New year, new priorities: Town Council reflects on 2019, looks ahead to 2020

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In less than a month, a new year will be commencing and Paradise Valley’s elected officials are looking back over their work in 2019, and setting sights on challenges ahead.

Elected leaders contend Paradise Valley Town Council is looking forward to tackling items in the coming year. Meanwhile, work conducted this past year has also been meaningful; officials say, as issues top of mind include short-term rentals, an upcoming election, the 2020 Census and the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System.

Read below to see how a sampling of elected leaders give their thoughts on calendar year 2019.

Paul Dembow

•Looking back on 2019, how do you feel about what Council accomplished over the past 12 months?

I’m proud of the amount and the quality of work the council has been able to achieve under the strong leadership of Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner and Vice Mayor Scott Moore. We have been able to have a budget surplus, pay down the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System and have a clear path to paying it off in less than three years, invest in needed capital improvements, remodel Town Hall to make it more efficient for our residents and our staff.

•What one issue is top of mind that Town Council covered this year?

The council has addressed many important issues; however, short-term rentals is the issue that is giving our residents the greatest challenges. Challenges is not a strong enough word. We have residents who have had mini-hotels open up next door to them. Each night or every couple of nights, new people living next door who have come to community to have a great time on vacation. Many nights it’s a party, sometimes with bus loads of people drinking and littering the neighborhood.

Some evenings there are things going on at the rental property that you don’t want your children seeing. While all visitors are certainly not bad actors, there are too renters who have proven that they don’t care how their behavior impacts the neighborhood. We have mini-hotels in a neighborhood with families. Our residents purchased their homes because of the neighborhood, not with an eye to turn their house into hotel or live next to one.

•Is there any issue/topic you wish had a different outcome?

Almost any issue that the state takes away local control of an issue is a bad one. Short-term rental legislation at the state level is a prime example of undermining local government control. There is now a bill that passed (SB 1487) that allows a complaint to be filed against any municipality that receives state-shared revenue if that community legislated/regulated something that is already covered by the state.

If the complaint is successful that city or town will not receive their monies that the state collected for them. This is a horrible bill. The impact of this bill? It mutes any council’s response to anything controlled by state statue.

The Town of Paradise Valley is unable to do many of the things we would normally do to control short-term rentals and protect the zoning that existed when our residents purchased their homes.

I would imagine that anyone in our community, if they knew the house next door was a short-term rental party house, would not have purchased their home there.

•What will 2020 entail for Town Council?

Looking at my crystal ball, I see the town will be lucky to have Mayor Bien-Willner, Vice Mayor Moore and Councilwoman Pace being elected to serve again. Hopefully we see a new SmokeTree Resort project moving forward. I believe the Scottsdale Plaza Resort will undergo major renovations.

Mark Stanton

•Looking back on 2019, how do you feel about what Town Council accomplished over the past 12 months?

2019 has been a dynamic year for Paradise Valley. The Town Council and staff have worked together to accomplish many successful goals and programs. Paramount of these accomplishments is the commitment to thoughtfully prepare and maintain a sound financial strategy for the town’s resources. These strategies were designed to address short and long-term objectives, including what is considered the town’s exemplary management of our PSPRS pension obligation.

In addition, the council has been diligent in its commitment to manage responsible growth including special use permits such as the development agreement with Five Star for the property. Furthermore, the town’s ongoing work to address short-term rentals as well as protecting the town’s right for traffic photo enforcement and facilitating capital improvements such as roads and other infrastructure remain high priorities. In addition, there have been proactive efforts to protect and preserve precious open space.

All of these accomplishments are focused on maintaining and enhancing the quality of life which our residents expect and deserve. There is more work ahead, but looking back, I am proud of the many accomplishments that the Council has managed in the past year.

•What one issue is top of mind that Town Council covered this year?

Responsible fiscal management by protecting local financial stability and an unwavering commitment to public safety are always top of mind from my perspective. Managing a budget that allows our town to provide important services and programs is the cornerstone of our town’s success. Equal to financial management is the commitment to public safety. Chief Wingert and his team as well as fire and ambulance services are vital for Paradise Valley.

From community engagement, traffic enforcement and emergency services, I am proud of the council’s unity and focus in supporting public safety for our residents and guests.

•Is there any issue/topic you wish had a different outcome?

Short-term property rentals are an ongoing challenge in Paradise Valley as well as in many communities around the Valley. I believe returning local control on this issue is important and I remain hopeful the state will reform regulation of short-term rentals returning authority back to the cities and towns to regulate impact on their neighborhoods. A local municipality, like Paradise Valley, has a more direct understanding about the needs and challenges of its residents and neighborhoods. Taking local control away is a disservice and regrettable when an issue like short-term rentals becomes a challenge to quality of life, public safety and the overall well being of local residents.

•What will 2020 entail for Council?

2020 will be a year of new challenges and opportunities. Challenges will include managing the capital improvements that will impact daily activities in the town.

I sincerely thank our residents for their patience and understanding during the current and upcoming road improvements that will continue throughout the next year. These short-term inconveniences will result in long-term benefits for quality of life in our town.

Managing the special use permits for development in the town will remain a primary focus for the town council. This includes maintaining our commitment to the development agreement with Five Star and managing new SUP applications that may come before the council.

In addition, maintaining the highest levels of public safety, continuing to work on improved cell phone service, supporting the town’s interests and priorities during the upcoming legislative session and working diligently to provide the highest levels of customer service for our residents remain top priorities from my perspective for 2020.

Ellen Andeen

•As 2020 nears, what are some topics Town Council will be looking at in the new calendar year?

2020 will be an exciting year for the Town of Paradise Valley. To start, it is an election year and the year to update the General Plan --- something that is completed every 10 years. Along with those we will be working diligently to move forward with the agreements set forth in the development agreement with Five Star properties. I am interested about upcoming legislative updates relating to the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System.

We continue to push for more assistance with short term rentals hoping that the local municipalities will be able to regain more control of our neighborhoods and community. We will see the completion of the Town Hall remodel. Additionally, further exploration & formation of a voluntary resident “Mediation Program” to assist neighbors in conflict resolution. Census 2020! I think all these topics will be important to residents.

•Are there any specific issues you are looking to bring to Town Council purview next year?

Given my accounting and finance background I will continue to bring back issues & updates to the council from my attendance at PSPRS Board of Trustee meetings and Board of Investment meetings at the State Treasurer’s office. The town is committed to paying off the PSPRS unfunded liability as quickly as possible. I will remain focused on matters of public safety and as Chair of the Advisory Committee on Public Safety, we will bring two timely presentations to the Town.

ACOPS remains consistent with our mission of engaging the community on public safety related issues. Last, we have a hard-working, professional staff, committed to excellence and, to stay on top, we must remain committed to innovation & best in class customer service. I ask town residents to continue to reach out and bring issues to us so that we may work to a resolution.

•What will 2020 entail for the community?

Lincoln Drive roadway and sidewalk redesign & improvements. The streets will be congested and at times difficult to navigate. We will post updates and progress on our website and social media. If you haven’t done so yet, please sign up for Alert PV to receive updates. (www.paradisevalleyaz.gov/alertpv) We will have Census 2020 workers in the community. Additionally, with it being an election year, campaigning will be in full swing. Operating in our limited government model where most commissions and boards are volunteer positions down to the judicial bench, we will continue to seek out volunteers to fill openings and appreciate all the hard work of our residents.

•Looking back on 2019, how do you feel about what Town Council accomplished over the past 12 months?

First, thank you to the Town of Paradise Valley for your confidence in me as a freshman councilmember. I committed myself to listening and learning, asking lots of questions and making informed decisions that I feel reflect the sentiment of the community. We have a lot to do next year but, for this year, we accomplished much.

Thank you to new Town Manager, Jill Keimach for her professionalism, experience and hard work in our community her first year here. PSPRS debt payments have reduced our unfunded liability resulting in the Town getting closer to 100% funded. Our CFO, Doug Allen, was recognized by the GFOA for his transparency in financial reporting with three awards --- but --- for the first year he was recognized with an “Award for Outstanding Achievement” for his publication of the Popular Annual Financial Report. At the request of the mayor, our finance office also produced the first “Strategic Revenue Plan,” which would identify weaknesses in our long-term financial solvency.

We have been working hard in roadway & sidewalk redesign and looking at several property redevelopment projects.

To say the least, it has been a busy year. We remain committed to our priorities of best-in-class public safety, excellent quality of life in our residential community with a limited government model that requires no property tax to balance our budget and provide quality services.

We continue to focus on being good partners with our resorts, schools and churches along with being good neighbors to our surrounding communities. Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season.

Anna Thomasson

•As 2020 nears, what are some topics Town Council will be looking at in the new calendar year?

  • Development:
    • Ritz-Carlton/Five Star: The town recently signed a $13.2 million road improvement contract to reconstruct the three roads around the development. According to the development agreement (DA) Five Star will reimburse the town a large majority of the costs. The town will manage the contract and comply with all provisions of the DA while supporting Five Star as they bring this new Ritz-Carlton to Paradise Valley.
    • Smoketree Resort has revised their application for development and we will be carefully considering their request to redevelop this property at the entrance to Town.
    • A PR firm for Scottsdale Plaza has indicated they are about to apply for redevelopment of this 37-acre site just north of the Five Star development.
    • I want to keep Paradise Valley, Paradise Valley --- not Scottsdale. It’s critical we hold the line on increased density. Even though each special use permit (SUP) is unique, by granting more density and use to one SUP, the next developer could see that as the new threshold.
  • Fiscal preparedness: Town Council recently passed a resolution declaring our intent to be reimbursed for capital and other expenditures through the use of reimbursement bonds. Although the town has plenty of funds to pay both capital expenditures and accelerated pension fund debt reduction, the state-mandated expenditure limit prohibits us from doing so, but we can pay these expenses with bond financing.
  • General Plan update: I’m excited to work with our community and council to begin the update to our general plan. This is our chance to clarify our values and continue to shape our community for the next ten years.

•Are there any specific issues you are looking to bring to Town Council purview next year?

My passions remain “Keeping Paradise Valley, Paradise Valley” while increasing communications and building our sense of community. I plan to:

  • Critically consider special use permit applications and discourage increased density and use.
  • Look for additional ways to communicate with you including encouraging adoption of “Alert PV.” This voice, email or text message alert system allows you to get messages about anything in the town from road closures, to council meetings, to crime alerts to general announcements. Very flexible and so much more than Code Red. www.paradisevalleyaz.gov/alertpv.
  • Actively support our mayor’s efforts at the Arizona Legislature to allow us more management of our short-term rentals.
  • Keep a watchful eye on expenditures since it is easier to spend money when times are good.
  • Look for ways to ensure the quiet and peaceful enjoyment of our homes, exploring modifications of current Town code or more active enforcement.

•What will 2020 entail for the community?

Our beloved, quiet residential community will continue to feel pressure from those who visit and don’t respect our peaceful community (noisy short-term rentals), special-use-permit developers wanting to maximize land value, and home builders scraping smaller homes and subdividing large lots and building larger homes changing the character of our neighborhoods.

While I respect property owners rights, I will keep fighting to hang on to the tranquil, open-space community that attracted so many of us to move here.

We will also need to cultivate our patience as we completely redo the three streets around the Five Star/Ritz-Carlton development and update the medians along Lincoln resulting in another year of periodic orange barricades. We will also begin to update the General Plan and participate in the 2020 census – both will have a significant impact on our future.

•Looking back on 2019, how do you feel about what Town Council accomplished over the past 12 months?

First, we recruited, hired and integrated an excellent Town Manager in Jill Keimach. Knowledgeable from her 30 years of municipal service she also brings a calm, focused demeanor, high intellect and strong personal character to our town. We are fortunate to have her leading our very competent staff of 100.

Secondly, your council melded as we shared similar views on key issues of thoughtful and conservative development, fiscal prudence --- including prepayment of our pension obligation --- and careful future planning, including the revitalization of the Paradise Valley Mountain Preserve Trust.

Finally, we sent a strong message to those who want to increase the density and usage of our resort and medical special use permits. We supported our Planning Commission in their work, gave a great deal of weight to resident opinion and gave honest and constructive feedback to those applicants.

Additionally, I’m proud of our mayor’s initiative to conduct a fiscal “stress test” to quantify our revenue risks under a variety of circumstances, as well as his preliminary work with the legislature this season to grant municipalities the right to exert more control over short-term rentals.

Julie Pace

•As 2020 nears, what are some topics Town Council will be looking at in the new calendar year?

Quality of life tops the list. Council continues to identify myriad ways to protect town values and the expectations of residents in this special place we are so fortunate to live in and enjoy each day. Council will be taking a deeper dive at a retreat on residential development both on flat and hillside lots and minimizing traffic.

The General plan update is coming up. This is a chance to address items for long range planning that will enhance quality of life for decades to come. Residents will want to provide input about density, aesthetics, open space, development, strategies to reduce cut through traffic in their neighborhoods and more.

Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner has taken the lead on, and council fully supports, his initiative on financial revenue testing and planning to ensure good financial stewardship for the town. Paying down the pension fund is a key focus of Town Council as that has great benefits for our residents by saving millions. On a statewide basis, we lead most municipalities in this effort.

Council is excited about Five Star and the Ritz project finally getting completed. Council and staff continue to assist and be available as needed to ensure the town meets its obligations of the development agreement, which was approved on a 4-to-3 vote by a previous council. The added zing of a Ritz to our already fabulous, first class resorts that we all regularly enjoy is a plus for our community. The resorts financially contribute to our town and is the reason our town has no property tax.

•Are there any specific issues you are looking to bring to council purview next year?

My continued interest in mountain preservation and working with the Paradise Valley Mountain Preserve Trust to foster legacy gifts that make a difference to keep our community unique. Improvements to the General Plan to protect our town values and views. Finalizing the updated hillside guidelines and have codified into town ordinance.

•What will 2020 entail for the community?

The community will be watching the Arizona Legislature regarding short-term rentals and what actually gets enacted to protect neighborhoods, as well as monitoring any new legislation that takes away local control and could adversely impact neighborhoods.

Other items that residents will see in 2020 are General plan update, completion of utility work on the roads, new sidewalks, completion of drainage projects, party houses to deal with, continued redevelopment of aging homes in our community, tensions regarding redevelopment, and resort construction and upgrades.

And, on a very positive note, the residents will continue to experience the benefits of safety in our community based on Chief Pete Wingert’s leadership and his team’s efforts and commitment to catching the bad guys and slowing down traffic, while building great relations in our community through many education outreach opportunities and serving our community as a concierge police department.

On a fun note, we will see the roll out of the children’s book called “The Real Story Of Camelback Mountain” with proceeds benefiting the Paradise Valley Mountain Preservation Trust and a new sculpture in front of Town Hall with plaques commemorating all the people who have given monies and over 235 acres to the Trust.

•Looking back on 2019, how do you feel about what Town Council accomplished over the past 12 months?

I feel great about what our Town Council accomplished this past year. We spent significant time in a process led by Mayor Bien-Willner to find and hire top notch town manager Jill Keimach. The position of town manager is critical to maintaining and enhancing the town values we all hold sacred.

During my term as ACOPS chair, and with the active support of my peers on Town Council, we saw the Public Safety Foundation come to fruition, and we established a House of Worship committee, along with a number of initiatives and education outreach activities.

I am very proud to serve as liaison to The Paradise Valley Mountain Preservation Trust. Under chair Fred Pakis’s leadership, many good things occurred including a new logo, new brochure with substantive details on conservation easements and fee simple donations, establishment of resources including tax and appraisers, a well attended event to educate potential donors and celebrate donors who have give over 235 acres.

And the council worked diligently behind the scenes, with the town manager and town attorney, to minimize legal risk and scenarios that arose. We have a great team on council that brings depth and great to decision making and we operate as a highly effective board of directors.

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