As Mayor Jim Lane said in his 2012 re-election campaign Scottsdale is the best city in America. Hyperbole took him one step further in last week’s State of the City when he called his community “the best city in the world.”
But even great cities have changes and challenges. For “The West’s Most Western Town” it has been to keep some cowboy in the community. Market forces and even things like estate taxes have displaced or removed such places as Rawhide, Greasewood Flat and Pinnacle Peak Patio. Yet, Scottsdale’s ultimate symbol of the West – its spectacular Sonoran Desert – has become the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Man-made outposts have retreated but its God given one has expanded. And after years of talk this Scottsdale City Council acted to create the nationally recognized Museum of the West.
To help preserve its cowboy culture Scottsdale wisely designated years ago the “Cactus Corridor” for horse privileges and ranches. It was smart then. It’s prescient now.
That’s why we’re confounded by the neighborhood opposition to an impressive new ranch just west of Scottsdale Road along Cactus. Proposed by renowned developer Francis Najafi and his wife Dionne it is an impressive affirmation of all things equestrian in the corridor. Rather than see cowboy country emigrate from the city this is a full-throttle immigration of it.
Speaking of immigration, neighbors conspicuously voice opposition to “Najafi Ranch.” We hope that’s not a Trump-like derogation of a person from Iran who came to this country speaking no English and who is now an American success story.
Where opponents are on surer footing is the size of the facility and “commercial” notion of the project. But they ultimately miss on both accounts.
Whining about the size of the facility is like complaining about a mansion being built in your neighborhood. Such investment and scope raises property values for everyone.
Likewise, saying the horse ranch is a “commercial” enterprise is specious. Granted, the owners won’t live there but managers will. To suggest that future uses like a Starbuck’s or something else like it will follow is to believe Martin O’Malley will re-emerge to become President.
Neighbors also miss another key consideration. Zoning allows a number of other uses including the most likely alternative one for the 6-acre site: a charter school. Scottsdale is a hotbed for such education and there are few better sites to school hundreds of students than this location. So instead of 50 horses neighbors may get six or seven times that number of kids. Under state law, charter schools don’t need zoning either. These Scottsdale residents need only freshen up on the articles of last week about the BASIS charter school in the Shea Corridor.
The good news is that neither the city’s professional staff nor the Planning Commission miss or don’t get it. Each has recommended approval.
We loosely opine about “neighbors” but wisely not all neighbors feel similarly. Indeed, an adjoining neighbor is Luis Gonzales, he of 7th Game of World Series lore for the Arizona Diamondbacks. His support, expressed at the Planning Commission, is apt. For this project would be a home run for those who want as much west as possible to remain, and return, to a city whose logo is (still) this . . .