Hugely Unpopular Upzoning Plan, New Scottsdale Poll Reveals

Taser Manufacturer Axon’s Attempts To Get Zoning For Nearly 2,000 Apartments in North Scottsdale Opposed By 67% According To New Scottsdale Poll

Yesterday we released the findings of a recent poll we commissioned on the upcoming Scottsdale Mayor’s race.  Today we release more results on a big project that has been creating headlines of late.  Tomorrow we will share interesting numbers for other issues that may end up on the city’s November ballot.

Readers may be familiar with Axon’s controversial proposal to rezone 74 acres near Hayden and the 101 to make way for nearly 2,000 apartments.  This is an additional request beyond the previously granted one to build their new corporate headquarters on the same site.  But the additional development right is not sitting well with Scottsdale residents according to our survey commissioned by the Arizona Progress & Gazette which was conducted by respected pollster Data Orbital last week.

On an initial ballot test, of those surveyed 67% oppose the idea while a whopping 54.5% strongly oppose it. Only 26.4% of those surveyed initially support the rezoning, with but 11.7% strongly supporting it. A mere 3.2% are undecided. Those of us associated with this publication cannot remember a more unpopular development request in the past three decades.

Opinions about the company  seem to have little bearing  on this apartment issue. Axon itself has a favorable rating of 20.8% and an unfavorable rating of 10.5%. The Scottsdale poll shows 58.7% have no opinion about the company.

A few years ago, Axon, which used to be known as TASER International, bought the parcel from the Arizona State Land Department pledging to use the property as its corporate headquarters. The Scottsdale City Council signed off on the deal.

But seemingly like Darth Vader negotiating with Lando Calrissian, Axon wants to change the terms of the deal. It is seeking to rezone the property to make way for 1,975 apartments along with hotel and retail space.

The proposal went over like the Hindenburg when it went before the Scottsdale Airport Advisory Commission last week which recommended rejection of the rezoning. The vote last week was unanimous, 7 to 0. Commissioner John Spalj noted that putting nearly 2,000 apartments so close to the airport has the potential of generating thousands of noise complaints, “I think multi family housing of this density threatens the long-term viability of this airport.”

The project heads to the Scottsdale Planning Commission tomorrow, January 24th.

The survey also shows that opposition intensifies after residents are given both sides of the issue. Here are how some pro and con arguments register based on the poll:

*Opponents argue that Scottsdale is already a great place with or without Axon’s Headquarters and the city should not be held hostage by political blackmail to help Axon finance their headquarters project with apartments that were not in the original approved plan. Does the argument that the city should not be held hostage make you more or less likely to support this project?
Total More Likely 15.5%
Total Less Likely 73.7%

*Opponents argue that allowing Axon to build apartments that increase density, to finance the construction of a Headquarters they otherwise could not afford to build amounts to another form of taxpayer bailout of a large corporation. Does this argument that the project is a form of a corporate bailout make you more or less likely to support the project?
Total More Likely 11.6%
Total Less Likely 76.0%

*Opponents of the project argue that the property was bought from the Arizona State Land Department whose sales go to benefit Arizona public elementary and high schools. Apartments were not originally allowed as part of that purchase agreement. They argue that if Axon is allowed to change the rules with help from the city, it will have shortchanged the state’s school children by almost $150 million, setting a bad precedent and a new loophole for developers. Does this argument that the school districts were shortchanged make you more or less likely to support the project?
Total More Likely 7.9%
Total Less Likely 79.7%

*Supporters argue that Scottsdale currently has a housing shortage and should pursue all available housing options, including apartments. Does the argument that there is a housing shortage make you more or less likely to support this project?
Total More Likely 28.2%
Total Less Likely 59.1%

*Supporters argue that without this project, Axon may leave Arizona costing hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars, harming the local economy. Does the argument that Axon may leave make you more or less likely to support this project?
Total More Likely 23.9%
Total Less Likely 57.9%

*Supporters argue that while the original plan did not include the current residential component, real estate markets have changed dramatically since the pandemic, and more residential space is needed. Does the argument that the real estate market has changed make you more or less likely to support this project?
Total More Likely 25.7%
Total Less Likely 62.0%

Indeed, opposition intensifies after those surveyed were given pro and con information.

*Now, knowing everything you’ve heard, would you support or oppose the additional development Axon is requesting for its new corporate headquarters including nearly 2,000 new apartment units at the corner of Loop 101 and Hayden Rd?
Total Support 20.8%
Strongly Support 10.1%
Total Oppose 75.6%
Strongly Oppose 65.6%
Neutral 2.5%

Multi-family housing can be a tough sell in Scottsdale. But it can be done if the location is appropriate, and the density is reasonable. That doesn’t appear to be the case here as issues such as traffic, density, the threat to the airport, and mounting neighborhood opposition may tase this proposal as it heads to the Scottsdale City Council.

Simply put, we have rarely if ever seen polling numbers this bad for anything in Scottsdale and those who will be on the ballot this Fall, and any others, might want to think long and hard based on these numbers if they want to carry this political albatross along for the ride.  Most discouraging for Axon, Scottsdale voters just don’t care if Axon doesn’t decide to build their corporate headquarters here, especially after threats of give us a huge apartment entitlement or we will take our ball and go home.  And voters have a point.  Scottsdale already is a pretty amazing city with or without Axon.

Arizona-based Data Orbital conducted the survey of 350 likely Scottsdale voters from January 17th through the 19th. The pollster was the most accurate firm that polled Arizona political races in the 2020 presidential election cycle and is top rated by FiveThirtyEight.