Neighborhoods with mayors - East Valley Tribune: Business

Neighborhoods with mayors

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Posted: Saturday, May 31, 2003 12:35 am | Updated: 1:24 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Major north East Valley developers are changing the scope of neighborhoods within large-scale developments. Roles such as town manager and mayor are hired positions within communities such as Whisper Rock Estates and DC Ranch, both in north Scottsdale.

They are not governing the community, though. They're planning events, picking up groceries, making reservations, holding workshops and bringing the neighbors together.

The roles are as varied as the title and the communities they oversee, but they all focus on service and increasing a hometown feeling.

Scottsdale-based DMB & Associates has a town manager to work with its 1,100 homeowners at DC Ranch. The community is still under construction and will have a lot more residents by build-out. Dave Wolfenden is DC Ranch's town manager and his job is to create social, civic and educational programs for residents, bring residents together and create a community vision. He holds town meetings and circulates a community newsletter to connect the residents.

Homeowners association fees of $58.72 per month offset the costs of these services. Cave Creek resident Mary Kurth was recently hired by DMB to be the town manager of Verrado, a West Valley community near the White Tank Mountains. Kurth will move to Verrado when it opens in early 2004.

"It's managing events and opportunities for the community," Kurth said. "I'm talking about anything from festivals to health workshops."

"The role of the town manager is to help neighbors connect with each other, to rediscover the concept of hometown," she said. "That means knowing your neighbors and being able to support your neighbors."

Brent Herrington, vice president of DMB, said for a community to flourish it needs more than infrastructure and people. He said it has to have social, civic and educational involvement. That process works best when there are people who can be catalysts at bringing people together, he said.

"It is a growing trend that has been embraced by the top tier of developers in the country," Herrington said. "It is largely a consumer-led concept. It's clear that they want better communities and vibrant neighborhoods."

Herrington said community directors were common in the 1980s and 1990s, but the focus was on recreation. The focus has shifted to include education, volunteering and community involvement. Cat Coltrell is the mayor of Whisper Rock Estates. It's her job to book restaurant reservations, find concert tickets, coordinate laundry and dry cleaning pick-up and delivery, and buy groceries when her residents are in a bind and oversee home maintenance when her residents are away.

"Mayor almost implies governance and that's not what it is," she said. "It's more a gatekeeper or coordinator."

Being mayor includes planning social outings such as hiking and baseball games as well as acting as a concierge and property manager for residents. She also is responsible for the community's budget, screening service-vendors and keeping the residents connected.

"It's a hassle-free way to own a home," Coltrell said. "We want them to have the best service they can."

Homeowners association fees of $250 per month cover many of the services Coltrell provides, but others have additional fees. The luxury community will only have 200 homes at build out and many of the residents will live there part time.

"The intimacy is a big thing," Coltrell said. "We're so small I get to know everyone."

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