Najafi: overzealous building officials are drawback of living in Paradise

If I said to you that your local government — or any government — wanted to fight you in order to change the address of your home; how would you react?

By F. Francis Najafi

Pretty angry I might imagine.

Unfortunately, this was just one of many ordeals my wife and I had to endure as we built a new home in Paradise Valley over the past couple of years. It is not my style to share such items publicly. But I want to do what I can to help ensure no one else has such an experience.

First, I own and have been fortunate to develop award-winning projects from 24th Street and Camelback to Promontory in Park City. We know complex development, including on hillsides.

And, such was the case as we began work on our dream home just below Barry Goldwater’s old house, staring at Camelback Mountain. We hired a noted local architect to create something special. He did.

From there it became a parade of horrors with bureaucrats in Paradise Valley’s building department, led by Eva Cutro and Bob Lee. As you read this keep in mind we sought no variances from the town’s appropriate and tough Hillside Ordinance.

Even though a gate existed on the home site previously they made getting a new one arduous. They wanted to rearrange our Palo Verde trees along our driveway. They even sought to contort the definitions of lights and permanent fixtures.

And, then they tried to change our address from where it had historically been and where a mailbox with the same address had been located for years!

In all, I had to spend in excess of $130,000 on lawyers, consultants and additional architectural work to overcome the bureaucrats. This was not the “best small town in America” at its best.
If not for the experience and sobriety of people like Councilman Scott Moore and the members of the Paradise Valley Hillside Committee we’d still not be in our home today.

Mayor Michael Collins was kind enough to listen to our experience, after hearing about our bad one with the government he leads. I hope he and others are able to reform the building department, and replace those who need to be. The department shouldn’t have to look too far.

It can just look next door to the police department with whom we and surely many in Paradise Valley have had exemplary experience with service, professionalism and friendliness.

In the end, I want a community I am proud to call home to live up to its name. Not by being lackadaisical on standards, for that is something never pursued nor would I support. Instead, we need town staff that simply doesn’t lack such judgment or exercise arbitrariness.

I believe most who visit our home in future years will see that we did our best to create something special, even enriching a place like Paradise Valley, as challenging as that can be. We sought and achieved an architectural promontory.

But we never sought the worst experience with government — any government — of our lives.

Editor’s note: Mr. Najafi is a Town of Paradise Valley resident and CEO of the The Pivotal Group

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