Scottsdale Council Mulls Public Vote For McDowell Sonoran Preserve Development

By Mariana Dale
Published: Thursday, September 28, 2017 - 6:58am
Updated: Thursday, September 28, 2017 - 8:01am
(Image courtesy of Swaback Partners)
The pavillion in the artist rendering of the Desert Discovery Center.

A controversial development in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran preserve may go to a public vote.

“I’ve never had the kind of reaction and the kind of vitriol and kinds of devastating division that we have with this now,” Mayor Jim Lane said at a Tuesday work study city council meeting.

The proposed Desert Discovery Center is now called Desert EDGE - it has a smaller footprint and price tag than the original vision.

The 5-acre project would include exhibits, a cafe and a collaboration with Arizona State University for an estimated cost of $61 million.

At the conclusion of a four-hour meeting, Lane asked city staff to draft language that would put the project to a public vote via Scottsdale’s General Plan or charter.

The public could also discuss which existing taxes support Desert Edge.

Vice Mayor Suzanne Klapp said while the council could act unilaterally on the project, she’d prefer another option.

“I do think we also can construct a public vote that will work to give some people comfort,” Klapp said. “Particularly those that are concerned about the precedent setting part of this.”

Councilwoman Linda Milhaven said the responsibility to trigger a vote rests with the project’s opponents.

“I think it’s bad precedent,” Milhaven said. “I think it’s bad public policy. And for the people who want the vote you have the vehicle to get the vote. All you need to do is go get the signatures.”

Some critics of the project believe Desert Edge could open the door to further commercial development in the preserve and are concerned with how the project will be funded and maintained.