Is Low Growth Here to Stay in Scottsdale?

It has been no secret that the current make-up of the Scottsdale City Council has been what could be called “growth hesitant”; that there is a concerted effort to focus on what are deemed to be unimpeachably high-quality projects to the detriment of overall growth. We have labeled them “the Council of No” before, where they sometimes seem to look for reasons to shoot down projects. We now have evidence that this ethos may be here to stay…at least until and if new councilmembers are elected.

That evidence? A vote to get rid of the Downtown Infill Incentive Plan; it allowed for developers to request shortcuts to avoid stringent rules related to development requirements in order to facilitate growth downtown. Essentially, it helps get exceptions for some of the more problematic (from both development and activist perspectives) aspects of zoning rules, such as height and density restrictions.

It was enacted in 2010 in the wake of the financial crisis in order to help the area recover, which considering how the Phoenix metro area was on the front lines of the housing boom and bust there was a clear need for a shot in the arm when it comes to pro-growth policies. Considering how well Scottsdale rebounded in the subsequent decade, it’s hard to see how it was not a significant success.

What about now? Clearly, the reason for its enactment is no longer valid. It could certainly be seen as dated and unnecessary from a financial perspective (unless we are to go back into recession that is, something that’s been predicted for a couple consecutive years now). That said, it’s retractment is a new stage in the council’s growth hesitancy, both symbolic and functional.

Statements from councilmembers aligned well with expectations. Solange Whitehead expressed a perceived lack of need to incentivize additional growth. Betty Janik echoed those sentiments, stating that it was unequivocally positive news that it was no longer necessary, crediting a thriving downtown and plenty of demand from developers, although that last part has come into question recently, with only six rezoning requests this year compared to 11 over the same period in the year prior. As is expected, Tammy Caputi took the other end of the debate, stating that the city has been routinely stonewalling requests from developers.

The battle lines regarding development and growth have only grown firmer since the 2020 election, with the pro-development side in a clear minority. At this rate, it seems as though the only thing that will change that would come from future elections.