Scottsdale Fashion Square neighbors challenge expansion

(Source: ScottsdaleIndependent): Melissa Fittro

Nearly 300 residents have signed and filed with the city of Scottsdale what they believe to be a legal petition opposing proposed development modifications at the Scottsdale Fashion Square.

On Friday, July 14, a group of Optima Camelview Village residents — a high-rise residential community just at the north tip of Scottsdale Fashion Square — filed a legal protest with the Scottsdale City Clerk Carolyn Jagger.

The group coined the “SFS Mall Oversight Group, Inc.” says their protest includes 294 signatures of residents living to the north and to the west of the local retail mecca.

While the group’s wish is to amend the proposed changes, ultimately their objective is to find a mutual compromise that is beneficial to the mall and the surrounding communities.

Scottsdale Fashion Square owner, Macerich, a California-based developer of retail commercial space, is seeking approval from municipal leaders to expand the mall’s brick-and-mortar footprint along Hyland Avenue in downtown Scottsdale.

Sitting on the northwest corner of Camelback and Scottsdale roads and surrounded by several other retail shops, office buildings and restaurants is the retail shopping keystone community leaders say generates over $10 million a year — which is about 7 percent — of total city sales tax remits.

Macerich is looking to amend the zoning restrictions on the 56-acre site and approval to increase building heights up to 150 feet.

During its June 28 meeting, the Scottsdale Planning Commission recommended approval of the pursued expansion of Fashion Square. The vote was unanimous, although two commission members — Ali Fakih and Prescott Smith — were forced to recuse themselves due to a conflict of interest, records show.

The zoning amendments are now slated to be on Scottsdale City Council’s Aug. 29 agenda at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

A legal petition creates a need for the local policymakers to have a super-majority vote to pass the item; however, the laws surrounding legal petitions have recently been amended by members of the Arizona Legislature.

Changes made by the Arizona Legislature this past spring will require city staff to evaluate whether or not the challenge filed by SFS Mall Oversight Group is deemed a protest, Scottdale Councilwoman Linda Milhaven says.

Formally, a legal protest only needed to include the signatures of 20 percent of the neighbors to any one side of a project. With the passing of HB 2116, changes to the legal protest law now requires:

Neighbors to obtain signatures from 20 percent of all properties by area and number on every side of and within the project;

A developer would only be required to muster five Scottsdale City Council votes — instead of six — to overturn the citizens’ protest.

HB 2116 was amended by the Senate, passed the House on May 8, and was signed by Gov. Doug Ducey on May 10.

The submitted protest outlines Scottsdale Code Section 1.706, permitting the property owners who represent 20 percent or more of an area directly opposite the property for which a zoning amendment is being considered. Additionally, the homeowners must extend 150 feet from the opposite side of a common street frontage to file a legal protest, the document states.

Residents neighboring Scottsdale Fashion Square filed a legal petition on Friday, July 14. (submitted photo)

Finding a win-win solution

Sitting just a stones throw from the mall property is Optima Camelview Village.

The community boasts wall-to-ceiling windows and natural gardens on every floor. While the proposed 150-foot wall could essentially shade the southern part of the residential community, the overall neighborhood is a top concern among downtown Scottsdale residents.

“Primarily we are very concerned about the sustainability of our neighborhood,” Optima Camelview Village resident, Kevin Gambill said in a Friday, July 14 phone interview.

“In terms of skyline, in terms of density, in terms of traffic, in terms of shade impact on our complex and the proposed setbacks and step-backs of their new development.”

Mr. Gambill says their petition yielded 38 percent of affected homeowners.

“We’ve proposed, are you willing to compromise somewhere between 90 and 150 (feet)? Or are you willing to increase the setbacks and setbacks so the rise in the altitude is further back toward the mall?” the downtown homeowner explains.

“In both of those cases they’ve said, ‘no,’ and those are two big negotiation points where we’re willing to talk.”

Mr. Gambill says he and a few other neighbors have been actively involved in the project for several months. Starting with just a few group of people, the involvement grew substantially once more neighbors started hearing about the project.

“The original goal was to work with the mall and Macerich to come up with a win-win solution,” Mr. Gambill explained. “Something that doesn’t impact us greatly, but still allowed them their maximum flexibility for development.”

Optima Camelview’s homeowners association has remained neutral on the issue, but they have facilitated a number of open forums between Macerich and residents.

While these meetings have resulted in a list of compromises or stipulations, ultimately the setbacks and setbacks were not an area of concession, Mr. Gambill says.

“They did come up with a list of stipulations, but when you really look at what they’re stipulation it wasn’t really changing anything,” he said. “The bottom line is we want to work with them, we want to come up with something that is beautiful. Right now it’s an empty lot and it’s not very beautiful.”

Continuing to work with neighbors, businesses and the city of Scottsdale is a top priority, says Macerich Assistance Vice President of Development, Andy Greenwood, and they remain committed to the project.

“Macerich is capitalizing on the strong growth in Scottsdale and greater Phoenix to enhance this market-dominant retail property,” Mr. Greenwood said in a July 18 prepared statement.

“Scottsdale Fashion Square is already the region’s undisputed luxury leader, and we continue to see significant opportunity to better serve this attractive and buoyant metropolitan area for the long term. We have been working with neighbors, businesses, retailers and the Scottsdale City Council for some time to ensure that Scottsdale Fashion Square’s expansion moves forward in a manner that’s geared toward the ever-evolving regional shopping center business. We remain committed to the project, and to the community, and look forward to continuing to work together to execute the best plan for the shopping center’s expansion — for downtown, and for the great City of Scottsdale.”​​​


Optima Camelview Village, pictured above, sits just north of Scottsdale Fashion Square. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

City council view

Scottsdale Councilwoman Linda Milhaven was on the development review board late last year when the proposed project first came forward, and she believes overall, this project will be beneficial for the community.

Linda Milhaven

The purpose of the development review board is to review the architectural design and layout of proposed development plans for commercial development and preliminary plats for residential subdivisions, the city website states.

The board includes a member of city council, a Planning Commission member and five members of the public with professional design, architecture or development experience.

“Several of the neighbors spoke about shade, height and impact,” Councilwoman Milhaven explained in a July 18 phone interview. “I had questions about public open space. I voted to move the project forward, and I made a comment to say I need to see more detail around open space.”

Based on the existing zoning open space is not required, Councilwoman Milhaven said.

“I thought existing zoning could be improved, that’s when I got involved,” she said. “As a result they’ve agreed to open space, they’ve agreed to a plaza, they’ve agreed that the setbacks from Hyland would average 54 feet, pushing it back off of Hyland.”

Councilwoman Milhaven says even though the project includes added building height, ultimately the proposed development will produce a better result then what’s allowed. The elected official points out areas — such as street improvements along Hyland and Camelback — that Macerich’s proposal will address.

“If we were not to approve the current request, we would be worse off because I think it’s better than what we have,” she said.