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Myths associated with applications covering the Camel Square Site on northwest corner of 44th St. & Camelback

DVC (by unanimous vote with one vote abstaining) voted December 13, 2010 to issue a statement supporting the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix position below, stating that this removal of stipulations will set a precedent for going against the wishes of a specific neighborhood, but goes against the goals inherent in ANY neighborhood, i.e. property values, quality of life, view corridor. Mediation and transparency is the key to successful development.

 

 

[Source: Paul Barnes, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix]

Please read these myths prior to attending the 12/15/10 5:00 pm City Council Meeting.

Myth: The abutting neighbors are NIMBYs who are opposed to all redevelopment of the corner.

    Fact: The abutting neighbors are not opposed to redevelopment with height and density that exceeds those currently existing. Several times they have made requests for legitimate mediation, but these requests have been rebuked by out of State owners.

    Myth: The 44th Street and Camelback Road Study Group put together by the District 6 Councilman is the best body to mediate redevelopment parameters between the abutting neighbors and the owners.

      Fact: This 19-member study group, including the councilman, was hand-picked to insure a satisfactory result for the owners/developer.  It is not representative of the abutting residents.

      Myth: Per the Planning Hearing Officer, “The proposed project will be developed in conformance with the current C-O/M-O development standards.”

        Fact: There is no proposed project.  Throughout the study group discussions and other venues, the owners made it clear that they wanted the present stipulations removed so that before they go through rezoning at some point in time that they would at least have a developable commercial office site.  At the second meeting of the Camelback Road Study Group, the applicant mentioned possible future heights of 75’ and 84’ as opposed to the C-O/M-O height of 56’.  One of the Planning Commissioners called the applications to remove the stipulations a “rope-a-dope”.  The applications are gross speculation.  They achieve a substantial increase in entitlements for the owners by decreasing the quality of life for the abutting neighbors.

        Myth: The proposed project will provide opportunities for employment.

          Fact: There is NO proposed project. No project/development; therefore, no employment. It should be noted that the Planning Commission added a period of 5 years from approval to remove current stipulations before any building permits need to be pulled.

          Myth: Development of the corner in accordance with current C-O/M-O development standards would not be out of character with the surrounding zoning as indicated by the London Building.

            Fact: The London Center is located at the SW corner of 44th Street and Camelback.  At time of construction it was called Camel Point.  It is zoned C-2.  It was built prior to the C-2 District design specifications in June 1988 limiting height to 30’ unless changed by the City Council.  Paragraph 3.9.2 on page 28 of the January 1991 44th Street Corridor Specific Plan states as follows regarding the London building:

            “The intersection of 44th Street and Camelback Road is a major east/west traffic intersection.  It has a strong regional identity with exceptional views of Camelback Mountain.  The commercial and retail uses are a compatible transition to the adjacent neighborhoods with the exception of Camel Point, the office building on the southwest corner, which does not transition well in scale with the development around it.”

            Myth: Owners need 56’ in height on the C-O site at the 44th Street and Camelback Road intersection to compete with the other C-O properties along Camelback Road

              Fact: A study was made of the 20 C-O properties along Camelback Road.  None of them are 56’ in height.  Most of them are 2 and 3 stories.  The highest is at 3900 East Camelback.  This is a new building limited in height to 40’ at the peak.  Tables from this study were previously provided to the Mayor and each of the City Council members.

              Myth: That after the stipulations have been removed, the required conceptual site plan review by a Planning Hearing Officer will protect the abutting neighbors and give them the right of appeal.

                Fact: Once the present stipulations have been removed as being sought by the out of state owners, the abutting neighbors are stuck with the 56’ height, setbacks and density reflected in the proposed replacement stipulations.  Furthermore, the PHO review is only of a conceptual site plan.  This is a poor substitute for the specific site plans that currently define the subject site.  Furthermore, the pertinent stipulation goes on to state “specific development standards and requirements will be determined by the Planning and Development Services Department.”  This part of the stipulation concerns specific site plan approval and review from which the abutting neighbors have no right of appeal.  Only the owners do.  It is at this stage of the process where the “Rubber Really Meets The Road.”

                Myth: The abutting neighbors have rejected 36 different plans submitted for redevelopment of the site by the owners.

                  Fact:    This assertion has been made at the PHO and Planning Commission hearings by flashing “plans” in a video with the word “rejected” written across the front.  Most were of the same “plan” from different views.  They were of overheight structures.  The pretty “plans” were used primarily for the benefit of the Media and the Real Estate industry.  Many were never presented to anyone in the public.  As previously stated, the abutting neighbors want to see the subject site redeveloped.  They should not be maligned for not accepting redevelopment that while maximizing the profits for the owners would result in a serious negative impact on their quality of life.

                  Myth: Building at the subject site to the C-O/M-O standards once the present stipulations are removed, gives greater protection to abutting neighbors than building to the 1986 C-O standards would.

                    Fact:    This argument is a SWITCHEROO advanced to gloss over the real issue.  The Site plans approved by Phoenix to which the buildings on the subject site are currently constructed show a setback on the west side of the site of 160’ before a 16’ building is established.  The reduction of this setback to 20’ as proposed by the owners will totally obliterate the views of Camelback Mountain for the abutting neighbors and transfer them to the owners and their new buildings.  This is simply not equitable.  The abutting neighbors are willing to see the 160’ setback reduced.  Fixing the setback is one of the items that should be resolved in the mediation requested by the abutting neighbors.

                    B.   Paul Barnes, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix

                    WHAT YOU CAN DO

                    • Attend the Wednesday, 12/15/10 City Council meeting at 5:00 pm.  For those not catching a bus, parking is available in the City garage across the street from the Chambers.  Please try and get to the City Council Chambers at 200 W. Jefferson at 4:30 pm to sign in and insure seating.  We have asked the Mayor to put our item first on the agenda, so it won’t be a long evening.
                    • Pass this post on to all of your friends and ask them to attend the 12/15/10 City Council hearing, as well as take the action per the next bullet point.
                    • Send emails and/or make phone calls to the Mayor and City Councilmembers asking them to vote NO on removal of the present stipulations from the Camel Square site on NWC of 44th Street and Camelback on 12/15/10.  Addresses and telephone numbers areas follows:

                    Phil Gordon Mayor.gordon@phoenix.gov – 602-262-7111

                    Thelda Williams council.district.1@phoenix.gov 262-7444

                    Peggy Neely council.district.2@phoenix.gov 262-7445

                    Bill Gates council.district.3@phoenix.gov 262-7441

                    Tom Simplot council.district.4@phoenix.gov 262-7447

                    Claude Mattox council.district.5@phoenix.gov 262-7446

                    Sal DiCiccio council.district.6@phoenix.gov 262-7491

                    Michael Nowakowski council.district.7@phoenix.gov 262-7492

                    Michael Johnson council.district.7@phoenix.gov 262-7493

                     

                     

                    Paul Barnes, longtime Phoenix neighborhood advocate, retires

                    After 20 years of advocating for the preservation of established neighborhoods and responsible development, Paul Barnes of the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix is retiring.  His goal: to spend more quality time with his wife and family… and maybe do a little fishing.

                    In his July 10, 2009 letter announcing his retirement, Barnes didn’t shy away from expressing his opinion on City of Phoenix personalities and policies.  Barnes wrote it was regrettable that “during recent years both some elected officials and the leadership of the Planning Department frequently have taken the position that any development is responsible development.”  He further noted that “planning for preservation of established neighborhoods has largely given way to supporting rezonings that can be harmful to them, while existing area plans are ignored and the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance are made more permissive through text amendments and special overlays.”

                    His advice to friends and associates: “Continue to step up to the plate to wage the good fight by encouraging your neighborhoods to stay organized and engaged.  Hold your elected officials’ feet to the fire.  Developers and other special interests may supply campaign funds but you supply the votes.  If you do these things, sometimes you will still lose, but if you don’t, you will never win.”

                    He closed his letter by stating the good times far outnumbered the bad and that he’s met a great many wonderful people inside and outside of City Hall.  While his retirement is effective immediately, Barnes will complete his remaining July commitments.  After that, it’s off for some well-deserved fishing.

                    Push made to give Phoenix Mayor Gordon 2-year extension to term

                    Mayor Phil Gordon (Photo: Nick Oza, Arizona Republic)

                    [Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — A proposed ballot initiative in Phoenix would hand Mayor Phil Gordon and four City Council members an extra two years in office, extending their current terms to January 2014.  It’s a plan that backers say would save the city money but one that some City Hall observers believe is designed to buy time for the two-term mayor as he contemplates his next political move.  Term limits will force Gordon out of office in January 2012.

                    With little fanfare, the Phoenix Election Consolidation Committee, a political group led by Gordon supporters, filed initial paperwork this week to put the initiative on the city’s September ballot.  The proposal would eliminate staggered council terms by delaying the 2011 election for the mayor and odd-numbered council districts until 2013.  Supporters said the initiative would put all city races on the same election cycle, boost voter turnout and save the city $1 million every four years, a savings estimate the City Clerk’s Office confirmed.

                    “The very basic motivation is really the budget issues that the city of Phoenix is looking at,” said Tom Milton, committee chairman and a former council member who served with Gordon and worked on his first mayoral campaign.  “It’s a cost saving for the city at a time when the alternatives are looking for cuts in areas that would really hurt.”  Milton heads the committee with his sister, Pamala Doan.  Milton, who served on the council from 1998 to 2001, said that he worked on Gordon’s first mayoral campaign in 2003 while employed with Riester, a Phoenix marketing and public-relations firm.  Doan, the committee treasurer who filed the initiative application Tuesday, worked on Gordon’s re-election campaign in 2007 while also employed with Riester.

                    Gordon said he would have no comment about the initiative until he reviews it on Friday, and he declined to answer questions about the campaign supporters who filed the paperwork.  “The budget is my top priority,” Gordon told The Republic on Wednesday.  “My suggestion is that everyone in public and private focus on that.”

                    The proposal has drawn criticism from some community members who argue that staggered terms, passed by voters in 1991, ensure that the entire nine-member council is not replaced by political “neophytes” in a single election.  “We believe that staggered terms are appropriate,” said Paul Barnes, president of the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix, a community-preservation group.  “This is mostly a move by Mayor Gordon to extend his term, and there is no rationale and no good reason for it.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

                    Phoenix neighborhood coalition urges City support of existing special planning districts

                    [Source: Paul Barnes, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix] — Maintaining a favorable quality of life in established neighborhoods is challenging.  Citizen developed and approved area plans are one of the tools used in the struggle to preserve established neighborhoods and define their desired character.  The City of Phoenix Special Planning District Plan (“SPD”) originally known as a Special Conservation District (“SCD”) is one form of such an area plan.  At present, there are 12 SPDs:

                    • Roosevelt SPD – Central City Village
                    • Story SPD – Central City Village
                    • Coronado SPD – Encanto Village
                    • Encanto Vista SPD – Encanto Village
                    • Willo SPD – Encanto Village
                    • Arcadia Camelback SPD – Camelback East Village
                    • North Central Avenue SPD – Camelback East Village
                    • Squaw Peak Heights SPD – Camelback East Village
                    • Windsor Square SPD – Camelback East Village
                    • Royal Palm SPD – Alhambra Village
                    • Saguaro SPD – Paradise Valley Village
                    • Mountain Park SPD – South Mountain Village

                    Shortly after the Squaw Peak Heights SPD had been approved (July of 2006), a dissident property owner subject to the terms of the plan, filed a suit in Superior Court challenging the way the final votes for the SPD were tabulated.  In August of 2008, the court issued a Minute Entry favoring the claimant.  If the City of Phoenix fails to appeal the Squaw Peak Heights SPD Court decision within 30 days after the formal decision is handed down (could be sometime soon after the first of the year), it will cause this particular SPD to be voided.  A replacement SPD is estopped from being a possibility because of the passage in the fall of 2006 of Proposition 207.  A failure to appeal could jeopardize the validity of all of the other SPDs because they tabulated their final votes according to the same procedures as were followed in the case of the Squaw Peak Heights SPD.

                    The Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix believes that the loss of the existing SPDs under such circumstances will be detrimental to all neighborhoods whether or not they fall under an SPD.  This is due to the fact that an unwillingness on the part of the City of Phoenix to at least appeal the Superior Court’s decision in this instance will be interpreted by developers as a softness on the City’s part to support other existing citizen authorized/passed area plans such as the existing Specific Planning District Plans.  Such an interpretation will embolden developers to propose projects that will not be in keeping with these plans.  The same holds true for adhering to rezoning for sites throughout the city that was passed subject to approved site plans and stipulations.

                    Individuals and organizations in agreement with the Coalition’s position on this matter are encouraged to send a letter or e-mail by the middle of January 2009 urging Mayor Phil Gordon and Members of Council to oppose the Superior Court decision in the matter of Madison Positive Alliance of Neighbors v. Phoenix City (case on Squaw Peak Heights SPD).  The cost of such an appeal does not come from the City’s operating funds.   It is an insurance matter.   All such letters should be addressed to the party intended at 200 W. Washington Street, 11th Floor, Phoenix, AZ 85003-1611.

                    For more information, contact Paul Barnes, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix, at 602-840-1579 or e-mail.

                    Rumors quashed about demise of Phoenix’s Village Planning Committees

                    [Source: Paul Barnes, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix] — In October and early November, the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix began hearing rumors that as part of budget cuts, the City of Phoenix may eliminate Village Planning Committees as well as the entire Village System. These rumors were brought to the attention of Mayor Phil Gordon.

                    Below are e-mail communiques from Mayor Gordon and City Manager Frank Fairbanks assuring the Coalition that regardless of whatever severe budget cuts might have to be initiated, the Village Planning Committees and Village System will be retained.

                    November 17, 2008 e-mail from Mayor Gordon to Paul Barnes:

                    Dear Paul,

                    Per your personal request, I am providing you with the following response to your e-mail so you may read it, send it, or discuss it with anyone you choose:

                    Paul, while I have not heard nor was I aware of any rumors that the city, due to “budget cuts and perhaps for other reasons as well, Phoenix may eliminate the village planning committees as well as the village system,” I informed you that I “would not support either of such actions should they be formally recommended.”  I am not only reaffirming that pledge, but am committing that I would aggressively oppose any such action, formal or informal.

                    Please assure everyone that this won’t happen.  However as we did discuss, substantial cuts will occur in all departments thus reducing service; increasing wait times; and delaying planning activities, meetings, and special projects in many cases.  We did discuss that some village committees that form ad hoc or subcommittees may have to do without staff as the city may not be able to continue overtime salaries till the budget picture greatly improves.  The village committees could seek through the full council, a waiver to a village subcommittee request for staff resources which if granted would then be allocated from the city’s general fund (thus taking away dollars from something else). However, let me again stress that no villages nor the system itself or any portions thereof will be eliminated.  If anyone has any concerns, please have them contact me as I represent everyone in the city.

                    Phil Gordon, Mayor, City of Phoenix

                    November 17, 2008 e-mail from City Manager Frank Fairbanks to Paul Barnes:

                    Paul,

                    The Mayor copied me, so let me add some information to this discussion.

                    First; The City by State law must have a balanced budget.  City revenues are declining and will not support the current level of activity.  The City has no proposed cuts at this time.  We have not identified what we will propose to balance the budget. I have not yet seen all of the options yet. Budget & Research is examining all the options in cooperation with the departments. “The City,” meaning the Mayor and City Council or City Management, has not yet proposed any cuts to the Village Planning process or anywhere else.  Any cuts would be proposed on January 6, 2009.

                    Second; About a month ago, each department head (Debra Stark in the case of Planning) was required to submit a list of what she would cut from their own department, IF their department were to be cut 30%.  The Planning Department 30% list included cutting 4 of the 11 Village Planners as the worst case scenario.  I am told that currently, 11 Planners staff 15 Village Planning Committees.   If these 4 positions were cut, then 7 Village Planners would remain to staff the 15 Committees.  Under this Planning Department submitted proposal, all Village Planning Committees would continue.  If these cuts proceeded, Planning proposed that all Village Planning Committees would remain is operation, some lighter agenda meetings might be cancelled and the amount of fresh research would likely be reduced.

                    Third; City revenues continue to decline.  We have not hit bottom.  We do not have a final estimate of the percentage cuts that will be necessary because the situation is still very fluid and we don’t need a final estimate until we propose cuts.  The target cuts for all civilian general fund departments are between 25% and 45%.  Because of massive community support, the Police and Fire Departments will have an increase in their budgets, but this increase will not be as much as their normal cost growth.

                    Finally, let me add that city management also supports the village planning program and model and we have no interest in eliminating it or reducing this important part of our community.

                    Frank Fairbanks

                    PUD process now more open thanks to Phoenix residents

                    [Source: B. Paul Barnes, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix] — Because of the support and input of many Phoenix neighbors and neighborhood advocates, the Planned Urban Development (PUD) text amendment as passed by the Phoenix City Council on April 2, 2008 contains policies and regulations that at least provide adequate, timely disclosure of what a real estate developer is proposing under any particular PUD so that neighbors can reach an informed decision as how to respond to the proposal.

                    The following are some of the most important changes since the initial text amendment draft:

                    • Two required neighborhood meetings to be held by the developer instead of one.  First meeting to be held after PUD application has been filed.  Meetings to be noticed 2 weeks in advance.
                    • The requirement for site plans for all projects 20 acres or less.  No such requirement in first draft.  Originally, the neighbors had to try and find out what was going on by trying to get a copy of a detailed Development Narrative.  These site plans will be on 11×17 paper rather than 8.5 x 11 so they will be legible.
                    • Development Narratives will include a Comparison Table with Existing and Proposed Development Standards.
                    • A PUD link will be provided on the Planning Department website with both the Development Narrative and the Staff Report.  The link will be provided on the neighborhood mailings.
                    • The site plans will include the Building Foot print.
                    • The Development Narrative to include a description of existing zoning on and adjacent to site, including conformance with the objectives, policies, design guidelines, and planned land uses and intensities of all applicable overlays, specific plans, special planning districts, and area plans.

                    The PUD as passed by the City Council on April 2 can be found at: http://phoenix.gov/planning/Z-TA-20-07-B.pdf.

                    Groups appeal Phoenix City Council’s Sun Merc decision

                    [Source: Save SunMerc Coalition] — On Friday, January 13, 2006, in order to preserve their right as citizens and associations to litigate and provide reasonable notice of their continuing claims and legal theories, a motion was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court by the following groups: Arizona Asian American Association, Arizona Asian American Museum Foundation, Arizona Preservation Foundation, Capitol Mall Association, Chinese United Association of Greater Phoenix, Downtown Voices Coalition, Garfield Neighborhood Association, NAILEM, Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix, Oakland University Park Neighborhood Association, Ong Ko Met Family Association, Organization of Chinese Americans (Phoenix Chapter), and Story Preservation Association.  Other groups are considering joining the appeal.  The groups’ sole concern is with the historic Sun Mercantile Building, not the W Hotel or adjacent new construction condominium.  All parties want, advocate, and work for a vibrant, 24/7 downtown -– a downtown that looks to the future, but respects its heritage.

                    Legal counsel carefully researched and reviewed the Sun Mercantile Building issue.  The appeal of the City Council’s decision is based on the following arguments:

                    1. There is no credible evidence in the record supporting the City Council’s reversal of the decisions by its own Historic Preservation Commission and Historic Preservation Officer.
                    2. The City Council’s decision is contrary to law.  It directly contradicts the Phoenix Historic Preservation Ordinance and applicable state and federal historic preservation statutes, regulations, and rules.
                    3. The City Council was obligated to review the decisions by the Historic Preservation Commission and Historic Preservation Officer as a quasi-judicial body, not as a legislative body.  By approving the 11-story addition to the top of the Sun Mercantile Building the Council acted legislatively as opposed to quasi-judicially, thereby exceeding its legal authority and jurisdiction and abusing its discretion in approving a dramatic change to the Sun Mercantile Building.
                    4. The City Council effectively removed the Historic Preservation zoning from the property (if left in place this action will likely result in the Sun Mercantile Building being removed from the National Register of Historic Places and/or the Arizona historic register) without adhering to the Phoenix Zoning Ordinance and proper notification process.
                    5. The City Council’s approval of the 11-story tower atop the Sun Mercantile Building is contrary to the Conservation, Rehabilitation, and Redevelopment Element of the City of Phoenix General Plan.  The illegal zoning change effected by the approval of the 11-story tower is inconsistent with the Phoenix General Plan.

                    The groups have requested a temporary restraining order, temporary injunction, and/or permanent injunction that would prohibit the City and City Council from taking any further action in regard to redevelopment of the Sun Mercantile Building as approved by the Council on December 14, 2005.