There’s bad. And then there is comically bad. The latter arrived before the Scottsdale Planning Commission last night in the form of a “senior living facility” on McDowell Mountain Ranch Road on WestWorld’s eastern border.
The application sought to supersize the currently entitled 5 homes on 5 acres into 161 units. In presenting their case its lobbyist forgot or failed to present a single neighbor in support, an operator, or basically anyone with any justification for the request. But the best, or worst, part of all? The obvious entitlement grab sought to be the first private development in Scottsdale’s history to be exempt from the city’s landmark Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance (ESLO). Also add in opposition from WestWorld’s top three events, the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, Scottsdale Quarterhorse Show and Barrett-Jackson. They correctly pointed out that adding more residential in and around WestWorld is counterproductive to growing the property as an economic development driver. Jason Alexander’s post on social media days before the vote also captured a lot of attention, and it wasn’t in favor of the obscene.
It all had the feeling of watching an old MTV Punk’d episode. How long could an awful proposal last before people started laughing, or get thrown out of the room?
Fortunately, it didn’t take long. Led by Planning Commissioner Christian Serena, commissioners quickly understood that altering ESLO is a policy and political don’t. ESLO like the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, billboard banishment, public art and Indian Bend Wash are among the progressive steps that make Scottsdale special and different. Infringe on them and you infringe on the core of Scottsdale itself. Any developer can come up with an excuse why there should be an exception. It takes the spine of people like Serena, Paul Alessio, Renee Higgs, Ali Fakih, and Prescott Smith to say no.
They were smart to protect Scottsdale, WestWorld and their own repute on the Planning Commission. Now this awful proposal appears headed to City Council after what may be one of the only unanimous Planning Commission rejections in recent memory. We hope and trust they will do as their appointees did. After all, who wants to be remembered for being the first ones to cave on ESLO? For an unknown development group, without a single neighbor in support, who didn’t present a single person with “senior living experience,” for a density increase 20-30x what is allowed?
Rezonings are not a right. They are earned. When there is support and public good. Not when they are better suited for Candid Camera. Or Laugh In. Or when they are trying to punk our politicians.