Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross has grown skeptical of the Los Arcos Town Center plan being negotiated between the city and the developers of the 42-acre site.
The mayor, who originally joined four other City Council members in voting to continue talks with the Ellman Cos., said the controversial tax break the developers are seeking is polarizing the city, and that she wants to see a plan that contains more public amenities.
Manross said late Friday that she no longer favors the "big-box" retail concept that would include a 550,000-square-foot shopping center anchored by a Wal-Mart Supercenter, a Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse and a Sam's Club.
"I will base my decision ultimately on what I believe is good public policy," the mayor said about a future vote on the plan. "I have asked them again — as I did a year ago and two years ago — to consider rather than a big box, more of a mixed-use development. For example, removing one big box."
The newfound skepticism presents a wrinkle for a redevelopment deal that could be presented to the council before its summer hiatus on July 2. If another council member turns on the plan, Ellman Cos. would not have enough votes to move forward.
"I'm surprised," said Sharon Morgan, who is co-chairwoman of the Los Arcos Neighborhood Coalition, an Ellman Cos.-backed group of residents who are lobbying for the project. "It's not over yet. All it takes is a 4-3 vote, but we would still like the mayor's support."
The Ellman Cos. is seeking to recoup a portion of the sales taxes generated at the site; that portion is capped at $42 million in present-day dollars. With inflation factored in, the amount it could recoup equates to $238 million over 40 years, according to the proposed terms of the deal.
Company representatives have said that much of the money would be used to design upscale-looking building facades and for a public parking structure which would eventually be deeded to the city.
City economic officials have said the plan could generate up to $200,000 a month in city tax revenue.
Ellman Cos. officials could not be reached for comment on Saturday, but Manross said they intend to stick with their original plan of three big-box stores.
Critics of the plan call the tax subsidy outrageous. They want a project that has a "community vision" and long-term staying power.
"Being the southern gateway to Scottsdale . . . I would love to see (Ellman Cos.) raise the bar and put into effect a plan for the whole area that everybody could benefit from," said Nancy Cantor, co-chairwoman of the Scottsdale Coalition, a group of residents opposing the Los Arcos Town Center.
Manross said the project as it is proposed offers little, if any, true public amenities, and is fostering divisiveness in the community.
"Up to this point, the current proposed development with the 40-year deal is continuing to create polarization in the community," she said. "I don't see a true public use in (the) agreement."
The Ellman Cos., have a contentious history in Scottsdale. The company once sought to build a professional hockey arena at Los Arcos, but fights between the city and developer and Phoenix Coyotes co-owner Steve Ellman killed the proposal.
Ellman quietly worked a deal with Glendale and abruptly pulled the arena plans in Scottsdale in April 2001. The West Valley hockey arena is now under construction.