Guest Editorial: Drawing the Lines in Scottsdale

By Alexander Lomax

During the 2020 Scottsdale city elections, development was a common theme. The winning candidates, most stridently Mayor Dave Ortega, campaigned strongly against developments that may have been more focused on whether or not they could do such projects instead of whether or not they should. Southbridge 2 was a prime example, and was one of the topics which led Mayor Ortega to victory.

That ethos is currently being tested by the Greenbelt 88 proposal, which was heard in a recent Planning and Zoning Commission hearing. The project’s hearing went on for 4 full hours, something that is quite rare in the typically sleepy world of planning commission meetings.

A four-hour-long planning and zoning meeting typifies the current zeitgeist in Scottsdale: the difficulty of trying to find the right balance between growth and preservation, and the strong feelings on both sides. According to observers, the number of supporters was about the same as the number of detractors at the meeting. Just like a four-hour-long meeting, this is also a rarity; oftentimes you can clearly see which side is better organized and more passionate. In this case, a draw.

If the project makes it to Council for a vote, it will be an interesting indicator of where Councilmembers draw lines on development height and density. For this project, the estimates for both are above what is allowed for city developments, although this is not particularly unusual. For Mayor and former architect Ortega, these issues are more important than most, and as such he may be the most difficult Yes vote. But as you surely know, in our “weak mayor” system, he is but one vote. If it comes to the Council, it may be a yard marker to better understand what may go forward or what may fail in the future, and more precisely where individual Councilmembers fall on this issue.

The hearing for this project received a continuance, so this issue is not finished. Numerous developers must certainly be watching closely, so they can get insight as to what the state of development will be for the next year and a half (at least) in Scottsdale.