Hot Issue: Desert Edge project Opposition Statements and Concerns?
WHY the Opposition to Desert Edge?
Sources: COGS members’ and readers’ e mails, neighborhoods’ meetings feedback, public hearing speakers, opposition websites and Desert Edge public meeting audience questions and comments. ..collected over a 15 month period.
PRESERVE PURPOSE: May 1995 ballot “…Sonoran Preserve for the purpose of maintaining scenic views, preserving plant and wildlife and supporting our largest industry, tourism, while providing appropriate public access and passive outdoor recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.”
- This tourist attraction complex concept is not a passive use of our Preserve
- This is not a recreational opportunity and is inappropriate use
- The Preserve belongs to the Scottsdale residents. Major decisions regarding its use should be a public decision (i.e. ballot vote) and not by a simple council majority. The Desert Edge project is a major decision financially as well as a major impact physically on the Preserve environment.
This facility violates most if not all of the Preserve rules and objectives by including these uses
- Construction of multiple buildings not specific to trail heads or passive outdoor recreation
- Fenced complex creating barrier to wildlife migration and habitats in wash
- Food concessions and café
- Retail and gift shop
- Operations after dusk
- Creates a negative impact on nocturnal animals
- Potential sound amplification with the 60 described night events
- Increased bus and car traffic inside sensitive wash area day and late evening (10 PM)
- ASU free-rent conference rooms for their newly formed institute
- There should be no use or improvement of any kind allowed to be constructed or located in any part of the Preserve unless the use or improvement is in full compliance and consistent with the current Preserve Ordinance and all city Charter Amendments relating to the Preserve.
2004 Prop 400 Ballot language “…authorized to increase the rate of transaction [sales] privilege and use taxes in the city by 0.2% of 1% for a period of 30 years or less to provide funds to supplement private efforts to acquire land for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve for the purpose for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and paying related financing costs and fees in connection therewith”
• No funds which were or will be future derived from any voter approved Preserve sales tax funds should be used to either plan, design, promote or construct any facility or use described as similar in use to the desert discovery center, desert educational facility or desert tourism facility; unless the use or facility is specifically approved by a vote of a majority of Scottsdale voters in a duly scheduled election.
- When city council accepted the Phase II report in 2010, all seven council members stated that they did not favor using Preserve taxes for further DDC costs. This was not a motion but verbal statements from each.
NEED FOR DESERT EDGE FACILITY
- As a “tourist draw” for education and desert experience it would duplicate the existing McDowell Sonoran Conservancy free programs that have been successful for years. What happens to those free programs? Duplication and now at a cost?
- At the recent Planning Commission hearing (9.13.2017) public speakers in wheelchairs were unaware of the handicapped access to nature trails at Brown’s Ranch, Gateway and Lost Dog Wash trailheads. There will always be part of the population that cannot access the Preserve because of age or health. But the DE is not providing something new with handicap access.
- If the city needs another tourist attraction/revenue generator why not invest in our Downtown and parking garages? Downtown curbs and sidewalks look shabby.
FAILURE TO CONSIDER LOCATIONS OUTSIDE THE PRESERVE
- Use the city owned 40 acres near WestWorld and capture the existing million plus visitors to that city tourist venue at no land cost. [NE corner of 94th Street and Bell Road]. This is 0.75 miles from the Preserve. Additionally, there are activities at WestWorld all 12 months.
- Partner with Taliesen West at their location adjacent to the Preserve boundary and improve their revenue and sustainability plus piggyback their tourist draw.
- Use the “Loloma Curve” city owned land south of the Museum of the West. This energizes the downtown and is located at the Trolley Transit
- Carve out of the Preserve the NE corner of Thompson Peak Parkway and Bell Road. This is the edge of the Preserve and would mitigate some of the public concerns.
- The private interests promoting the DE should raise private money and develop on private land. Let them carry the financial burden, not Scottsdale taxpayers.
- Living in southern Scottsdale my neighbors can’t find the Preserve on a map, have no public transportation to visit it and none that I know of have ever visited it. What is our benefit to finance this with the location so far north? A tourist attraction with interactive/video displays can be anywhere—like Downtown.
DESERT EDGE DEVELOPMENT COST and FUNDING SOURCES
- The proposed $56 to $64 million project has not presented a proven, conservative,reliable funding mechanism. Suspicions are they want to tap the Preserve (land-acquisition) Funds.
- Scottsdale General Funds will not be available—the city can’t budget all that is needed now for basic maintenance and improvements such as streets, lighting, building maintenance, etc. Maintenance is being deferred on WestWorld now.
- Preserve Funds cannot be used for maintenance, operations or staff salaries.
- The DE will need $25 million for maintenance and 400 volunteers—very ambitious.
- It is estimated that from $1 million to $2 million deficit will need to be covered by taxpayers per year.
- There is $30,000,000 in bonding capacity available from the Bed Tax—don’t do this!
- As a Scottsdale resident, I see no fiscal or quality of life benefit from this project. We should buy more land to expand the Preserve. If we have this kind of money use it to benefit the entire city with improved roads, libraries, fire and police stations.
- In January 2016 the city council approved spending $1.7 million bed tax dollars to fund architectural renderings, business plan, feasibility study, funding sources, and stages of development for the DDC/DE project. This brings the total taxpayer money to over $2,000,000 since the first Feasibility Study consultants’ contract. Just looking at the internally- hired consultant fees and expenses in these 18 months—really highly paid.
- Membership fees need to be low to generate family memberships or those on a budget.
DESERT EDGE OPERATING COSTS
- The Desert Edge Executive Director compared the DE as comparable to Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. However, the aquarium charges are a hefty $50/adults, $30 child 3 to 12 yrs old and $40 for seniors and students for entry fee. Will Scottsdale tourists pay this or even 75% of this entry fee for the Desert Edge concept being presented now?
- The administrative positions seem excessive in numbers and in salary per the business plan 2017.
- Attendance numbers are too optimistic and impact the public trust in the business plan
- The DE operating revenues (tickets, retail, memberships, food, rentals, etc) will be 75% of needed revenue per an economist’s evaluation and a loss of $1.5 to $2 million per year. Doesn’t this mean that the city/taxpayer becomes the wallet to sustain the facility?
THE DESIGN AND USE CONCEPT 2017
- A venue for international desert research sharing and conferences is a good idea but those buildings do not need to be in the Preserve. Use land near Bell Road.
- Phase II shows a collective space—amphitheater, auditorium and a meeting room which can be rented. But, will this generate enough revenue if they are rent-free to ASU?
- The need for some air-conditioned spaces creates a noise problem for the animals.
- The building renderings are well designed but for 3 months of the year not usable without air conditioning—an unnatural experience if you came to experience the desert.
- Animal exhibits will not meet the threshold requirements for zoo licensing and management.
- The buildings are located near the migratory route--the wash is a concern for me.
REMINDER: City Council will have a work study session discussion (no vote) on the Desert Edge. Tuesday, September 26th at 5 pm in city hall.They accept limited Public Comment…5 speakers usually.
Below is a link to an anonymous response survey. It is a short 3 question survey. The more responses we get the more valid the survey results are. Please encourage your friends, relatives, and other people you may know in Scottsdale to fill it out as well. Once you participate it locks you out so more than one participant from the same computer is not possible--use your cell phone.
Deadline is Friday, 22 September at midnight.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a problem activating the survey link.