By Shea Lincoln
Howard Myers moved to North Scottsdale in 1996 and quickly got involved in local politics. He was a vocal and tireless supporter of the creation of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve but corrected us when asked if he was a pioneer of the effort. He says that honor belongs to a long list of advocates . They include Jane Rau , Chet Andrews, John Nichols, Greg Woodall, Carla, Pete Chasar, and Karen Bertiger. Myers served on the Preserve Commission for nine years. He also served on the City of Scottsdale Board of Adjustment.
Defeating the proposed Desert Discovery Center was a recent major accomplishment and Myers says his work is not done. He remains an active member of the slow growth organization known as COGS as well as well as being the driving force behind Protect Our Preserve. He thinks growth continues to threaten the character of Scottsdale and he is concerned about some members of the City Council who are pro-growth.
APG: Had the Preserve not been created what do you think would have happed to that land?
Myers: We would have houses a lot further up. Obviously there’s some in DC Ranch….but the rest of the mountains, what isn’t built on now is preserved and that’s a good thing…Some of the land north of Dynamite might have primed for development as well.
APG: Has North Scottsdale changed for the better or for worse over the past 20 years?
Myers: We’ve worked hard, but unfortunately in some regards it has changed for the worse. A lot of property is zoned for 3 to 5 lots…Now the city is allowing people to come in an up-zone for the maximum they can get…That’s a downside…You don’t want homes stacked on one another. You need to preserve the equestrian heritage.
APG: You are also active with COGS (Coalition of Greater Scottsdale) which is considered at the center of the slow growth movement. Do you think that movement will have to modify its views if there is a recession?
Myers: When downturn happened (in the 1990’s) when some of the larger developments were approved and up-zoned. And because of that dip we allowed more density. That really was a big mistake…The city has no obligation to make people richer. The city has an obligation to maintain the characteristics of the city and make it desirable…. There is a misconception that you must grow to be successful. What you have to do is to remain desirable.
APG: Your focus has been North Scottsdale, but you have also served on the Board of Adjustment which gave you a good look at development all over Scottsdale. I am curious on your take on the way Downtown has developed.
Myers: In order to remain successful you need to remain desirable not necessarily grow… Downtown used to be a big tourist draw and part of the reason was the building heights were low. You could see the McDowells, you could see Camelback…I think we are degrading the character of Downtown by putting in very tall buildings…People will go to Cave Creek because it has retained the western charm that Scottsdale is losing.
APG: The DDC was a definitive battleground issue and a solid victory for resident activism. Your organization, Protect Our Preserve, is still active. Do you think there are still threats to the Preserve?
Myers: The charter amendment we passed was really good and we spent a lot of time thinking about what that should be so we get the most out of it. The fact that voters now have to approve development in the Preserve, that’s a real good thing… It takes care of a lot of things but it doesn’t take care of everything. We have a city staff that has tried to do all sorts of things in the Preserve that shouldn’t be done that violate the Preserve ordinance. That’s why we keep the organization (Protect Our Preserve) alive.
A final note: Myers says Scottsdale’s western lifestyle and open skies give the community a sense of freedom and he says that’s worth preserving.