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08/06/17 Newsletter

HOTTEST ISSUE IN SCOTTSDALE--Desert Discover Center-now Desert Edge


How many Scottsdale residents know they have taxed themselves over $1 billion to preserve thousands of pristine desert acres inside the city?...CAN YOU FIND IT ON A MAP?

It isn't just the summer that was hot but when the Scottsdale City Council awarded a $1.7 million contract to plan and design a facility inside the McDowell Sonoran Preserve boundaries--many residents just got "hotter".  That plan was made public July 31st and is online for your review at  [Note: All pages referenced in this newsletter will be the page number ON the DDC/DE online report bottom right corners].

This COGS E-Newsletter will be focused to provide you with key references inside that Desert Discover Center/Desert Edge report as well as to provide you with links to the perspectives of citizens' organizations, newspaper columnist opinion and some Scottsdale City Council members.

Desert Discovery Center--recently changed to Desert Edge

OUR PRESERVE SIZE:  Take a look at this video and compare our 57 square mile Preserve to 40 NYC Central Parks!

LOCATION:  To find the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve from southern Scottsdale look to the NE toward Fountain Hills and you will see the McDowell Mountains. The proposed DDC/Desert Edge location is NE of the 101 loop and north of Bell Road. Entry is east off Thompson Peak Parkway.

SITE PLAN-Page 16  The detailed site plan for the exhibits and buildings plus uses are at the following link, inside a 127 page report from the consultant, Thinc.

HOW MUCH LAND WOULD IT COVER AND WHAT IS THE SIZE OF THE BUILDINGS?  Program spaces per square foot are on pages 39 to 40 of the online  report. There an image identifies the usage of the buildings. Total site square footage (SF) is estimated at 126,000 SF. or 5.34 acres.

  • 10,500 gross SF (GSF) would be dedicated to ASU’s Global Drylands Institute
  • Exhibit Space will occupy approximately 30,900 GSF of indoor and outdoor areas (outdoor areas are largely “under roof” but nonair-conditioned space or under canopy)

An offsite Administration Building is also planned at 5,400 SF
Under Roof Air-Conditioned space: 47,600 GSF

  • 38,550 sq ft exhibit and support space
  • 9,050 sq ft Global Drylands Institute

Under Roof Non Air-Conditioned space 37,300 GSF

  • 4,890 GSF exhibit space
  • 1470 GSP Global Drylands Institute
  • The remainder is Public Circulation Space, areas for demonstrations and informal education plus non-programmed areas
    Canopy Space 3  is  3,100 GSF
  • 2,950 GSF is exhibit space
  • 4,800 SF is the Sonoran Steps program presentation area
  • The remainder is Public Circulation Space, areas for demonstrations and informal education plus non-programmed areas
    Uncovered Space: in excess of 16,000 SF
  • 7,000 SF is exhibit space
  • Other areas include pedestrian circulation, plantings etc.
    Parking Areas for both DDC and the off-site Administration Building are not included in this program of square footage.These are expected to be owned and operated by the City of Scottsdale.
"Arizona State University (ASU) 's Global Drylands Institute will have facilities at Desert Edge and will share in creating programs and educational experiences for visitors" states the report.

WHO WOULD OWN THE LAND? The City of Scottsdale (you) owns the land and will own the buildings and infrastructure. "It is envisioned that a private operator under contract to run the facility on a daily basis, provide programs, experiential exhibits, volunteers, and staff. This model for a public/private partnership is used to run [the Scottsdale] Western Spirit: Museum of the West."

BUSINESS PLAN page 22  …If you really want to get into the numbers, the detailed plan is in this 192 page ConsultEcon link at

COST ESTIMATES: $61,184.46 for design, construction and exhibit installations with $ 6.3 million/year operating costs.
CAPITAL COSTS:   Page 24  [You will note that $605,787 is a proposed expenditure on Public Art that is not a requirement for a city project.]
OPERATION: Information included are months/hours, admission fees, rental events, exterior lighting, car and bus parking plan, café (drinks, food, alcohol), retail store, noise levels for day and night events and more.   Pages 26-28  Special rental events (60 per year maximum) details are on Page 26.  
REVENUE:  “Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale has proposed that with no new taxes, Desert EDGE can be funded and operated. We have identified the capital and operational cost to the City of Scottsdale and the Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale’s commitment for fundraising”.  Page 30.   Details of projected revenue sources are from attendance (pages 101,104-106 charts), memberships (page 114), ticket sales (pages 114-115) and rentals (page 118). The text summary is on report page 89 that compares others like Desert Botanical Garden, Living Desert, Las Vegas facility and Bend,OR High Desert Museum for attendance numbers per population of the city location.  Interestingly it sets the restaurant/café base rent as $35 per square foot—much higher than downtown Scottsdale current rates.

PROGRAMS:  Pages 19 and 20
EXHIBITS: Page 16   Details are in the 127 page report by the Thinc consultant at this link

TRAFFIC: Page 26  Table II-1   
END of the summary of the Desert Edge online presentation.

  The DDC/Desert Edge donor list cites Museum of the West with a $1,000 "in-kind" contribution and COGS has received e mails of concern. The following has been received from Mike Fox, "
As a city owned facility and consistent with the Management Agreement, on occasion the City utilizes the institution at no cost for City-related purposes. The museum was requested to host a community orientation session on the subject of the conceptual plans for DDC in its theater/auditorium It was a two-hour, City-sponsored box luncheon and discussion event for the community's residents, consultants and others associated with the proposed DDC project..  I hope the aforementiioned response clarifies the reference to the in-kind consideration shown by the owner of the museum, the City of Scottsdale, not in essence the non-profit, operating manager, Scottsdale Museum of the West, Inc."


                OPINIONS:  Citizen organizations, columnist, city council members and others for you to further research.

(1) Protect our Preserve  on Facebook  This large citizen group has collected more than $50K in donations and are on their way to $100K to sue the city if this does not go to a public vote. They have filed a Notice of Claim. Their website outlines their position that this use inside the Preserve is a violation.  One member is hiking all the trails in the Preserve at $20/mile donation collection.  She has logged more than 250 miles to this date and is still stepping out while working fulltime.

(2) NODDC    or   This group provides public copies of documents that create transparency of the DDC contract process and procedures Their website/facebook have one called "12 Outrages" , a flyer. They have also organized supporters for not-in-the-Preserve at city council meetings.

(3) Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Conservancy  This group began in 1991 and are the stewards of the Preserve They have more than 600 volunteers who patrol and maintain the trails, provide free hikes, school tours, 4th grade outdoor program, McDowell Field Institute since 2010, completed the flora and fauna survey, developed the Junior Citizen Science Festival and won the prestigious 2014 Crescordia Award. They have provided valuable desert research projects as volunteers.

(4) Laurie Roberts, AZ Republic opinion column August 2, 2017

(5)Councilwoman Virginia Korte  [apologies--activation problem try control+click]

(6) Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield 
(7) more opinions in the Scottsdale Independent  then  Search Desert Discovery Center

(8) Public comments received by COGS: Many taxpayers are greatly concerned that (a) it will violate the Preserve Ordinance of no alcohol and no commercial use (b) will change the Preserve to a Park status and further commercial will be allowed by this or future city council majority  (c) be a negative impact on the wildlife and wildlife migrations (d) be a negative impact for noise, light and traffic for area homeowners who have invested in "dark skies" and quiet desert living (e) be a financial burden for operating costs annually in an already strapped city budget. (f) A major opposition on this project is their planned use of Preserve Funds that might betray the voter concept that those collected funds are for trails and Preserve improvements.

COGS COMMENTARY: City Attorney, Bruce
Washburn, states that the city council can do whatever it wants with the Preserve land without a citizen vote.  COGS position  is that a registered voter majority should make the decision to change or not change the Preserve Ordinance/Master Use Plan that allows the city to add the Desert Edge within the boundaries. The DDC LLC has produced an admirable product that could be located elsewhere and serve as a tourist destination attraction.  COGS does not support the use of Preserve Funds for any use other than trail construction and gateway improvements or land acquisitions. Our further preference is to have a Charter Amendment that protects our McDowell Sonoran Preserve from any future city councils. This must go to a citizens' vote.

Thank you for taking your valuable time to read the COGS E-Newsletter and to be an informed resident. Feel free to forward to your HOA neighbors or friends. Our help and support are totally free--might charge you a smile and thank you though.   


Sonnie Kirtley, COGS Chair 



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