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DDC Update After Scottsdale City Council Meeting

There was a city council meeting on January 11th where the city gave the Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale (DDCS) group about $1.7M of tourism development funds to pay for a study to define what the DDC will look like, what uses and functions it will have, a business plan, define development costs, etc. This is similar to the effort the city already paid over $500,000 for before that is now being “redone”. Council members Kathy Littlefield and Guy Phillips opposed this amount and wanted to reduce it to just define the concept and take that to the public for comments, but the rest of the council approved the full amount with some tweaks to the statement of work. Council members Littlefield and Phillips also clearly stated that the will  of the voters should be respected and intrusions such as this into THEIR Preserve should require a public vote.

Beside the approval to go forward, there were some other statements that are critical to address.

]The DDCS CEO, Christine Kovack, said there would be public outreach to gather public opinion 

about both the location and exhibits and other features of the DDC they are planning to have. She further stated that if the public clearly stated they didn’t want it in the Preserve, they would look at alternate sites. We have some to suggest that have already been given to them. If these outreach events happen I will send out an announcement so everyone concerned can attend and voice your opinion. This is critical so we need to make sure these events are well attended and the public’s voice is heard.

The council (Suzanne Klapp and others) stated that it is their understanding that the city (the council) can build ANYTHING they want in the Preserve because it is city land. There was an executive session with the city attorney before this meeting so this was undoubtedly one of the topics the attorney advised them on. This is possibly one legal issue we could hire an attorney to investigate because it is basically stating that the city can violate its own rules anytime it wants and also violate the basic contract with the voters expressed in the various votes to create and fund the Preserve.

3.     There was talk about modifying the Preserve Ordinance to accommodate the DDC and its uses that clearly violate the current Preserve Ordinance. At the same time, there was the statement that they city can build whatever it wants in the Preserve without modifying the ordinance. Apparently the DDCS group has already supplied the city a position paper on what to do with the Preserve Ordinance, very disturbing. The LAST thing we want to see happen is a modification to the Preserve Ordinance because that opens up the Preserve to all sorts of uses and buildings that were strictly prohibited by the ordinance. This is perhaps another area where an attorney would be necessary. If the city does modify the ordinance, they will have to do it in a public meeting, so we would really have to get a lot of people to that meeting, have signed petitions, etc. to show that the public is definitely against such a change. Again I will notify everyone if this happens.

4.      The issue of use of Preserve funds to pay for the design and construction of the DDC is another big issue. Clearly if the DDC is located in the Preserve, they will look to take Preserve funds to pay for it. The city attorney has already ruled they can use Preserve funds to pay for design and construction without a public vote. This would be a total violation of the trust the public put in the city when it passed the tax increases to pay for the preserve and fund trails and trail heads. It was NEVER anticipated that the city would steal these funds to build a huge facility in the Preserve that has nothing to do with “creating appropriate public access into the Preserve” which is what our trails and trail heads do. The second vote allowed the funds to be used for “improvements thereto” to accommodate trails and trail heads. This is something else we have to watch closely and where an attorney would be helpful because it is a clear breach of what the tax increase was supposed to fund.

5.      Several members of the council stated that the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy (MSC) should have more of a part in the DDC and its development. Right now they are being cut out. The MSC has similar concerns to ours on the location of the DDC and would like some part in the education component as that is part of their mission. In talking with one of the major leaders of the MSC, they think the DDC should be outside the Preserve at the same location a number of us had independently decided it should go.

So the bottom line is that DDCS will develop the DDC concept, supposedly with public outreach, to determine what is acceptable, and come back to the council with the concept and design drawings to show buildings and site plans. At that time the council would decide to go ahead with construction, assuming funding sources have been identified that would pay for the design and construction of the DDC. Funding of the DDC is a critical issue, but if they use Preserve funds, they have solved it at the expense of acquiring more land for the Preserve and/or building more trails in the Preserve. Until this is done, the only thing we can do is attend whatever public input meetings they have and voice our opinion which hopefully would be the following:

Location - It should not be located in the Preserve unless it meets all provisions of the current Preserve Ordinance or is approved by the voters in Scottsdale.

Preserve Ordinance – The exiting Preserve Ordinance should not be modified in any way to accommodate the DDC.

Funding sources – No portion of the funding for the design and construction of the DDC should come from the Preserve tax without voter approval.

Funding approval - Any source of public funding should be subject to voter approval.5.      [endif]Operation & Maintenance Cost – the public shall not have to subsidize any part of the operation and maintenance of the DDC.

Most people would be willing to accept interpretative trails and similar low key exhibits at the Gateway, but big buildings, lights, noise, etc. isn’t acceptable.

I will keep you posted on any events we are aware of as they occur and what actions we can take. For now we will have to wait for the DDCS to have their public input meetings and eventually come back with a design, which is supposed to happen in 18 months. In the mean time, please pay attention to the upcoming election for city council members and vote out bad ones and vote in those who will respect the Preserve and all it is. For reference, council members Klapp and Korte are solidly behind putting the DDC in the Preserve, as is Mayor Lane, all of which are up for reelection. More on this as the election and candidates take shape.



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commented 2016-02-07 07:01:00 -0700 · Flag
The taxpayers willingly paid for a Preserve and now through manipulation they are going to pay for a monstrous entertainment center to benefit the businesses. The purpose of any government is to provide services for all of it’s citizens, not special interest groups. The November Bond issue did not propose a $1.7 million DDC study. I do not like these Public/Private partnerships. That is not the purpose of government to discriminate and burden the local population with entertainment for visitors. If you want it pay for it with the bed tax, not another Bond Burden on me.
commented 2016-02-07 06:52:31 -0700 · Flag
No tax on local citizens for visitors experience. When I travel I pay to see and do what I want to do. The last bond issue projects that were more important are going to be neglected for another entertainment center. The council is taking a heavy hand on the citizens. We did not ask for another entertainment center. If the tourism and realty industries benefit from DDC, they should pay for it. The taxpayers willingly paid for and expected a PRESERVE and nothing more.
posted about this on Facebook 2016-01-16 08:30:58 -0700
DDC Update After Scottsdale City Council Meeting
@TPScottsdale tweeted link to this page. 2016-01-16 08:30:54 -0700
published this page in Scottsdale City Council & DDC 2016-01-16 08:30:47 -0700