Divide Grows Between North And South Scottsdale

April 04, 2014

(Photo by Mark Brodie-KJZZ)
Jim Heitel at Brown's Ranch Trailhead in North Scottsdale.

Scottsdale has been working on a new General Plan after city voters rejected the last one in 2012.

Arizona cities have to come up with plans, generally each decade, and put them up for a vote. The plans themselves are basically a vision for that city for the next several years.

But back to Scottsdale. City leaders had hoped to vote on the new plan later this year, but now, that’s probably not going to happen.

If you look at a map, Scottsdale is a long, thin city, and there are some significant differences between different parts of town.


First, Mark Brodie visited North Scottsdale.


Hear that? Nothing? Exactly.

Out here in North Scottsdale at Brown’s Ranch Trailhead, there are more cactuses and birds than people. Parts of this area are dominated by the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, which Jim Heitel said is part of the reason he decided to move here about 15 years ago.

"It is wholly a unique experience, in the sense that it is a rural, low-density type of environment," Heitel said.

Heitel is the chairman of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission. He has also served on other city boards and commissions over the years. Heitel said development in this part of town is built on preserving the environment. That means no high rises, larger lots and a more rural feel.

"You can be here, you can not be around, no streetlights, and some of the roads are still dirt roads, but 10 minutes away, you’ve got the best shopping in the country," said Heitel.

Heitel wants to make sure each part of Scottsdale keeps its flavor. He was a member of the city’s General Plan 2014 task force but resigned earlier this year. He is concerned about development encroaching on open spaces and said it’s not just an issue for North Scottsdale.

"There seems to be this aspect in the community that thinks that just any development, regardless of what it is, is a sign of prosperity, and it has nothing to do with prosperity," said Heitel.

"That area has been so carefully crafted, in terms of when development has taken place, that it is respectful of the desert and respectful of the place," said Paula Randolph, CEO of Associa Arizona which manages homeowner associations.

She also lives in Scottsdale and has been a part of the group that worked on a vision statement for the new general plan. And, she used to work for DMB, which has built in North Scottsdale.

"The development has been thoughtful in my view. It’s been respectful in terms of not having development in your face," said Randolph.

Randolph acknowledges however, that some residents may disagree. And, while North Scottsdale residents may not want a dense, urban environment, some of the developments there, like DC Ranch, kind of simulate it.

"Urbanity with a limit is how I would describe that," she said.

About a third of Scottsdale has been set aside for preservation, meaning it won’t be developed. Sitting on her back patio, former Mayor Sam Campana said much of the rest of the city has already been developed.

"Preservation of the downtown and preservation of the mountains. Those two things, if we can continue to do that, we will continue to have the Scottsdale we’ve all loved," said Campana.

"I guess it’s interesting that you consider both of parts of town to have preservationists, but for totally different things," I said.

"For totally different things, that’s right," Campana said.

Campana cites tensions between North and South Scottsdale as a reason for the defeat of the city’s General Plan. But, she said, disagreements between different parts of the city are not new. She remembers talk of secession decades ago, which would have split Scottsdale into north and south.

"If somebody would ever think about actual secession,that would never happen. What would you call the new town and who would want to live there? Who gets to be Scottsdale?" Campana said.

Campana said it's not a bad thing that residents are engaged and express their opinions. And, she said other Valley cities have used Scottsdale as a model of how to grow. Randolph sees parallels in the West Valley.

"It is as beautiful as Scottsdale is, it’s just younger than Scottsdale in terms of its urbanity," Randolph said. "I think you’ll see it happen there. It’s a recognition of how do you keep the lifestyle chosen by those who have moved there, along with allowing the community to grow, and allow the interesting pieces to keep our citizenry here."

Randolph said that means having some areas of town with an urban feel and some with a more wide-open-spaces kind of vibe. She said both need to succeed to maintain the city’s brand and its tourism industry.

Heitel agrees there is room for both in the city but said tourism officials tend to focus on one in their marketing campaigns.

"They don’t paint a picture of Scottsdale of high rises, high density and high traffic. Every one of those pictures they put on is a picture of what we’re looking at right here, the Sonoran Desert," said Heitel.


Steve Goldstein went to South Scottsdale next.


South Scottsdale residents said their part of the city should be getting more attention. Public Relations pro Jason Rose, who grew up in Scottsdale and now works there, said the southern part of the city needs a champion.

Lisa Haskell has has lived in South Scottsdale for 45 years.