Politics of ‘no’ curtail tall project? - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Politics of ‘no’ curtail tall project?

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Posted: Sunday, December 17, 2006 5:35 am | Updated: 2:20 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

One Scottsdale now will not be quite as tall as its developers wanted it to be.

And yet DMB Associates’ withdrawal Friday of a request for a height variance isn’t much of a victory for those who opposed it. Will leaving tall buildings not quite so tall somehow significantly preserve a desert lifestyle? Not likely.

Yet someone drew a line in the sand — except at Scottsdale Road and Loop 101 sand’s in very short supply.

The Coalition of Pinnacle Peak’s threat of putting the height variance on a referendum ballot sent DMB looking into a months- to yearslong delay in its 120-acre upscale mixed-use project.

DMB wants One Scottsdale to open in late 2009 at the intersection’s northeast corner. And so it withdrew the plan to keep to that timetable.

This decision surely enabled some members of the Scottsdale City Council to publicly flex their regulatory muscles.

And yet, what was gained? Not much for the physical appearance of One Scottsdale.

Within several years, this intersection will for all intents and purposes consist of a grove of at least a dozen tall buildings, well, tall for this part of the Valley. Some will be on Phoenix’s side of Scottsdale Road, some on Scottsdale’s.

And 99 out of 100 visitors to either side won’t be able to tell what got preserved.

DMB managing director Drew Brown said Friday the withdrawal only means “a little less flexibility” in completing the $1.5 billion project.

Up until a Nov. 14 council meeting that led to a postponement of a decision, government action regarding One Scottsdale had been quite routine.

Two months ago, only a few residents with objections to raising the heights of some buildings at One Scottsdale even bothered to make them at the Planning Commission meeting, the Tribune reported. The commission unanimously approved raising some heights in the middle of the project from 60 to 89 feet.

The more complex proposal was four years ago, when DMB convinced a unanimous council to approve the entire One Scottsdale project, to be built on neighboring 40-acre parcels of land once referred to as the Stacked 40s. The council even threw in a $5.5 million subsidy to lure a car dealership to the area, the Trib reported.

Then, Scottsdale was moving out of a period marked by the politics of “no.” Its darkest hour was the 2001 loss of the hockey arena that noticeably slowed the revitalization of south Scottsdale.

Had the arena been built at the former Los Arcos Mall site, today there wouldn’t be any need for heated debates about light rail as a redevelopment tool in the southern part of the city, or to wonder aloud when the SkySong technological innovation center at the old mall site is going to finally take off.

It’s too soon to know if the politics of no is returning to Scottsdale. But Friday’s withdrawal means the politics of yes and even the politics of maybe are farther away.

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