Wastchak: Planning Commission OKs best possible Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton product

In August last year, the primary elections for Paradise Valley mayor and council established a new group of leaders for our town.

Daran Wastchak

Daran Wastchak

While I was not fortunate enough to be among that distinguished group, my participation in the campaign did create an opportunity to join the town’s Planning Commission in January of this year, and what an honor it has been to be a member of the commission during a time of exciting development for our town.

In addition to ongoing approvals for the new Mountain Shadows property, the Planning Commission has spent the past four months working closely with town staff and the Five Star Development team to hash out development details for the newest Special Use Permit (SUP) proposal for a Ritz-Carlton resort and associated land uses on the last large and undeveloped tract of land in our town.

It took 10 long meetings and the review of many drafts and finer details, but on Oct. 20th, the Paradise Valley Planning Commission completed its review and voted to recommend to the town council approval for a new SUP for Five Star. Some would say the approval process has been rushed. Others would argue instead that it took much too long.

Likewise, some would say that the final SUP recommended to council was too generous to Five Star, while we heard others claim that any cuts to the original proposal were detrimental to the grandness of the development, a threat to its success, and a huge loss to the town. Perhaps the final SUP was more as Goldilocks saw things, not too good and not too bad, but just right for the Town of Paradise Valley. You be the judge.

The center piece of the 105-acre development at the northeast corner of Lincoln and Mockingbird will include a 200-room luxury Ritz-Carlton Resort Hotel. Even though the new resort has 25 fewer rooms than the SUP approved by town council and voters in 2008, and includes a somewhat controversial roof-top deck, the commission approved the Ritz-Carlton Resort without request for alteration.

In other words, the hope of many for a Ritz-Carlton resort that will be the “crown jewel” of Paradise Valley are getting exactly what the Ritz and Five Star are envisioning.

In 2008, the approved plan included attached product with a total of 100 resort patio homes. The new SUP was approved by the commission with 120 resort villas and 74 townhomes, reduced from an original request totaling 330 units for the two products.

The 2008 plan did not include any mixed-use commercial or retail.  The new SUP will include this allowable use, although the final details for the approximate 15 acres set aside for this purpose will not be approved until after it is determined if a de-annexation and shared revenue agreement can be worked out with the city of Scottsdale.

The single-family-home portion of the development was unquestionably the most contentious, with Five Star originally asking for 160 homes on lots as small as 9,000-square-feet, significantly more lots than the 15 one-acre estate lots and 46 luxury detached residential homes approved in 2008. However, with clear and strong direction from the town council in the Statement of Direction, the Planning Commission worked with town staff and the Five Star team to create a final plan for 45 Ritz-Carlton branded single-family detached residential homes and another 66-resort-related homes on the western boundary along Mockingbird between Lincoln and Indian Bend.

This 111-lot-count meets the council’s mandate for an average of no more than two homes per acre. With a 30-foot setback along Indian Bend and 50-foot setbacks along Lincoln and Mockingbird, the added requirement that all lots along these major thoroughfares be particularly large will help to preserve the look and open space we’ve all come to expect and appreciate most about living in Paradise Valley.

Thank you to all the residents who came to the public meetings at Town Hall to share your concerns, support, or both. The commission listened carefully and considered that input invaluable as we worked through the SUP review and approval process, shaping our final approval around the hopes and desires of the residents of Paradise Valley as much as possible.

Again, it has been an honor serving on the Paradise Valley Planning Commission and on behalf of my fellow Commissioners, we thank you for your trust and confidence as your appointed representatives. We look forward to your continued input and engagement as the SUP approval process now moves on to Town Council and ultimately towards final approval so Five Star can begin construction on the long awaited, and long overdue, Ritz-Carlton resort.

Editor’s note: Mr. Wastchak is a member of the Paradise Valley Planning Commission

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