Conflict in Scottsdale City Council: Are They Looking for a Lawsuit?

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It hasn’t been a big secret that Mayor David Ortega has had a sometimes contentious relationship with a few other members of the city council. That has recently come out in the open even more however, with a recent tift with Councilwoman Tammy Caputi coming to light and with potential stakes including a significant lawsuit.

The most recent conflict is in relation to the Scottsdale Old Town Character Plan, the plan designed to guide development in our unique district. Mayor Ortega is attempting to incorporate lower “bonus height standards”, which are building heights allowed over the traditional zoning limitations, often with certain caveats (or “bonuses”) added as sweeteners. Ortega has been consistent with his desire to keep heights in check, to the delight of many anti-development activists but to the annoyance of developers.

Councilwoman Caputi’s objection was relating to Proposition 207, passed by the voters in 2006 which relates to zoning changes. Essentially, when changes are made that will diminish the property value of a property, compensation is necessary. Caputi’s argument is that forcibly lowering those heights will have a negative impact on property values, which will then lead to a lawsuit and a  subsequent payout from the city, one that in one case has been estimated to be $4 billion by the Goldwater Institute.

Scottsdale City Attorney Eric Anderson mentioned that it should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and should be evaluated by real estate valuation experts. While non-committal in either direction, his response does strongly imply that there is certainly potential merit to the charge.

This case has been yet another example of battle lines being drawn in the council, between the “Build, baby, build!” members of the council (of whom Caputi is certainly on the forefront of), and those that are more averse to development, or at the very least more demanding of stronger standards, spearheaded by Ortega. That said, their conflict seems to be more personal and the result of conflicting personalities, of two strong-headed leaders butting heads like rams.

Personality conflicts aside, one thing that Scottsdalians absolutely do not want is taxpayer funds being used to pay out based on mistakes from council. While we are not sure that that is how it would play out, the remarks from the city’s legal guidance was enough to give us pause. The city council should not make any unnecessary changes in the sake of development ideals if it potentially imperils our taxpayer dollars. We hope that Mayor Ortega will let this one go and find a less litigious battle to fight.