Ortega rips Legislature in annual address

Scottsdale Mayor David Oretga addressed a number of issues in his annual State of the City speech last week. (David Minton/Progress Staff Photographer)

Managing some 5,000 short-term rentals in Scottsdale was a monumental task for the city’s staff and elected officials in 2022, and it looks to be just as daunting a job in 2023.

That’s why Mayor David Ortega used his annual State of the City address Jan. 18 to call for a new zoning category for short-term rentals.

“This year the proliferation of short-term rentals continues to threaten our neighborhoods,” Ortega said. “Today, I am asking that our council and city staff initiate text amendments to place short-term rentals as a separate zoning category in our zoning ordinance.

“We will continue to push for density caps, density restrictions and distancing measures to rein in short-term rentals.”

He blamed the short-term rental “debacle” on the state Legislature.

“In 2015, actions taken by the Arizona Legislature essentially legalized short-term rentals everywhere, pre-empting local zoning oversight,” Ortega said. “Unregulated short-term properties violate our outstanding neighborhood livability.”

Though he noted lawmakers returned some control to the cities last year and the Scottsdale City Council approved amendments to the city’s vacation rental code to require all short-term rentals to register with the city in order to do business in town.

“Scottsdale's short-term rental licensing program is in effect and owners of STR properties must comply with every term and condition and be held accountable,” Ortega said.

Over-construction of multifamily complexes is just as big of a crisis for the city, Ortega said.

“Similar to the short-term rental debacle, which originated at the Arizona Legislature, there are forces at the Legislature attempting to pre-empt our oversight of dense apartments,” he said.

“This a concerted national campaign by multi-housing interests to subvert our zoning rights. Their aim is to overwhelm cities like Scottsdale.

“Essentially with the flight of populations from dense urban cities, the multihousing interests want to cut their losses there and bring massive density here. Their lobbyists and elected sympathizers blame mayors and city councils from Peoria to Gilbert to Chandler and in-between,” he said.

“They demand that Scottsdale bend to their will and are trying to use the Legislature as their tool. Know your mayor and council will not capitulate to their demands. There are over 220,000 unbuilt housing units already entitled in metro Phoenix.”

And that’s not all the Legislature is doing to Scottsdale, Ortega said.

“Looking forward, there are elements at the Legislature now threatening to take control of our Scottsdale Water facilities,” he said.

“Scottsdale Water is the most sophisticated integrated water resource and delivery system in all Arizona and some legislators are attempting to hijack our facilities to benefit out-of-jurisdiction wildcat subdivisions,” he said in a nod to the situation in the Rio Verde Foothills community northeast of Scottsdale, where the city turned off a standpipe servicing about 700 homes relying on hauled water.

Ortega even called out Maricopa County Supervisor Thomas Galvin, who asked Scottsdale to not turn off water.

“Respectfully, Maricopa County Supervisor Galvin, Scottsdale Water cannot be commandeered in favor of unbridled dry-lot growth in outlying county areas outside of Scottsdale,” Ortega said.

Ortega also spoke of accomplishments by the city in 2022.

“The City Council appointed the Protect and Preserve Task Force – a group of resident volunteers who will play a critical role in our future,” Ortega said.

“The task force will identify and quantify unfunded needs for protecting, preserving, and maintaining all public open spaces—including 44 city parks, the Indian Bend Wash, and certainly, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

He also mentioned the city’s Bell 94 Sports Complex is open for local soccer, rugby teams and ideal for regional and national tournaments.

It wasn’t just all about leisure, though.

“Council authorized design and fast track construction of a new police and fire department training facility. And Information Technology is being upgraded citywide.

And business is booming at the Scottsdale Airport.

“At Scottsdale Airport the new $11 million runway will serve us for decades,” Ortega said. “Our airport is the premier aviation touchpoint for corporate and private jet charter travel.

“More than $125 million in fixed wing facilities expansions including NetJets, will enhance Scottsdale Airport's position as one of the most desirable general aviation airports in the world.”

Things are looking up at Scottsdale Airpark too, he said.

“The greater Scottsdale Airpark area is nearly built out and several obsolete buildings have been removed for significant redevelopment,” Ortega said.

“However, the sale of State Trust Land at the 101 – the northern sector of the greater Airpark area – offers growth opportunities and is dubbed the corporate corridor. New Silicon Valley-based technology headquarters are coming to Scottsdale and regional commercial projects are proposed to keep our economy strong.”

Ortega pointed to some of the opportunities the city will have this coming year that will put Scottsdale back on the international stage, such as the Super Bowl.

“Scottdale is ready to host ESPN’s Super Bowl LVII coverage at the historic Old Town ESPN Main Street Tailgate” Ortega said. “For one week leading up to kick-off, ESPN will broadcast live next to the Rusty Spur showcasing our Western heritage surrounded by one-of-a-kind shops, award-winning restaurants, art galleries, and vibrant night life – all framed by our Arizona sunsets.”

He didn’t forget about the Phoenix Open either.

“Just hours before kick-off, the final round of the Phoenix Open will captivate golf fans,” he said. “The Greatest Show on Grass brings one million fans to Scottsdale and the week of telecasts draws millions more viewers worldwide.”

He also hailed the reopening of the city’s newly refurbished Civic Center.

“From Scottsdale Stadium to joyful kid-friendly play areas outside the Civic Center Library, to the iconic LOVE sculpture at City Hall, new outdoor stages near the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts walk past the Little Red School Museum along tree-shaded pathways to Main Street in Historic Old Town,” he said.

“You can saunter through Main Street galleries then go north to Fifth Avenue brimming with one-of-a-kind shopping and cool dining along the Canal Promenade to Solstice Park. Walk across the Soleri Bridge and find over 270 stores and venues in Fashion Square.”

“Be excited, Scottsdale! Be proud!” he said. “This is going to be an incredible year!”

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