As opposition known, and unknown, continues to grow to an unprecedented redevelopment plan proposed for the Smoketree hotel property in the Town of Paradise Valley, dubious behind the scenes activity make this an even more interesting case.
The Paradise Valley Town Council currently has two members that voted against the impressive Ritz-Carlton project still coming to life, against all odds. They are long-time Councilman Paul Dembow and Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner.
Dembow first ran for Town Council on an anti-resort platform, targeting the emerging Montelucia Resort at Tatum and Lincoln. He lost. He then moderated his position and claimed a seat a cycle later. He’s been a mixed bag ever since, becoming controversial as well, an evolution that likely led to his poor showing in his last re-election campaign where he barely hung on despite a light field.
Dembow was strident in opposing town approvals for the Ritz. He consistently maintained it was too much and that town could get a better deal. Bien-Willner, then a councilmember, cited similar reasons although he was far more diplomatic than Dembow.
Fast forward to now. Dembow has become the biggest champion of the Smoketree plan, what would appear to the densest in town history. Why? How?
After all, he opposed the Ritz and its 29% lot coverage yet the Smoketree supersizes its by some 50% to 45% lot coverage. What’s the urgency to bail out a developer that paid too much for the land with an entitlement that’s too generous with little to no public good? Inertia should never be the ultimate rationale during important reviews. Indeed, just next door, a previous town council said no to redevelopers of the old Cottonwoods Resort and the result was what is now the award-winning Andaz.
The Ritz’s construction, sales and bed tax revenues mean town residents will never have to worry about a municipal property tax being installed. The Smoketreee? Whatever it turns out to be is immaterial to the town’s finances.
So what’s motivating Dembow in this instance? It’s certainly not philosophical consistency or integrity. Strangely, Mayor Bien-Willner seems to have moved into Dembow’s orbit, an evolution wholly inconsistent with his public service record to date.
Quackery is a word most often used in medical contexts. Or in the case of at least one with Smoketree. How ironic the Paradise Valley Medical Plaza is next door.