Scottsdale mayoral candidates talk finer political points of General Plan document

Municipality still operates under 2001 plan

Posted 5/6/20

From a population of just over 250,000 residents, Scottsdale voters will see a ballot of five candidates who have emerged in pursuit of becoming the next figurehead of The West’s Most Western …

To Our Valued Readers –

Visitors to our website will be limited to five stories per month unless they opt to subscribe.

For $5.99, less than 20 cents a day, subscribers will receive unlimited access to the website, including access to our Daily Independent e-edition, which features Arizona-specific journalism and items you can’t find in our community print products, such as weather reports, comics, crossword puzzles, advice columns and so much more six days a week.

Our commitment to balanced, fair reporting and local coverage provides insight and perspective not found anywhere else.

Your financial commitment will help to preserve the kind of honest journalism produced by our reporters and editors. We trust you agree that independent journalism is an essential component of our democracy. Please click here to subscribe.

Sincerely,
Charlene Bisson, Publisher, Independent Newsmedia

Please log in to continue

Log in
I am anchor

Scottsdale mayoral candidates talk finer political points of General Plan document

Municipality still operates under 2001 plan

From left are Scottsdale mayoral candidates: Lisa Borowsky, Bob Littlefield, Suzanne Klapp, David Ortega and Virginia Korte.
From left are Scottsdale mayoral candidates: Lisa Borowsky, Bob Littlefield, Suzanne Klapp, David Ortega and Virginia Korte.
Posted

From a population of just over 250,000 residents, Scottsdale voters will see a ballot of five candidates who have emerged in pursuit of becoming the next figurehead of The West’s Most Western Town.

The City of Scottsdale hosts a primary election Tuesday, Aug. 4 meanwhile a general election could be held if needed, which would be Tuesday, Nov. 3. To be elected at the primary election, a candidate must receive a majority of all of the legal votes cast.

Leading up to the Aug. 4 election, the Scottsdale Independent in partnership with the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce, Scottsdale Coalition for Today and Tomorrow (SCOTT), Scottsdale leadership and the City of Scottsdale will host a May 27 virtual mayoral candidate debate that will be televised on local cable access and streamed online.

The field of mayoral candidates include two current incumbents but none are strangers to the political limelight. They are:

  • Incumbents Suzanne Klapp and Virginia Korte.
  • Challengers: Lisa Borowsky, Bob Littlefield and David Ortega.

Independent Newsmedia launches its weekly question-and-answer series with both mayoral and City Council candidates providing insights to paramount issues facing the city and its people.

For the first installment, Independent Newsmedia reached out to each mayoral candidate seeking a firm understanding of how they view the General Plan, its pending update process and the municipality’s inability to update its current version for about 20 years.

As Scottsdale rapidly approaches build-out, those guiding principles have never been more paramount, both elected and senior staff contend. What first began as House Bill 2294 in the late 1990s at the Arizona Legislature is now known as the Growing Smarter Act, which requires cities and towns to adopt a General Plan. Provisions of the original Arizona legislation defines an effort “to assist communities in developing strategies for dealing with population growth.”

The City of Scottsdale continues to operate on its 2001 plan.

Lisa Borowsky

• The Scottsdale General Plan update is underway. The municipality of Scottsdale has experienced difficulty in being able to get an update approved by voters. Why is that do you think?
Having a vision for Scottsdale, which originates with the mayor and council, is critical to the success of the citizen driven General Plan update. Incorporating many diverse interests in a single document is always challenging, but I believe this can be accomplished with clear, vision-based direction to those involved in the process.

• What would you do as Scottsdale mayor to unite residents behind a collective vision of the future?
Scottsdale is made up of vastly diverse areas, each with their own unique character. It is important to carefully consider input from citizens residing in those distinct areas for future guidance.

• What do you believe the Scottsdale General Plan stands for?
The Scottsdale General Plan is a visioning document that should be a useful guide as to the future of our city.

• As buildout looms --- and now living in a COVID-19 world --- how vital of a document is the upcoming General Plan update?
The vision, process, input and final outcome of the General Plan are critical to achieving its vitality.

• Do you believe Scottsdale residents can get behind a common vision of Scottsdale’s future? And, in your opinion what does that look like balancing multi-family and single-family residential projects?
The “common” vision for Scottsdale must include a recognition that our city is diverse. Citizens should be able to rely upon the preservation of the distinct character of those diverse areas. Predictability in future growth, which doesn’t substantively change an area’s character, is key.

Suzanne Klapp

• The Scottsdale General Plan update is underway. The municipality of Scottsdale has experienced difficulty in being able to get an update approved by voters. Why is that do you think?
Scottsdale has had difficulty gaining consensus and agreement on a General Plan from many segments of the city as well as from the individual council members. Unless these diverse views and opinions are addressed in the General Plan, we will likely again have a problem gaining voter approval. Lack of communications and education was also a problem before the last vote, and these issues must be addressed with any new plan.

• What would you do as Scottsdale mayor to unite residents behind a collective vision of the future?
Working diligently with the General Plan Update Committee and the City Council members on a General Plan would be part of my mayoral responsibilities. As a full-time mayor, I will dedicate the necessary time to this issue and will follow the committee’s discussions closely and get regular updates, not only just from the chairman, but also from committee members to determine where we can find common ground and build consensus.

We must use new technologies and platforms to get more resident input throughout the plan development process. Tens of thousands of people have moved to Scottsdale since our last General Plan was approved in 2001. We need to know what they want from their city, along with views from people who have lived here more than 20 years. When the committee’s work is completed and their recommendations are available, I would form a Council Subcommittee on the General Plan, with council members who represent different interests to discuss, ask questions and make final recommendations to the full City Council.

• What do you believe the Scottsdale General Plan stands for?
The General Plan serves as a guiding tool that defines not only the present community landscape, but equally serves as an aspirational view for our city in the coming decade.

• As buildout looms --- and now living in a COVID-19 world --- how vital of a document is the upcoming General Plan update?
The updated General Plan is more important today than ever before as our city navigates the uncharted path following the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, the population of Scottsdale has grown dramatically since the last General Plan was approved, and these newer residents’ perspectives need to be represented in our overall vision.

• Do you believe Scottsdale residents can get behind a common vision of Scottsdale’s future? And, in your opinion what does that look like balancing multi-family and single-family residential projects?
I absolutely believe that the residents of Scottsdale can unite behind a common vision, but it will require a balanced view of Scottsdale’s future shaped and shared by the City Council and residents. I am known as a consensus builder on the City Council, and I will use those skills to emphasize the word “unity” in “community.”

The key components of a balanced vision are:

  • Scottsdale remains a national and international tourist destination.
  • Scottsdale remains economically healthy and a major provider of jobs to bolster a sustainable city budget and keep taxes low.
  • Scottsdale remains a highly rated city for public safety and other services.
  • Scottsdale remains a highly regarded place to live by its residents.
  • Scottsdale continues to be seen as friendly to all people: children, adults, and aging.
  • Scottsdale’s reputation as an arts community grows to a level enjoyed decades ago.
  • Scottsdale collaborates to provide housing choices for all residents, including attainable housing for moderate-income residents.
  • Scottsdale’s preparedness for emergencies remains high.
  • Scottsdale is seen as environmentally sustainable and a leader in desert living.

Virginia Korte

• The Scottsdale General Plan update is underway. The municipality of Scottsdale has experienced difficulty in being able to get an update approved by voters. Why is that do you think?
The voters failed to approve the last two General Plans because two sitting council members mounted a public campaign against the General Plan, along with a small group of naysayers. I’ve learned whenever there is confusion, voters say NO. Leadership matters in updating the General Plan. This is why the 2019 general obligation bond measure was approved by 72% of the voters. The council exercised leadership and unanimously supported the bond measure, and if we want the General Plan to pass, the council must unanimously support it.

• What would you do as Scottsdale mayor to unite residents behind a collective vision of the future?
Updating the city’s General Plan is a priority. The process not only needs to be inclusive, it must reflect our core values and include a reasonable consensus of what we want our future to look like for generations.

However, shepherding a General Plan is only a part of the process to create a community-wide vision. It’s time we return to our roots and engage in a community-wide conversation to define a vision for Scottsdale --- “Scottsdale Conversations 2050.” Back in the 1960s the city invited citizens to participate in the 1964-65 Scottsdale Town Enrichment Program (STEP) forums.

The STEP committee recommended bold measures to retain and enhance Scottsdale’s character: banning billboards, and the creation of a multi-use recreational greenbelt, which we know today as the Indian Bend greenbelt (and not a concrete channel for flood control). This visioning process, which lasted a few years, laid the foundation for what Scottsdale is today.

And subsequent visioning processes in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s built upon each prior decade and our citizens continued to update the guiding principles for which created a shared community vision for Scottsdale. Unfortunately, the last community-wide visioning process was over 20 years ago.

As mayor, I will initiate “Scottsdale Conversations 2050.” This will be a year-long, open-community process that through consensus will build upon past visions and result in a collective vision for the future of our community.

• What do you believe the Scottsdale General Plan stands for?
Scottsdale’s General Plan is a road map. It guides both short-term and long-term decisions for our community. If we are not thinking ahead about what we want Scottsdale to become, then all of our decisions, development, or lack of development will be a response to short-term whims and not long-term planning. The General Plan is necessary for the long-term “exceptionalism” for Scottsdale.

• As buildout looms --- and now living in a COVID-19 world --- how vital of a document is the upcoming General Plan update?
The General Plan Task Force must quickly adapt to the changes of our environment due to the coronavirus. The pandemic has changed and will change Scottsdale’s economic base and overall community structure. However, big plans take time and prudence dictates that we start now planning for where we are going.

• Do you believe Scottsdale residents can get behind a common vision of Scottsdale’s future? And, in your opinion what does that look like balancing multi-family and single-family residential projects?
Yes, though only through engaging in a community-wide conversation to define a vision for Scottsdale – “Scottsdale Conversations 2050,” as defined above. For there to be buy-in, there must be involvement and a sense of ownership.

Residential projects, whether single-family or multi-family, are market driven. There needs to be a mix of residential projects to anticipate market demands and respond to market demands. Leadership means understanding the complexity of a situation and taking that complexity seriously, and leadership matters.

Bob Littlefield

• The Scottsdale General Plan update is underway. The municipality of Scottsdale has experienced difficulty in being able to get an update approved by voters. Why is that do you think?
The last General Plan update presented to the voters was too developer-friendly, which is why we organized --- successfully --- to defeat it.

• What would you do as Scottsdale mayor to unite residents behind a collective vision of the future?
As mayor, I would make putting a resident-friendly General Plan update before the voters one of my highest priorities.

• What do you believe the Scottsdale General Plan stands for?
The voters have officially told us their vision by approving Scottsdale’s General Plan at the ballot box. The voter-approved General Plan, if followed, would have allowed Scottsdale to grow and evolve while maintaining our special character and high quality of life. Sadly the current City Council majority, including my two major opponents in the race for mayor, have routinely approved development that is incompatible with this General Plan and have refused to put a resident-friendly update to this plan on the ballot for the voters to consider.

• As buildout looms --- and now living in a COVID-19 world --- how vital of a document is the upcoming General Plan update?
More vital than ever! Without a binding General Plan to guide development decisions we end up with the ad hoc unbridled development pursued by our current City Council majority, including by my two major opponents for mayor, that overtaxes our infrastructure ($800M in unfunded infrastructure needs according to city staff) and threatens Scottsdale’s special character and high quality of life.

• Do you believe Scottsdale residents can get behind a common vision of Scottsdale’s future? And, in your opinion what does that look like balancing multi-family and single-family residential projects?
Yes. Even though residents in different parts of our city want different specific things for their particular neighborhoods I believe we can agree on the overall standards that make Scottsdale special:
• High standards for design, development and code enforcement
• Lots of open space
• Unobstructed views of the stunning natural landscape
• Low density
• A unique Western character

David Ortega

• The Scottsdale General Plan updated is underway. The municipality of Scottsdale has experienced difficulty in being able to get an update approved by voters. Why is that do you think?
Former councilmembers Bob Littlefield and Lisa Borowsky and current Councilmembers Suzanne Klapp and Virginia Korte need to explain why they could not get the 2011 General Plan approved on their watch.

I helped to craft the successful GP-2001, which is the only valid, resident-driven blueprint. Scottsdale residents and businesses are skeptical because they have been bombarded by developments that altered neighborhood life and the downtown, without regard to the guiding principles of GP-2001.

• What would you do as Scottsdale mayor to unite residents behind a collective vision of the future?
Absolutely, spearheading the General Plan 2035 is a city council priority. I am an architect, so by nature, I am a proven problem solver. Tony Robbins said “Identify problems but power energy to solutions.” City Charter and Arizona “Growing Smarter” mandate that mayor and council must craft together our “virtual” city. My message to residents, businesses, schools, churches and to all stakeholders is, we will listen, learn and lead to shape the city you desire.

What do you believe the Scottsdale General Plan stands for?
General Plan 2035 should be the continuation of GP 2001, which reflects the overall guidance, spirit and aspirations of our diverse city. Our General Plan is not about a perfect world, it is about guidance guardrails, which elected mayor and council must take seriously.

• As buildout looms --- and now living in a COVID-19 world --- how vital of a document is the upcoming General Plan update?
COVID-19 has shaken the world economy and challenges us at home, in our neighborhoods and business community. When the pandemic subsides, Scottsdale will recover as one of the most desirable cities in the world. Our high quality of life, business-friendly citizen-driven expectations for success are not obsolete.

General Plan 2035 is a multi-faceted document with several avenues for success. Scottsdale is the intersection of talent, innovation and investment capital. We have a tenacious spirit that will continue to prosper, even in the COVID-19 era.

• Do you believe Scottsdale residents can get behind a common vision of Scottsdale’s future? And, in your opinion what does that look like balancing multi-family and single-family residential projects?
Over the last dozen years, the council majority has freelanced up-zonings, granted amended stipulations and waivers to developers. There are step-back provisions, maximum height and view corridors which have been violated. GP-2035 like GP-2001 should allow the full range of multifamily and single-family housing. GP-2035 must include (this is a boring subject) analysis of existing infrastructure capacity. Upstream and downstream utilities and traffic, their actual carrying capacity must be evaluated, not just stipulated by words, on approval.

Specifically, in 2017, the City Council renamed “Old Town,” formerly the Central Business District (Downtown). They also raised the height and density from 36 feet to 60 feet and 150 feet. Old Town streets are not changed, nor the 50-year-old underground infrastructure. SouthBridge Two and Marquee sewer demand is three times invert capacity. Mayor and council blanketed, the entire Old Town to allow up-zoning of all blocks. Build-out would gridlock Old Town and require astronomical utility expansion.

GP-2035 must define the capacity and density of Old Town. Unilateral up-zoning action by the council majority is out of control and required citizen-driven referendum. General Plan 2035 will provide sensible guardrails.

Comments