsdale Road.
  • The SmokeTree Resort and Bungalows at 7101 E Lincoln Drive.

While each of the above commercial properties carry the “Scottsdale” moniker, which is meant for online search engine optimization and regional branding, each property is under the guise of the special-use permit, which is defined by Paradise Valley Town Council.

The special-use permit in the Town of Paradise Valley works as specific zoning rules enforced through the policies of the General Plan whereas the municipal Statement of Direction — a formal document approved by Town Council — outlines the scope of scrutiny for advisory boards to evaluate development proposals.

The community of Paradise Valley was provided an extensive overview of the development projects within the Lincoln Road Development Area destined for municipal debate Thursday, Sept. 13 at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

Property owners, local residents and zoning attorneys provided community members insights as to why their project is good for the community and how their proposals support the criteria defined by the General Plan.

Paradise Valley Mayor Michael Collins in action at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive. (File photo)

Spirit of the General Plan

Paradise Valley Mayor Michael Collins says he can see the vision of the 2012 General Plan update — one that is lauded by all who serve at the municipality — coming to life through pending Lincoln development.

“Back in 2012 when we revised the General Plan to what it is today, our intent for the East Lincoln South Development Area was to encourage coordination of development within the area while ensuring a steadfast commitment to minimizing and mitigating any impacts to nearby residential neighborhoods,” he said of how things ought to unfold.

“The General Plan does a great job articulating the importance of minimizing development impacts on adjacent residential neighborhoods and this will be a key consideration moving forward.”

Mr. Collins explains what residents are seeing sprout around town is a result of long range planning.

“Besides the fact that the area includes two resort properties that anchor the eastern end of Lincoln Drive, the East Lincoln South Development Area represents the final phase of our very successful resort property redevelopment program,” he said pointing out commercial development could help pay for emergency services.

“I’m gratified that the long-range resort redevelopment/development strategies that we wrote into the 2012 General Plan were hugely successful. Resulting resort development will fund our existing capital improvement program with one-time building permit fees and ensure the long-range financial security of the town through recurring tax revenues, without ever needing a local property tax and perhaps even justifying the elimination of resident-paid fire service fees.”

The Phoenix Fire Department provides emergency coverage to the Town of Paradise Valley. Paradise Valley Town Council in November 2006 voted to institute a fee structure — a computation based on the amount of dwelling structures within town limits rather than the actual square footage of those structures.

Residents began paying the fees in January 2013. The proposed fee schedule states, among other things, any residential home less than 3,000 square feet will pay a monthly fee of $30 while a home greater than 6,000 square feet will pay $50 a month.

A view of an entryway into the Town of Paradise Valley along Tatum Boulevard. (File photo)

Aside from revenue considerations, Mr. Collins explains the development approach — in this case the Lincoln Road Development Area — was to take a holistic view on how commercial development can fit within the confines of Paradise Valley tranquility.

“The reality is that the East Lincoln South Development Area includes a number of one-off development projects planned, for the most part, in isolation of each other,” he said.

“Our intent in 2012 was to encourage the assembly of parcels within the area to create a larger single project site that could support the levels of open space and extended roadway setbacks that we require of most other resort properties.”

In-fill development, Mr. Collins contends, often takes unique thoughts to established property design.

“This in-fill redevelopment location is quite unique from other resort properties in town and as such will require a unique balance of development intensity, open space preservation, and buffering from nearby residential neighborhoods to be successful,” he said.

Traffic and congestion, however, will increase and time will tell how the intersection at Scottsdale Road and Lincoln Drive will evolve as Mr. Collins calls the intersection the “gateway into our community.”

“Traffic and congestion will continue to increase at the Lincoln Drive and Scottsdale Road intersection. There is no question about this,” he said.  “Our challenge will be to ensure that whatever intensity of development is permitted at the site is appropriately matched with effective traffic management and capital investment strategies along Lincoln Drive so that we can best manage these future increases and not end up with a large mess at this intersection and important gateway to our town.”

An overview sketch of the proposal now at the Town of Paradise Valley. (Submitted graphic)

Quiet elegance fuels SmokeTree rebirth

In early 2018 The SmokeTree Resort and Bungalows changed hands for a reported $10 million and ownership is eying a new chapter for the boutique resort on the edge of paradise.

The original resort, which was established in 1958 and maintained in perpetuity, is now under the guise of Phoenix-based Geneva Holdings and Scottsdale-based Ventana Hotels and Resorts.

“We closed Escrow in February of this year — we have been owners and operators for the balance of the year,” said Taylor Robinson of Geneva Holdings.

“As far as our vision for the SmokeTree resort, we view it as a revitalization and the reawakening of the resort that has been there for many years. We envision a four-star independently operated boutique hotel on the property that caters to the people who come to the Scottsdale and Paradise Valley areas. We want to offer people who are looking to spend their special life moments in the Town of Paradise Valley as we want to have an event pavilion.”

The 5.3-acre site today is a sleepy resort offering fewer than 50 hotel rooms, but finds itself where development officials have coined it, the “commercial interface” of Lincoln Drive and Scottsdale Road.

At first blush, basic elements of the revitalization proposal entails:

  • A location with 150 hotel guest rooms and the creation of 30 additional resort dwelling units for resort residences to be privately owned, but part of the overall guest room rentals;
  • Proposed building heights, which are no higher than three stories, at 36 feet abutting the Lincoln Medical Plaza;
  • Restaurant, bar, and markets with some resort retail associated;
  • Group hall to accommodate events such as banquets, meetings and ceremonies;
  • Event gardens for ceremonies and special events;
  • Resort pool areas; and
  • Combined surface and underground valet parking of 90 cars each.

Mr. Robinson says he envisions a brand new resort where SmokeTree now stands.

“Right now what we are proposing is a complete demolition and rebuild — the existing buildings, we would like to pay homage to them with the design of the new ones,” he said pointing out many don’t realize the resort is operating.  “Most people are surprised to know that SmokeTree resort has been in operation continually since opening and has had a loyal following since 1958,” he said.

A concept image of what a revitalized SmokeTree Resort in Town of Paradise Valley might look like. (Submitted graphic)

Mr. Robinson says the community’s General Plan has been a guide for his team’s proposed architecture, density and amenity pursuit on the property site.

“We really want to preserve it as a resort, so it can continue to contribute to the town,” he said.

“The General Plan promotes the revitalization of these resort properties, but also strongly protects the position of one house per acre. We have made every effort in the design to have the largest setbacks and the least amount of heights possible.”

Quail Run Road, which could be an east-to-west connection on the south side of the property site, has raised a few resident eyebrows.

“It is clear that Quail Run Road is something residents do not want to go through and we are happy to accommodate that request,” he said. “We have been able to communicate to the community and will continue to communicate and compromise to have the best possible outcome. We are not a one-size-fits-all solution.”

Mr. Collins says he is encouraged by initial plans and communication with owners of the SmokeTree resort property.

“At first blush, the proposed SmokeTree resort redevelopment plan is exciting and encouraging,” he said. “Exciting in that we can finally see redevelopment of the site. Encouraging in that what is being proposed thus far, seems to be relatively in line with our General Plan and special-use permit guidelines for resort properties.”

But Quail Run Road, Mr. Collins opines, will be a matter of compromise.

“I think a happy medium for the use of Quail Run and resulting traffic implications will be to use it as a primary ingress and egress for the SmokeTree Resort while terminating it in a turn-around or cul-de-sac that keeps north and south Quail Run alignments separate,” he explained.

“Doing this, we can reduce traffic conflicts to the east of Quail Run by focusing traffic into the property at a signalized intersection and preserving to the extent possible, the separation of resort redevelopment activities and its resulting traffic from adjacent residential neighborhoods outside of the development area to the south.”

The revitalization of the SmokeTree resort property appears to be the next chapter in how the Town of Paradise Valley will evolve into the 21st Century.

“SmokeTree Resort redevelopment is an opportunity to add another world-class resort property to our community along with its neighborhood-level amenities and offerings that can enrich the quality of life of residents and visitors to the town alike,” he said. “As presented, it could provide another local dining and resort-related retail destination within walking distance of upcoming Ritz-Carlton Resort residences.”

An aerial view of the SmokeTree Resort in the Town of Paradise Valley. (submitted photo)

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

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