Tea Party of Scottsdale, AZ
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Update on DDC by Howard Myers - April Meetings Scheduled

A lot has happened this past month. There was a meeting the Desert Discovery Scottsdale (DDCS) group had with the stewards of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy (MSC) and a community meeting organized by Windgate Ranch resident Andrea Keck and held at Windgate Ranch. 

The stewards meeting was open only to MSC stewards and family and was held at the Scottsdale Association of Realtors (SAR) who have been vocal proponents of the DDC. Clearly, this meeting was orchestrated by DDCS. A number of stewards expressed their concerns which were:

  1. Why in the preserve ?
  2. Why has it taken so long to have a plan?
  3. Why must a tourist attraction be at the Gateway trail head?
  4. If it has to be on Thompson Peak, please 
  1. keep it separate from the Gateway trail head.
  2. Shouldn’t this project require a city vote by residents?
  3. When will we have appropriate information?
  4. Concern over future commercial development on Preserve land.
  5. Where is the funding going to come from? (Use of Preserve funds is a serious issue)
  6. Is there any recent, reliable study to determine demand for this DDC?

It was said that these concerns would be addressed in the DDCS presentation, but the feeling was that they weren’t. It was also said that ASU was the ONLY formal partner in the DDC which leaves open the question of what role MSC would have if any. MSC already runs very good educational hikes in the Preserve which satisfies the educational goal of the Preserve and has a research group that satisfies that goal too so why do we need a DDC?

At the Windgate community meeting, March 16th, DDCS declined to attend and present anything, though there were a couple of observers there. Andrea Keck put this meeting together and did a fantastic job so we all really appreciate her efforts. Speakers were Andrea, Mayor Lane and Gary Meyer from the city, Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield, Councilman Guy Phillips, Bob Littlefield who is running for Mayor against Mayor Lane, Sonnie Kirtley chairwoman of the Coalition of Greater Scottsdale (COGS), and former McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission (MSPC) chair Jim Heitel. With the exception of Mayor Lane and Gary Meyer, all the speakers were opposed to putting the DDC, or anything like it, in the Preserve and had very good reasons to oppose the location in the Preserve.

The major question raised was what the city attorney actually meant by his comment “The city council has the authority to make improvements in the Preserve and so, yes, I think the council has the authority to determine what needs to be put there. Whether it can build whatever it wants, I don’t know. I'm pretty sure you couldn't build a nuclear waste dump. I'm sure the federal government would have something to say about that. Whether they can build something in the Preserve. Yes, you build trailheads it all the time.” (taken from the transcript of the January 11th City Council meeting). It was pretty clear at the time, due to comments from other council members who were in the executive session where this was discussed, that the city council could decide to build whatever it wants in the Preserve, with the exception of something that might violate State or Federal laws, however Mayor Lane waffled neither confirming or denying what the ruling was and also stating that the city attorney should be fired “if he lied”, kind of throwing him under the bus. As a result, I have sent a message to all council members, and the city attorney, asking for an official ruling in writing so we ALL know what authority the city council has with regard to what can be built in the Preserve and also if whatever is built needs to conform to ALL of the Preserve Ordinance. 

The other major question is can the location be changed, away from the Gateway Trail Head and even OUT of the Preserve? While DDCS is stating their “hands are tied” to keep it at the Gateway, comments from their CEO at the January 11th city council meeting clearly stated they could decide it should be outside the Preserve and if the public was clear they wanted it outside the Preserve, they would move it. Her statement from the meeting transcript was:

“We responded to an RFP that identified the gateway but it's possibility that when the product comes back that the community will say that's not the right place for it, but we have to have this opportunity over the next 18 months to get into had a community and hear from them and let them help us build an appropriate place. You the city council and the community will have the final say to make sure that we have designed the right product at the right location.”

This clearly says they can move it IF THEY WANT TO.

So while there were meetings, there isn’t much that is new. The concerns remain the same, residents are opposed to putting the DDC in the Preserve and even more opposed to locating it at the Gateway Trail Head. They are also opposed to using Preserve funds to build it. So we will see what DDCS says in their “public outreach” report, but we all know what it should say based on meetings we know about so far.

The city is starting to schedule meetings on the DDC, the first two are as follows.

Wednesday, April 20, 5:30 p.m.

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
3830 N Marshall Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85251 

Thursday, April 21, 6:30 p.m.

Highlands Church
Student Center/High School Room
9050 E Pinnacle Peak Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85255 

We need to get as many people as possible to attend these meetings and fill out comment cards 

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posted about this on Facebook 2016-04-01 18:07:32 -0600
Update on DDC by Howard Myers - April Meetings Scheduled
@TPScottsdale tweeted link to this page. 2016-04-01 18:07:28 -0600
published this page in Scottsdale City Council & DDC 2016-04-01 18:07:21 -0600