Saturday, February 12, 2011

Scottsdale council OK next step for revised Blue Sky plans

The Scottsdale Planning Commission this week praised Gray Development Group's scaled-down proposal for its Blue Sky apartment complex east of Scottsdale Fashion Square and showed no sympathy for still-dissatisfied adjacent property owners.

All participating members of the commission voted to recommend City Council approval of modified development standards and an amended site plan as part of the city's downtown infill incentive district.

Commissioner Jay Petkunas did not participate in Wednesday's vote because of a conflict of interest while Commissioner Michael Edwards was absent.

Petkunas is a resident of the Safari Drive condominium complex, which is located east of the site.

The commission's decision included requiring Gray to play a leading role in initiating a study of east-west pedestrian connectivity between Scottsdale Fashion Square and development on the east side of Scottsdale Road. The move is aimed at making it safer for pedestrian crossing.

Gray has made numerous changes to its proposal in response to negotiations with surrounding property owners, ST Residential and Triyar Properties. Both have filed legal protests forcing a supermajority vote of 6-1 for council approval.

Blue Sky would be located west of ST Residential's Safari Drive and north of Triyar's retail center on the northeastern corner of Scottsdale and Camelback roads. The proposal includes shared vehicle and pedestrian access with Safari Drive, and additional parking for Triyar's retail center.

Randy Grant, spokesman for the adjacent property owners, said Gray's proposal still reflects a "lack of attention to the context of existing development" in the area. The property owners remain concerned about a "dramatic" increase in height, density and mass of buildings, and believe Blue Sky would be a "dominating presence" on Scottsdale Road.

Gray chairman Bruce Gray said his company has never gone to the lengths it has with Blue Sky to appease neighboring property owners. He accused ST Residential of being unreasonably uncooperative.

"Everything they've asked, we've done and then they raise the bar," he said. "Shame on ST."

Gray's original proposal included 1,196 apartment units and a maximum building height of 133 feet excluding an additional 15 feet for rooftop mechanical needs. The proposal now includes 749 units; three buildings, down from five; and a maximum building height of 128 feet, including rooftop mechanical.

The tallest building, along Scottsdale Road, would be just north of the Triyar retail center, while the other two buildings, including a second along Scottsdale Road and one along Arizona Canal, would have a maximum height of 118 feet.

Commission Chairman Michael D'Andrea said Gray's willingness to stick with its proposal and work with neighboring property owners is "commendable" and it should no longer be concerned with trying to appease them.

"I'm seeing personal financial interest come before ... what's best for the community," he said. "Now's the time to stop worrying about the neighbors and make the project the best it can be."

Commissioner Erik Filsinger said the proposal has continually improved with every revision Gray has made, and that he is "perfectly fine" with the project moving forward in the downtown infill incentive district.

"We've got developers taking advantage of the downtown infill incentive district, and that's a good thing," Commission Vice Chairman Ed Grant said.

The council will consider Gray's proposal at its Feb. 22 meeting.

"I think what we've heard clearly from both the city Development Review Board and Planning Commission is they support what we've done so far," said Brian Kearney, Gray's chief operating officer. "They've given us a few suggestions to think about, particularly along the canal. We are certainly willing to look at that."

by Edward Gately The Arizona Republic Feb. 10, 2011 12:44 PM

Scottsdale council OK next step for revised Blue Sky plans

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