Scottsdale Council denies Diamond Mountain Estates rezoning

The Scottsdale City Council Wednesday approved zoning for three new suburban housing developments, but blocked construction on Diamond Mountain Estates, a controversial project that neighbors had vehemently opposed for several years.

While the first three neighborhoods’ plans passed easily, the Council unanimously denied Coe and Van Loo developers’ request to rezone 50 environmentally sensitive acres in north Scottsdale to build a 22-lot subdivision at Diamond Mountain Estates, 11020 E. Jomax Road.

The developers, represented by Curt Johnson, had petitioned for several years to rezone the desert property, which the city’s general plan designates as a protected rural space. Changing the zoning would allow the developers to fit more houses on the same amount of land, which would increase profits but push the city’s definition of a rural neighborhood. Current zoning laws permit up to 10 houses on the saguaro- and boulder-studded property as opposed to the 22 developers had hoped to construct.

While the denial dealt the business a resounding blow, it does not prevent it from building on the land. The developers could choose to work with the current zoning and build up to 10 homes on the site, or try to adjust their plans and compromise with the city. Johnson declined to comment on the decision.

Property owners to the north and east of the site had fought for four years to maintain the desert views they said were part of the reason they purchased their homes. They even recruited Betty Drake, who was the chairman of the committee that approved the location’s original character area plan 15 years ago.

“I’m very pleased that the Council supported the neighbors,” Drake said. “This piece of property is unique and special. It’s a wonderful example of the Sonoran Desert and deserves protection.” The Council’s decision shows the good that can happen when “people get together and do their homework,” she added.

Several of the seven council members expressed disappointment that the plans had made it as far as they had, citing a 4-1 denial by the city’s Planning Commission in May and repeated resident objections as further proof that developers didn’t respect the integrity of the land.

Councilwoman Virginia Korte described the plans as having a “total lack of respect” for the area’s delicate landscape and features and called the surrounding community’s repeated protests a “death sentence.”

Councilman David Smith went as far as to question whether staff that advised the developers even knew what “rural” meant. Mayor Jim Lane also expressed disappointment in the plans when giving his decision.

Several neighbors who attended the meeting urged the Council to deny the petition, saying that while they don’t oppose all development on the land, the plans strayed too far from the character of the area.

Homeowner Jill Anderson, who described the land as her “dream property,” said that Diamond Mountain itself is worth more than the new houses that could fit on it.

“This area was promised to be protected for good reason,” she said. “It’s beautiful. … The land is valuable the way it is.”

Scottsdale City Council approves plans for three new neighborhoods

The City Council gave developers a green light to start work on three new subdivisions in central and north Scottsdale at its July 1 meeting.

Council members approved the final design for Silverleaf , a 19-lot subdivision located on 5.4 acres along N. Silverleaf Drive.

The city agreed to change its zoning map to pave the way for Astoria, a seven-lot subdivision located at 7930 E. Gold Dust Ave.

The Council accepted changes to zoning laws that will allow Wildcat Hill developers to move forward with plans to build a 122-lot subdivision on 305 out of 350 acres of environmentally sensitive land at the southeast corner of N. Cave Creek Road and E. Bartlett Lake Road.

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