Smoking Something

Resorts are what make Paradise Valley, Arizona particularly special.  They can also be a source of controversy.  

While the redevelopment of the old La Posada Hotel into Montelucia was unanimously approved by Town Council, its construction created public relations challenges.  The Mountain Shadows Resort was closed then resurrected through a unique set of business, legal and political dynamics.  But, ultimately, it too was approved by a unanimous council.  

The Ritz-Carlton hotel and residential community was a different matter.  It introduced new densities in exchange for a great brand and beautiful hotel.  It was a contentious and controversial 4-3 vote to approve.  

More recently the beloved Sanctuary Resort caused a stir pursuing a “party house” on its western flank that barely passed on a 4-3 vote too.  

And that brings us to plans for the SmokeTree Resort property on Lincoln.  Best known as the former site of The Other Place restaurant it has housed twenty something hotel rooms in a tranquil, affordable setting over many years.

But then the property was sold for a lot of money.  And the redeveloper is looking for the Town Council to bail it out with a very large density grab.  

We mentioned 4-3 votes above.  Well, the SmokeTree plan and its exponential increase in density (and that’s a generous description) just went down by that margin before the Paradise Valley Planning Commission.  The Planning Commission’s job is to refine projects and move them along for Town Council’s approval or rejection.  They rarely turn down applications.  But they did here?  Was it just too much?  Good question.  

Shortly after its defeat the developer has started running advertisements with a theme of “Save The SmokeTree.”  Who thinks of this stuff?  Amazingly, it’s already nominated itself for worst campaign of the year.  

The new, supersized Smoketree will remind no one of the previous iteration.  It’s like Carrot Top before and after plastic surgery.  

You don’t have to travel far to understand how to impressively rehab a resort property in Paradise Valley.  SmokeTree’s neighbor is the old Cottonwoods hotel now known as Andaz.  Anyone who visits there will see a lower-density, beautiful renovation that has enhanced  Paradise Valley, and its coffers.  It rivals the sensitive, persuasive remodels of The Hermosa Inn and Sanctuary for best in class. 

The SmokeTree plan does nothing of the sort.  It is by and for a developer that paid too much for the land and despite all this time has crafted no “greater good” for its aggressive requests.  The Paradise Valley Planning Commission understood this, wisely. Besides, after the tremendous work Andaz has done with its low-density plan why would the Town Council reward bad behavior with a big-density plan, opposed by Andaz?  

When it comes down to it, the only thing worth “saving” when it comes to the current request is to recall a density, and marketing, don’t.