Saturday, September 15, 2012

PV commission member resigns over resort redevelopment

A Paradise Valley Planning Commission member resigned from the panel an hour before a joint meeting with the Town Council Wednesday, citing concerns over the process for reviewing redevelopment of the shuttered Mountain Shadows resort property.

The meeting was held to discuss the redevelopment proposal and the town's process, which differs from other development cases involving resort properties because of a 20-year-old agreement that was applied to the property.

Commissioner Jim Baker's resignation comes as the commission approaches a Sept. 28 deadline to submit its recommendation to council for the property.

He cited the voluntary job's heavy time commitment and changes in the town's special-use permit review process that has made it "difficult, if not impossible, to do the job we have been entrusted to do."

In the last few years, to make it easier on developers, officials have been revising the town's resort permitting process -- done through a special-use permit.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Baker told The Republic that this is good for smaller projects such as the recent 20-room addition at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa, approved by council in April, but not for a complete rebuild such as the current Mountain Shadows project.

"I feel like they want us to rubber-stamp this, and I don't know why," he said. "I believe in what I do, but this process has been a waste of time because we haven't been given the tools to do our job, and I feel like the commission is being made the scapegoat."

Town officials said Wednesday's meeting was intended to get clarification on the process.

Baker was not present.

Officials said his resignation won't likely affect the review process, and the two panels worked through their concerns in a civil manner Wednesday night.

At the meeting, the council unanimously approved a resolution requiring the commission to review the application from a new approach -- to make stipulations on the project addressing five development envelopes, as opposed to conceptual sketches.

Since May, the resort's owner, Crown Realty and Development, has been working through the town's special-use-permit process to redevelop the resort property at 56th Street and Lincoln Drive.

On June 28, the council adopted a "statement of direction," which is intended to guide the commission in its review.
Vice Mayor Michael Collins said the commission should recommend a plan within the parameters of the statement of direction that they can stand behind with as many stipulations necessary, then council can peel back on those stipulations.

"It can be a very wide, deep, thick offering of stipulations," he said. "We want an SUP that protects the town from something being built that's not suitable for the community. We want a recommendation that the applicant and Planning Commission feel comfortable with."

The Mountain Shadows property is one of the few non-residential properties not governed by an SUP but instead through a development agreement made with the previous owners of the resort, adopted in 1992.

Town Manager Jim Bacon said this has made the process difficult, but he is confident the commission can make its deadline.

"This property needs an SUP that meets the standards of the town," Bacon said. "Focus on defining the area for development, then development comes after that."

To facilitate an easier path to development, the town has allowed Crown Realty to submit conceptual rather than site plans.

Planning Commission Chairwoman Maria Syms said this is the first time in her 10 years on the panel she has worked without a site plan on such a complex project.

Bacon said the town has used the conceptual approach on smaller projects.

by Philip Haldiman - Aug. 30, 2012 The Republic |

PV commission member resigns over resort redevelopment

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