The Paradise Valley Planning Commission is requesting an extension on its study of Smoke Tree Resort, recommending to push its deadline to December.
In addition, the commission and applicant have agreed to four weekly meetings in October to address the ins and outs of the resort redevelopment plans.
“There’s not enough time to address everything during a three-hour meeting every two weeks,” said Paul E. Gilbert, founding member of Phoenix-based law firm Beus Gilbert McGroder PLLC who represents Smoke Tree, of requesting the special October meetings.
Smoke Tree Resort is seeking a major special-use permit amendment to redevelop the legacy resort at the town’s western entrance on Lincoln Drive. As part of its municipal scrutiny, the Planning Commission evaluates the proposed project from building height to lighting.
The Planning Commission has worked on the project’s statement of direction — a set of marching orders from Town Council outlining what project areas to focus on — this summer, with an original deadline of Sept. 30.
During a Sept. 1 meeting, however, the Planning Commission voted 5-0 to request an extension to Dec. 15, at which point the Commission would render a recommendation or denial on the project to the Town Council, which would have the final vote in the resort’s fate. Commissioners Charles Covington and Orme Lewis Jr. were absent from the online meeting.
This isn’t the first time Smoke Tree Resort has undergone municipal scrutiny with a developer hoping to repurpose the legacy property, which dates back to the 1960s.
Smoke Tree initially submitted plans for its redevelopment more than a year ago, before receiving denial from the Planning Commission majority.
Owners Gentree LLC have amended its plans for the property dating to 1954 and resubmitted a tapered-down request.
Plans no longer allow for-sale properties, unit count was cut to 122 hotel rooms, removing balconies from perimeter buildings and capping building height at 36 feet.
The project includes:
Total cost of the resort revitalization will be about $60 million, officials say.
Mr. Gilbert, along with resort owner Taylor Robinson, requested the amended fall schedule to spend the next few weeks addressing and resolving substantive and individualized commission comments. At the start of the Sept. 1 meeting, many commissioners publicly disclosed meetings with Smoke Tree officials in recent months.
“This might be a good time to do it, prior to the applicant speaking — since most if not all commissioners have met with the applicant, we just want to acknowledge that has happened. It’s a very typical proceeding, for commissioners to meet with the applicant so long as we don’t meet in groups of more than three commissioners,” Commission Chairman Jonathan Wainwright said, stating he and commissioner Pamela Georgelos talked with the applicant the previous week during a conference call.
Since the prior meeting, which talked about parking plans significantly, all commissioners met with the applicant, the group disclosed.
The amended fall schedule proposed includes time for the applicant to work with town staff on the parking considerations, Mr. Gilbert said.
If the Town Council agrees to the extension at its Sept. 10 meeting, the Planning Commission likely will vote to make a recommendation on Smoke Tree in late 2020.
Commissioner Thomas Campbell supported of the proposed schedule, saying he believes it is better to take action in September through May, than June through August.
“In the interest of open government and our actual public being in town and even interested in what’s going on in town, so I think it’s a very positive development to bring it into more of the fall than the summer months,” Mr. Campbell said.
Mr. Robinson said he believes the four October meetings will provide plenty of time for the two entities to get through all of the plans.
“We think those are going to be productive meetings. We don’t anticipate there to be a lot of revision of materials in the form that would delay that process, and that things would be able to move along expeditiously. We could be wrong on that front, and if we are, then we would need to request more time. My sense of it is the materials that we’ll bring will have a favorable reception,” Mr. Robinson said.
Mr. Gilbert agreed, saying no one rushing anyone in this process.
“I think the applicant has demonstrated quite effectively all the way through this that we’re not rushing anybody,” Mr. Gilbert said.
“And if more time’s needed you’ll find the applicant to be very accommodating and wishing to help. We will spend the time necessary so you can make an informed decision — but I like the goal of these proposed dates. I think it keeps us all with our feet to the fire a little, and keeps it moving on.”
A citizen review was scheduled for the same meeting, but no members of the public were present or provided comments.
The Planning Commission has a scheduled public hearing on Smoke Tree at its upcoming 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, meeting.