Dispute on desert land near solution - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Dispute on desert land near solution

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Posted: Tuesday, April 20, 2004 10:19 am | Updated: 5:33 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

A yearslong feud over how one of Scottsdale's most remote swaths of desert should develop is headed for calmer times as the city and developer have pledged to set aside their differences.

Scottsdale and the developer of Scottsdale National — a proposed 275-acre community bordering unincorporated land near the Tonto National Forest — have tentatively agreed to stop the legal wrangling that has stalled the project since 2001.

In a settlement agreement expected to be approved today by the City Council, the project would be allowed to have 119 homes on 245 acres — about 20 fewer homes than the developer's most recent proposal.

"Continuing litigation wasn't good for Scottsdale taxpayers or for us," developer David Maniatis said in a statement. "We're pleased to help the city achieve its goal of a rural, residential project with low density."

Maniatis and his company, Scottsdale 275, sued the city in 2001 after the City Council rezoned the land to make it more rural in character.

The settlement would end Scottsdale National's legal challenge to the city's Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance and the company's pursuit of more than $21 million in damages.

The case came to epitomize Scottsdale's land use disputes several years ago that pitted developers against preservationists. The land, at 136th Street and Rio Verde Drive, is among the easternmost parcels in the city.

The dispute grew so intense at one point that Councilman Ned O'Hearn threatened to remove the entire city Planning Commission for failing to review the project in a timely manner, thus leaving the council powerless to scrutinize the project.

"Fortunately, I believe we were all able to find common ground, and each side made significant compromises," said O'Hearn, the leading council critic of the developer's original plans. "What we have isn't perfect for either side, but I think it suits everybody fine."

Scottsdale spent $230,916 on outside legal fees pertaining to the case. Putting an end to the litigation allows assurance about how the land will develop, said deputy city attorney Deborah Robberson.

"There is certainty about the development, and it allows things to move forward," she said.

Mayor Mary Manross, who also opposed the original plan several years ago, said she favors the settlement.

"We both put together this development agreement," Manross said. "Both sides feel like it's a fair resolution."

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