By Melissa Rosequist for Independent Newsmedia
Official marching orders have been set laying out perimeters for the Paradise Valley Planning Commission to scrutinize and evaluate revamped plans for SmokeTree Resort.
While the resort is in the early stages of going through the town’s official municipal approval process, the larger discussion of welcoming public input and comment while adhering to COVID-19 safety guidelines is on the minds’ of Paradise Valley officials, it appears.
The Paradise Valley Town Council discussed, and later unanimously approved, the statement of direction for the legacy resort.
The SOD is a municipal document that outlines the areas and aspects of a project the council would like Planning Commission to focus on during scrutiny.
SmokeTree had initially submitted plans for their redevelopment more than a year ago, before receiving denial from the Planning Commission majority.
Owners Gentree LLC have amended their plans for the 1954 property and re-submitted a tapered down request.
Toward that end, plans no longer allow for-sale properties, unit count was cut to 122 hotel rooms, removing balconies from perimeter buildings and capping building height at 36 feet.
The project includes:
- 122 traditional hotel guest room keys, 20 of which are detached suites;
- A restaurant and bar/lounge;
- A rooftop outdoor bar and lounge;
- Accessory uses such as a fresh food market, a cafe, pop-up retail; a coffee shop and a florist; and
- Indoor/outdoor event space including a pavilion for banquets and meetings, and a pool.
The project’s setbacks are 98 feet on the north; 45 feet on the east; 60 feet on the south; and 75 feet on the west.
Town Council discussed the revised proposal at their June 11th meeting, where staff compared it to the original 2019 statement of direction. Subsequent to that meeting, the applicant provided written correspondence waiving their right to a public hearing prior to sending the revised proposal back to the Planning Commission for consideration, town officials say.
Focus on Public Outreach
The SOD outlines that the Commission’s focus should be on reviewing the visible, audible and operational effects the major amendment might have on the resort’s neighbors.
In particular, the areas of focus during review should be, according to the statement of direction:
- Lot coverage/floor area ratio
- Impact to adjacent uses
- Landscaping, utilities and exterior lighting
- Traffic, parking, access and circulation; and
In addition, the Planning Commission is encouraged to receive public feedback on the new proposal — which Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner says might be difficult in the current situation.
The Town of Paradise Valley has been holding electronic meetings since March, due to COVID-19. And, Town Hall is not open to the public right now.
“I have kind of a correlating concern, which is that I’m not sure how a citizen-review session works on Zoom for people who aren’t as familiar with it. There may, in my opinion, need to be a little more education, maybe a little more notice to get people comfortable with how that works,” Bien-Willner said.
Vice Mayor Julie Pace said she feels like some residents are inhibited by using the technology, and for important projects such as SmokeTree, getting resident feedback is imperative.
Bien-Willner noted that maximizing public comment through alternative measures isn’t specific to SmokeTree, but the idea should be in place for any project going to a public hearing during the pandemic.
Councilwoman Anna Thomasson, later in the meeting, pointed out the Planning Commisson’s deadline of September 15th stating the noticing of the event would occur in August, while many residents are out of town or not focused on town matters.
Bien-Willner said he hears and shares her concern, but there is a priority to be efficient.
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