Controversial zoning changes for a residential condominium project near Dove Valley and Scottsdale roads named Scottsdale Heights have been approved.
The council approval on a 5-2 vote will shift the land from commercial zoning to medium-density residential zoning, leaving many neighbors disappointed.
The approval came despite petitions, with more than 600 signatures, that had objections from neighboring residents.
Scottsdale Heights is proposed as 78 single-story condos, which represents a scaling back from 123 two-story units in the original plan. The project is proposed by Michael Lieb of Shea 124 developers. The plans call for 38 duplexes and two free-standing buildings.
Neighbors have complained that the plan is too dense, and expressed concerns about narrow streets and traffic.
The zoning changes allowed the land to be zoned from commercial to residential.
Many neighbors did want to see the land rezoned to residential, but disagreed with what they felt was too high a density. The plan calls for 5.57 units per acre, which is more than double the density of some neighboring developments.
Nearby neighborhoods Winfield, Las Piedras and Terravita have densities that range between 1.64 and 3.54 units per acre. Under the new zoning of R-3, a density of up to 12.93 units per acre would be allowed.
"This should be (considered) urban development," said Don Buck, a Terravita resident. He said those living in the area are looking for open space and rural or suburban, not urban-style development.
In the council meeting, Buck and several other residents argued for keeping the land zoned to commercial.
"Usually I'm here asking for more, " John Berry, a land-use attorney representing the developers, said. "I'm asking for more height. I'm asking for more density, I'm asking for more traffic. I'm asking for more. And there's usually opposition to those requests.
"Tonight I'm here asking for less ... and there's an opposition to this."
There were concerns the developers were working around the General Plan.
"The biggest concern I have with this project is not with the project itself, it's with how it was handled," Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield said. "I don't like the fact that it looks to me that the General Plan is trying to be worked around here."
Buck pointed out that typically a 15-acre property is considered a major amendment. This property was 15 acres, but because only around 14 acres were being rezoned, it was a minor amendment.
There were also concerns about losing one of few commercial parcels in north Scottsdale. When neighboring parcel Paloma was rezoned to residential, the Scottsdale Heights parcel was left as commercial to address future needs.
"This is a really ugly proposal that's on the table," said Jim Johnson, HOA president of the Las Piedras neighborhood.
Johnson argued in favor of commercial development. At the planning commission Johnson argued against the residential density because it threatened the rural feel. At council he argued for commercial, a plan that had grown on him.
"We need to focus on the developer truly getting engaged, truly listening and not just ticking off the box and saying, 'Yes, I met with the community,' " Johnson said.
Councilwoman Linda Milhaven, who made the motion to approve, said that when she considered the sensitivity to the area, she believed residential development has far less impact in terms of traffic.
"In commercial development, we see more car trips," she said. "Folks may see it differently. I see this coming as having a lesser impact on the area. Folks would rather see fewer homes, but our answer tonight is residential versus commercial."
Project supporter Bob Cappel, Winfield HOA president and president of the Greater Pinnacle Peak Association Board of Directors, had submitted approval letters from both organizations at the planning commission. On March 16, GPPA announced in a newsletter that the board of directors did not vote to support the zoning.
Cappel said he misunderstood GPPA, which asked that the support at the planning commission be stricken from the record. Cappel said GPPA is not taking a position one way or the other on the rezoning. Cappel said the board did not actually vote to do that, but it discussed the plans at the meetings.
Cappel said he would have had a formal vote but he couldn't get the board members together before the planning commission so he assumed they supported. Cappel said he thinks retracting the support is the wrong decision for them because if this goes commercial there's still going to be 38-foot two- and three-story buildings along the scenic drive.
David Gordon, a Winfield resident, argued to not trust the Winfield support. He felt that residents were not being properly represented.
Still, Winfield's support and increased traffic from commercial development were cited as reasons for yes votes among the five council members in favor.
The site has been vacant since 1999. It originally was home to movie and television production company Carefree Studios, where "The New Dick Van Dyke Show" was filmed in the early 1970s. The developer has proposed adding a Dick Van Dyke tribute cultural walkway as part of the development.