Scottsdale’s non-discrimination ordinance. It’s about time.

March 26, 2021
26 Mar 2021

by Don Henninger.

Scottsdale’s leaders are proud to proclaim that we are a Golden Rule City. We’ve been one for a couple years now. The city adopted the One Community Unity Pledge a few years before that. That also was a nice gesture and a good way to talk about how much the city values fairness and equality.

It looks like the city is ready to go beyond talk and good intentions and put some accountability behinds its principles. Truth is, it’s about time.

By all counts, the City Council appears to have the votes – possibly even unanimously – to adopt an anti-discrimination ordinance. Judging from its work study session this week and the messaging from just about all six council members and the mayor, it should be easily approved when the council meets April 20.

Yes, all looks well, but as they cliché goes: don’t count the chickens before they’re hatched.

It’s not been an easy road to this point. Various city council members have been wrestling with this issue for nearly a decade and they rejected a similar ordinance five years ago. While they did adopt the “unity pledge” in 2015, it did not prevent people from being denied service or housing in the city based on things like sexual orientation or gender identity. And proclaiming itself a Golden Rule City in 2017 was a positive step too, though again it had no enforcement teeth.

The non-discrimination ordinance now being considered would expand on coverage under the state’s Fair Housing Act by offering protections to members of the LGBTQ community and other protected classes; it would apply to employees working in businesses of all sizes and cover all public accommodation and city services.

After the state legislature failed to pass a bill in 2018 that would have made discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, services and housing illegal, the city’s Human Relations Commission in August asked the City Council to revisit the issue.

“This discussion is occurring within the renewed national discourse on race and equity, a movement that has touched and activated many within the Scottsdale community,” the commission rightly said in its presentation to the council.

It also said other competing tourist destinations have approved similar laws and major businesses in Scottsdale have adopted policies along those lines, too, including the San Francisco Giants, Nationwide, HonorHealth, Mayo Clinic, Vanguard and GoDaddy.

Love statue in Scottsdale Arizona
photo by Dru Bloomfield via Creative Commons.

Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler, Sedona, Tucson, and Flagstaff have had such measures for several years and the city of Mesa adopted its ordinance last month.

Not only is the ordinance the right thing for a Golden Rule City to do, it also keeps the city competitive in the business and tourism segments as companies and tourists consider this issue when deciding whether to locate or visit here.

Mayor David Ortega has been quoted as saying that passing the ordinance is “about doing the right thing … Scottsdale has a reputation for being internationally known and a hospitable destination, and I believe that government, local government regulations should match that openness.”

Let’s get this issue behind us and make our city one that does more than talk about fairness and equity and actually does something about it.

Don Henninger, executive director of SCOTT, can be reached at

Future Opportunities for Land Use Changes

March 24, 2021
24 Mar 2021

General Plan series #5

by Don Hadder

For the past 25 years there essentially has not been any significant amount of vacant land available for development in Scottsdale south of the CAP aqueduct.  This was true of the area in Scottsdale south of Shea by 1985.  As a result, any land use changes in these areas will be the result of some sort of redevelopment activity.

There is relatively little privately held vacant land north of the Central Arizona Project aqueduct in Scottsdale.  Through the development of master planned projects and a substantial amount of in-fill development, most of the available private lands in this area have been developed or are committed for development.

Therefore, the bulk of the remaining vacant land in Scottsdale is owned by the Arizona State Land Trust.  These lands were assigned to the State over 100 years ago as part of the process of statehood in order to support education and certain community services.  As such, they have special protections under State statutes, particularly in Sections 37-331 through 37-334 of the State laws.  Any planning or zoning actions by local jurisdictions must be consistent with these provisions.  

Pima Road in N. Scottsdale

Of these lands, there are two main locations of probable future development: about 3,600 acres located along the east side of Pima Road from roughly Dixileta Road north to Stagecoach Pass Road and also about 1,000 acres straddling the Loop 101 Freeway from Scottsdale Road to Bell Road.

The first area has zoning that in ranges from two-acre lots (R1-70), through 1, 1/3 and ¼ acre lot single family districts to resort use (R-4R).  Given the infrastructure improvements necessary to serve this area, it is likely that this will be auctioned as one large master-planned development.  This area, in effect, would probably become the last master-planned development to be developed in Scottsdale and would be a highly desirable parcel for that reason. 

The other area, along the freeway, has a long history of planning and entitlements.  Most of the area has had Planned Community District (PCD) zoning for over 30 years.  It has also been the subject of the Regional Use Overlay and the Greater Airpark Character Area Plan policy updates.  Over the past few years, development is beginning to occur across this area, and one the freeway upgrades are completed, there will likely be increased interest for development in this area.  These lands are the last remaining lands for developing significant employment uses in the city on vacant land.  These lands are in direct competition with freeway frontage sites in the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community and the City of Phoenix.

For the most part, the die is cast for these large areas of vacant land.  Refinements and adjustments on these sites may occur in the future, but the main direction for their development has been established.

As time passes, more and more of the potential for land uses to respond to regional, demographic and economic changes will be through the redevelopment and revitalization of lands that are already developed.  It is much more difficult to project such trends and changes and it will be necessary to provide for flexible and responsive ways to respond to the challenges that will come in the future.

Don Hadder is a retired city planner, long-time resident of Scottsdale and a local historical resource.

See Don’s entire series HERE.

Pay attention to the General Plan now, not in November

March 11, 2021
11 Mar 2021

By Don Henninger

Scottsdale residents apparently are a pretty content bunch. That message is delivered loud and clear in a city-wide survey that shows the vast majority like their lives in the city and like where things are headed.

A lot of them apparently are pretty complacent, too. They certainly don’t make their thoughts loud and clear in other ways when it comes to telling city leaders what they think about current affairs.

It’s human nature. Those who are happy aren’t beating a path to City Hall to declare it so. Those who are disgruntled, on the other hand, show up regularly, make themselves heard and attract the most attention in traditional media, amplified tenfold over today’s social media platforms.

So guess whose voices are the loudest? Does that really reflect the mood of the city? Perhaps not, and certainly no if you base your answer on what the survey discovered.

The city regularly checks in with residents for their opinions on a number of things related to what they think about their quality of life. It’s part of a national survey system and roughly 1,700 Scottsdale households received it at the end of 2020. You can see details about it here:

Among many other things, the survey says:

“Almost all community members gave high marks to the overall quality of life in Scottsdale and Scottsdale as a place to live. …  About 9 in 10 residents planned to remain in Scottsdale for the next five years and about two-thirds positively rated the sense of community in the city.

“The economy was also identified as a priority … with scores higher than the national averages for overall economic health, overall quality of business and service establishments and economic development.

“Scottsdale residents are pleased with health and wellness opportunities … Evaluations of recreation and wellness in Scottsdale were very strong. Assessments of availability of preventive health services, recreational opportunities and fitness opportunities were higher than the national benchmarks.”

We like it here!

How do we stay that way? Being like an ostrich is not the answer. Residents don’t need to beat a path to City Hall but they do need to pay a little attention to the matters of the city and weigh in on those issues they think will affect their future. Here are two to consider:

How do we continue to evolve our downtown and ensure its vitality and success as the economic engine that covers the cost of safe-keeping one-third of the city’s land mass with the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, ensuring that we prevent revenue-generating development from ever occurring there? (Hint: this is one big reason our taxes remain low.)

How can we accommodate more attainable housing options for families to live in the city, keep it energized with a youthful spirit and supply our schools with students? (Hint: we’re aging and destined to become like Sun City if we don’t figure it out.)

Those are two big, long-term issues that need to be addressed today. Here’s one more working its way through the city process.

It appears the city will finally adopt an updated General Plan this year, and it’s getting a lot of attention at City Hall. It’s intended to be a visionary document, like a road map for general direction on how the city should progress over the next few decades. But there are those who think it should be more restrictive, almost like a set of specific ordinances, some of which may be applicable today but many, given the rapid changes in society and our city, may prove unworkable and backfire 10 years from now.

You ultimately will get to vote on the plan in November. But you should pay attention to it now.

The city staff has made it easy by breaking down elements of it into digestible pieces and offers you a chance to vote on what you see. It’s all right here at the link:

For the most part, this song fits Scottsdale: “Don’t worry, be happy.” Then again, you might want to be just a little bit worried.

Don Henninger, executive director of SCOTT, can be reached at

Regional Land Use Context

March 10, 2021
10 Mar 2021

General Plan Series #4

By Don Hadder

The City of Scottsdale is part of a large metropolitan region; its development impacts adjacent communities. In turn, what happens outside its borders impacts how development functions within its borders.

For most of the areas surrounding Scottsdale, future land uses essentially are already established or will be. Three adjacent areas have enough volatility to impact future uses in Scottsdale.

The first is the “Rio Verde Foothills” area that is east of Scottsdale and north of the McDowell Mountain Regional Park. This roughly 23-square-mile area is not incorporated in any town or city and is regulated by Maricopa County. The Rio Verde Foothills Area Plan that the county has adopted accommodates only low-density single-family residential uses. No schools, offices, retail uses or other non-residential uses are part of the plan. 

Assuming one house for every 2 to 3 acres, the total number of homes across this area could range from 5,000 to 7,500. Only two roads are entering this vast area: Rio Verde (from Scottsdale) and Mustang Way/Forest Road (from Fountain Hills). Assuming that traffic from this area splits in both directions, the impacts on Rio Verde/Dynamite Road would be roughly 25,000 to 38,000 trips per day. This traffic will also lead to a greater demand for service and retail uses in northern Scottsdale than what the resident population would typically support.

The second are of volatility is the portion of northeast Phoenix bounded by the CAP aqueduct on the south, Cave Creek Road on the west, Jomax Road on the north and Scottsdale Road on the east. This area is also roughly 23 to 24 square miles.

However, in terms of planned and zoned land uses, this area is much more intense. The currently approved plans in Phoenix would accommodate around 100,000 dwellings units of all types. As an entire city, Scottsdale, with a land area of about 185 square miles, currently has a little over 110,000 residences. This area’s overall density could be 6 to 7 times that of the entire City of Scottsdale.

This area is also planned for a very wide range of employment, service, retail and civic uses. In and of itself, it would be one of the largest cities in Arizona at build-out. Of particular note is that at the northwest corner of Scottsdale Road and the Pima Freeway (101), the approved zoning allows for buildings up to 190 feet tall.

There is substantial development already in this area, particularly at the Desert Ridge project, as well as the American Express and Mayo Hospital campuses. As this area continues to develop over the next decades, it will have significant impacts on transportation systems, visual character, retail and service provisions and demands for public services. In general, the most intense land uses of this area are along the Pima Freeway corridor and lessen to the north.  There will be a need for additional transportation corridors parallel to the freeway to relieve the possible congestion at the freeway interchanges.

The third of these areas is the freeway corridor within the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community. Unlike the other areas, this one will have no residential units. Therefore, as can already be seen by current development along this corridor, the freeway will be lined on both sides with employment, service, retail and recreational/cultural uses. This development will likely reduce the viability for some employment, service and retail sites in Scottsdale’s southern and central parts.  It will also create greater demands on the traffic carried by the Pima Freeway. On the other hand, it will also tend to increase the demand for housing in nearby areas of Scottsdale.

The impacts of these areas will occur over the next 20 to 30 years. There are infrastructure limits and hurdles that will affect the development timing and patterns of each of these areas, but each one is of a magnitude that will impact parts of Scottsdale in both predictable and unpredictable ways.

Don Hadder is a retired city planner, long-time resident of Scottsdale and a local historical resource.

See Don’s entire series HERE.

Time for a gut-check, Scottsdale

February 25, 2021
25 Feb 2021

By Don Henninger

Once in a while an opportunity occurs where two issues that seem to be on divergent tracts instead find themselves perfectly aligned.

Scottsdale has one such issue right now, a project in its downtown core that respects the city’s rich heritage while providing an investment option that would bolster the city’s economy.

This opportunity comes in the early days of new leadership that makes up the majority of the City Council. The fate of this project will be a good litmus test to see how those four new leaders intend to balance the goals of honoring the city’s past while embracing the kinds of investments that sustain a healthy economic future – something they all vowed to do when they were campaigning last year.

Photo: Redevelopment proposal idea

The issue involves a redevelopment project on Indian School Road to the west of Scottsdale Road, home of the Kimsey Building, also known as the Triangle Building. The building, which served as City Hall in the 1960s, was designed by Ralph Haver, who designed 15 projects in the city in the early 1950s, five of which have since been demolished. Those who recognize the value of a Haver design are working hard to make sure this is not No. 6 on that list.

The developer that owns the land has agreed to significant concessions to preserve Haver’s work while reviving that 5-acre corner of the city – which though tired now could become a lively link between Old Town and the Arts District.

PEG Companies has a proposed a multi-use $150 million redevelopment that provides hospitality and housing opportunities downtown, which also will support the merchants there. By preserving the Triangle Building and setting aside the surface area for it, the investor is asking to build up to eight stories high. That’s a reasonable request. It’s the same height as the hotel across the street and a lot shorter than what has been approved for the Museum Square project nearby.

The project’s fate soon will be in the hands of City Council members. It already has been approved unanimously by the Development Review Board and the Historic Preservation Commission and it cleared the Planning Commission on a 5-1 vote.

Two public open houses have been held in addition to individual stakeholder meetings where design changes were made with their input.

This is time for the anti- or slow-growth crowd to do a gut check. The too-tall too-dense mantra falls flat on this project, yet those voices still jell in opposition to a project that is a win-win for the city.

This project fits and satisfies both those who want to preserve the city’s heritage, and those who know that attracting investments in the city is vital to preserving its economic health.

If the council rejects the proposal, it leaves the door open for the next developer to scrape the building and put something less desirable there. It also sends signals that the city’s long-term economic health may not be quite the priority many of them claimed it to be.

Don Henninger, executive director of SCOTT, can be reached at

A community of “we”

February 11, 2021
11 Feb 2021

For the past few weeks, we’ve been asking Scottsdale residents to share their aspirations and hopes for the city as it enters a new era.

We’ll continue asking, and the more we do the more we’re likely to hear answers that come down to a few common themes:

The desire to unite the city under a shared, inspiring vision and the willingness to embrace change that builds on the values that have made the city such an appealing destination for residents, workers and visitors.

It’s up to residents to make it clear that they expect city leaders to deliver on those goals.

A few examples.

Jen Sydow of Scottsdale Community College hopes that leaders “will embrace their role for change and continue to work together to accomplish the vision and values that citizens desire. Together, as colleagues in our community, we position ourselves to view our work with renewed purpose, greater creativity and a sense of urgency … If we recognize the importance of adopting an equity-minded approach to leadership, and facilitating greater inclusion, we can come together as a city and achieve the ultimate goal of Scottsdale’s General Plan: reflect a coherent vision of hopes, dreams and aspirations of a diverse population.”

Julie Cieniawski, governing board vice president for the Scottsdale Unified School District, hopes that “our leaders and residents mutually partake in a reflective process and act accordingly to come together as a community and acknowledge that our current actions impact our future … our future includes lots of questions that are best answered by each of us individually and then put into action collectively as residents and by our leaders.”

They both nailed it. Our values and dreams are personal; and where they come together, we find ways to work with each other to make them happen.

Welcome to Scottsdale sign

Scottsdale residents for a long time have embraced some shared values that make the city unique: Incredible geographic diversity, international reputation for tourism, a remarkable level of community services, high property values and among the lowest taxes of any city in the Valley.

We’ve been paying a lot of attention to the city’s General Plan process. If it achieves its primary goal it will be a visionary path to how the city evolves and grows while protecting the values that make it special.

It’s a laborious, tedious process and one that is not for the feint of heart. That’s one reason why it has taken the city nearly two decades to update it. But it is important. In fact, it’s legally required.

It is not a document to establish rules, regulations and ordinances. That would be a much easier exercise. Anyone who has labored over creating vision or mission statements for any organization has felt the pain of the process, especially if you are short of patience.

The next few months are crunch time for the city’s “vision statement” as residents will get a chance to weigh in with feedback on it. You don’t have to read all 300-some pages of the document to do so. The executive summary is brief with highlights of the plan’s nine sections. Reading that alone would be worthwhile.

If you care about the future of the city you live in, you should take the time to look at the key points and ask yourself:  Are we aspiring to be an inclusionary community that builds on the values that we embrace individually and strive to achieve together as a community?

Let’s put politics and personal agendas aside and focus on building a city we want to leave for the next generation.

Don Henninger, executive director of SCOTT, can be reached at

The General Plan: A chance to unite Scottsdale residents around a common vision

January 28, 2021
28 Jan 2021

By Don Henninger

Scottsdale enters a new year, with new leaders and a unique opportunity to bring the city together and work toward a unified vision.

This is entirely possible and if you listen to most citizens it is definitely desired.

It rubs against the grain of some people who make it their business to keep things stirred up. They write anonymous digital newsletters that never have anything positive to say. They stand on the eroding planks of their political pulpits to criticize but never support or praise ideas offered by well-intended citizens to keep the city vibrant and progressing.

That’s the world we live in today, from the national level down to what’s happening in each of our neighborhoods.

It doesn’t mean we have to let it get in the way of progress.

The city’s General Plan is a good place to start. It’s intended to unite residents around a common vision for the city.

It’s long overdue. Mostly because the city has been so politically divided over the past few years that efforts to update the document have failed, even though state law mandates it.

Perhaps most important, is this. The General Plan is a visioning document – not a set of rules and regulations. That’s why laws and ordinances are created. The Plan is about building the kind of city that residents want to leave for their children and grandchildren. It’s really not about us; it’s about what kind of city we want to leave for future generations.

Some people are hung up on that. Some people can’t get out of their own way.

It’s a lot easier to unite people around a vision – a positive vision – for the kind of city they want to work toward than it is to bring people together to debate rules and regulations. The latter are important, but they come later.

Last week the city council thankfully squashed a proposal to create yet another General Plan citizens task force to review the capable work already delivered over the past year by the Citizens Review Committee. Council members, showing wisdom and common sense in their 7-0 vote, instead decided that they would serve as the “task force” to review the work – which they would have done anyway, as their stamp of approval is required on whatever version is sent to the ballot.

There will be plenty of time in the months ahead for every city resident who desires to review the plan and provide feedback on it before council gets its final look. Another task force would have threatened the timing of the process that puts the plan on the November 2021 ballot for voters to decide.

This needs to get done this year. It’s simply time to make it happen. Doesn’t mean it’s easy. It can get bogged down in politics (and it almost did) or by critics who will look for ways to derail it, including those who hide their names behind their comments. This is not an exercise in negativity, rather just the opposite: a chance to position the city for what it should become, not for what it should prevent.

The General Plan process is a test of leadership, a chance to unite residents around a common vision. That’s exactly what the city needs right now.

Don Henninger, executive director of SCOTT, can be reached at

What is the Difference Between a Land Use Plan and Zoning?

January 27, 2021
27 Jan 2021

General Plan Series #3

By Don Hadder

In common discussions about land use policies and regulations, it is common to hear the terms “land use plan” and “zoning” interchanged.  This is not a correct use of the terms and can lead to misconceptions about approvals and processes that involve these terms.  These are distinct terms that have a relationship with each other but also have different meanings and purposes.

In the State of Arizona statutes that govern municipal planning, the General Plan Land Use plan is a set of “objectives, principles and standards” that may include “maps, charts, graphs and text.”  In the same section, there is a definition of “Zoning Ordinance” that defines it as “a municipal ordinance regulating the use of land or structures, or both.”  Typically, a zoning ordinance has two main components: the ordinance language and a zoning map.  Within the ordinance language there are provisions that focus principally on the types of land uses allowed as well as the physical parameters and limits of the structures and improvements that contain the used allowed.

Scottsdale land use map example

The Land Use plan within the General Plan is a general guide for the arrangement of the types and broad range of intensity of land uses as projected to a future date – often 15 to 30 years into the future.  For most cities, such a plan has a limited number of land use categories.  Scottsdale’s 2001 General Plan Land Use Map includes 11 land use categories: 3 are primarily for residential uses, 4 are focused on types of business uses, 2 are for open space uses, 1 is for mixed-use areas and the last is for municipal and civic uses.  All general plan components are approved through a resolution, which is an official statement of city policy and practice.

The Zoning Ordinance in Scottsdale is a highly complex set of regulations, processes and limitations.  It is divided into 11 main chapters or sections covering various subjects from the zoning districts to general provisions to landscaping, and more.  Within the districts, there are 15 that are primarily for residential and supportive land uses, 13 districts for various types of business uses, 2 for primarily open space uses, 5 mixed-use districts, 5 specialty use districts and 7 overlay districts that are combined with the other districts.  Clearly there is not a one-to-one relationship between the Land Use plan land use categories and the zoning districts.  The zoning ordinance also includes the Zoning Map, which specifically applies the zoning districts to properties across the city.

Under the State statutes, all zoning “shall be consistent with and conform to the adopted general plan of the municipality.”  The determination of this is done through the evaluation of each rezoning case and established through the City Council approval of the rezoning case, including the stipulations that are applied – which become an extension of the Zoning Ordinance as well.  With each rezoning case there may be a determination that it constitutes a change in the Land Use plan designation.  If the proposal is deemed to be a change in the designation, there will need to be a parallel General Plan case.  As defined in the General Plan, if this rises to the level of being a “Major Amendment” of the General Plan, it can be heard only once a year and requires a higher threshold of approval.

Both the general plan and zoning ordinances are documents that are expected to change as the community ages, grows, economic conditions evolve and the aspirations of the community change.  Not allowing for any change would be a violation of the intent and sense of fairness built into the enabling statutes as well as the long-term traditions of planning and zoning, both locally and across the nation.

Another aspect of these provisions that often becomes confused focuses on what a “variance” is.  Under the State statues and embodied within the Zoning Ordinance, a variance is a very specific and limited term.  All variances under these laws are reviewed for consideration and determination by a Board of Adjustment.  The action of the Board of Adjustment is limited to specific properties under limited criteria and is a quasi-judicial action – not a legislative action.  The City Council has no role in the variance process.  Unfortunately, there often are general comments that describe a rezoning case (which is a legislative action) as a ‘variance’.  It is not.  A rezoning case is an action to adjust the established policy regarding land use types and intensity on a property and is not a ‘breaking of the rules’.  It is applying new rules to the property.  A variance is an exception to the rules where it has been determined the rules are not fair and reasonable.

In reviewing and understanding the General Plan, it is important to understand what it is and what it is not.  Believing the General Plan has power that it really does not have can lead to controversies that are not valid and over time causes the completeness and breadth of the plan to be overlooked.  It can and should be a powerful statement of the hopes, aspirations, priorities and values of the community for its future.

Don Hadder is a former Scottsdale City Planner.

Part 2

What Governs General Plans?

January 27, 2021
27 Jan 2021

General Plan Series #2

By Don Hadder

There are two ways in which General Plans for Scottsdale are enabled and governed: Arizona State statutes and the Scottsdale City Charter.  These two documents allow for – and even require – General Plans for Scottsdale and also provide guidance in what it should include and how it is to be managed.  Any General Plan adopted by the City of Scottsdale is required to comply with these provisions.

cover of the City of Scottsdale General Plan 2035 view of mountain hiking trail.

First, we will look at the applicable State statutes for General Plans.  Of particular importance is the definition of a “General Plan”: it “means a municipal statement of land development policies, that may include maps, charts, graphs and text that set forth objectives, principles and standards for local growth and redevelopment enacted under the provisions of this article or any prior statute.”  As we will find, this doesn’t mean that the plan is just a land use map.  The important element of this definition is that it states that a general plan is essentially aspirational, general in scope and not enforceable law.

Within the statutes there is an extensive listing of elements, i.e., components or sections, of a general plan.  These are the required elements that all cities of the size of Scottsdale are required to have:

  • Land Use – This includes provisions that describe the type and intensity of preferred land uses, provisions for compact and infill development, considerations regarding air quality and solar access and an assurance of a broad variety of land uses.
  • Circulation – This includes plans and provisions for major and local highways and streets, bicycle routes and for other modes of transportation.
  • Open Space – This includes provisions for open spaces, recreational resources and access to them, as well as how they relate to the regional systems.
  • Growth Area – This includes provisions to concentrate development where infrastructure is available and its availability can be managed, natural resources and open spaces will be conserved, and transportation systems can be made more efficient.
  • Environmental Planning – This includes provisions to conserve air and water quality and other natural resources.
  • Cost of Development – This includes provisions on how development will pay its fair of the cost of additional public services it will generate.
  • Water Resources – This considers current and future water resources available to the community and how they will be managed as the community grows.
  • Conservation – This focuses on how local natural resources will be conserved and sustained.
  • Recreation – This focuses on public facilities used for all types of recreation.
  • Public Buildings – This focuses on all facilities that serve the public including municipal and school buildings.
  • Conservation, Rehabilitation and Redevelopment – This focuses on reducing blighted areas.
  • Safety – This focuses on provisions to maintain the safety of the public during natural and artificial hazards.
  • Bicycling – This focuses on provisions that accommodate and support bicycling.
  • Energy – This focuses on energy conservation measures and greater use of renewable energy resources.
  • Neighborhood Preservation and Revitalization – This focuses on promoting safe and attractive neighborhood environments.

These are the required elements, but it is also possible for local communities to add elements that relate to local needs, conditions, priorities and aspirations.  In addition to these elements, other sections of the statutes require that the community have an annual public works (capital improvements) plan that demonstrates how the General Plan is being implemented.

These statutes also include provisions on how the General Plan is to be prepared, heard and approved.  The General Plan is approved for up to 10 years, after which the community is obligated to prepare an updated version or seek re-approval of the current plan.  Unlike in most states, this plan is to be ratified by the voters of the community.  Amendments to the various elements can be made at any time in between ratifications by a majority vote.  However, “Major Amendments” to the Land Use plan, as determined the local community, are to be considered only once per year and require five votes to be approved.  City Council approvals of changes to the General Plan are done through the use of a resolution, not an ordinance, since these are statements of policy and not law.

When Scottsdale first approved its General Plan there were no enabling statutes in Arizona State law.  Therefore, the city amended the City Charter to include a provision that allows it to have a General Plan.  The City Charter as it is currently amended also includes provisions that allow for local area plans and allow its policies to include provisions for the preservation and enhancement of the environment.

At both the state and local levels of governance, a general plan is considered to be a very important statement of direction for the future growth and evolution of a community, guiding its physical layout and appearance as well as assuring that the broad range of public infrastructure and services will be provided in a manner that supports the physical layout.

Don Hadder is a former Scottsdale City Planner.

Part 1

Many important issues for Scottsdale in the year ahead

January 15, 2021
15 Jan 2021

By Don Henninger

Welcome to Scottsdale sign

We don’t need any reminders about how valuable steady, sustainable, sensible leadership is in our country, from the national to the local levels. In Scottsdale, we’re fortunate to have a good leader in city manager Jim Thompson.

I caught up with him just a few days before the city’s new mayor and three councilors were sworn into office to get his take on where the city is as 2021 unfolds with its rookie slate of leaders now on board.

The council will be holding a retreat in February to identify issues and strategies for the year ahead. That will set the direction for what they think is important and the tone on how they intend to work together to get things done.

Leading up to that retreat, here are a few notes from my conversation with Thompson and his view from the city manager’s office:

–Until the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, everything is up in the air; as he says, it’s a huge impediment that affects everything. Any economic recovery – particularly in the city’s tourism sector – will be stalled until more people are vaccinated. It doesn’t help that Arizona continues to post the highest infection rates in the country. That image discourages the desire for people to visit here and dims hopes for a meaningful tourism rebound. And that means a large segment of the city’s small businesses, many of which rely on the hospitality industry, will continue to struggle.

–Surprisingly, perhaps, the city’s financial picture is a bit brighter. The assumption was that the tourism slump would leave a huge hole in the city’s revenue stream. Not the case, he says. Led by strong car sales and high housing values, city revenues are $17 million ahead of a budget that was significantly cut back due to the virus. It also would be only $2 million behind the original budget that was created before those reductions.

–The General Plan will be one of the most important issues in the year ahead, and already is getting a lot of attention. Thompson’s hope is that the progress made by the Citizens Review Committee over the past year continues and citizens make time to weigh in with their input during the public hearing process. He offers a reminder that the plan is a visioning document not a regulatory one, which is the purpose of zoning laws.

We offer this suggestion, as well. With all the citizen input already gathered and with the public hearings to come in the months ahead as part of the review process, the city should not create another layer of bureaucracy, as it now is considering. It’s redundant, likely will add nothing to the feedback already received and yet to come. The council will vote Jan. 19 on adding a task force for more review. We hope they vote no.

–Public safety pension funding remains important as well, as the city continues to pay down on the balance needed for the police and firefighters’ pensions. The city also continues to gradually hire firefighters as nearly two-thirds of the department will be eligible for retirement in 2025, the 20th anniversary of the city taking over that service from Rural Metro.

–Leadership talent is an ongoing topic and it’s well-known that the city will need to replace three key positions: treasurer, clerk and police chief. But many of the city’s department heads also are nearing retirement age and the need to build a succession pipeline is important.

–We’ll end with a four-letter word: jobs. Creating jobs will continue to be one of the most important goals for the city in the year ahead. As he notes, Scottsdale is not a bedroom community. Job growth is the key to being a great city and sustaining its high level of services and low tax structure. It’s not about serving the existing population as much as it is serving future generations.

Here’s hoping the year ahead is one of growth and prosperity for the city’s future.

Don Henninger, executive director of SCOTT, can be reached at

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