Debates over and objections to the proposed amendments to the General Plan have largely focused on the ill-designed Desert Rural land designation.
That debate overlooks an even worse problem. Whether you seek to develop your land or not, the city would like to give itself the power to limit how you use your land and to mandate that you let others cross it at all times. It’s called the “Proximity” rule.
Land near the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is often referred to as “Scottsdale’s version of Beachfront Property.” In 1976 California spent enormous amounts of time cautiously defining the area that would become protected.
Despite all that forethought, the Coastal Act has launched more litigation than any other act in California history, including things like issuing orders to tear down recently built homes. Here’s the California definition of the protected area:
“‘Coastal zone’ means that land and water area of the State of California . . . extending seaward to the state’s outer limit of jurisdiction, including all offshore islands, and extending inland generally 1,000 yards from the mean high tide line of the sea. In significant coastal estuarine, habitat, and recreational areas it extends inland to the first major ridgeline paralleling the sea or five miles from the mean high tide line of the sea, whichever is less, and in developed urban areas the zone generally extends inland less than 1,000 yards.” California Coastal Act 1976.
Through the Scottsdale general plan amendment, and clearly without thinking of the unintended consequences, our mayor and some of our City Council are ready to launch the Preserve version of the Coastal Act. But in their version of the Coastal Act, they have made no effort whatsoever to define the area of impacted land.
In fact, they did the opposite. They chose a vague and imprecise term that can and will be subjected to massive amounts of litigation if enforced.
It’s the “Proximity Rule.”
All privately or publicly owned land within the “proximity” of the Preserve will be impacted. That is true whether talking about existing Preserve land or land purchased for the Preserve in the future. Arguably every single acre of Scottsdale north of Shea is “within the proximity” of the Preserve.
All of that land will be subject to potential “restrictions,” “dedicated easements,” “or other treatments” (whatever that means), with the stated purpose of those actions being to “limit the use of the property,” and “to preserve and conserve” the Preserve like quality of the region.
In essence it is suggested that we turn all of north Scottsdale into Preserve property without ever buying it or declaring it as such.
Are we really ready to tell everyone living north of Shea that they must now allow other humans and animals to cross their property unrestricted? Are we really ready to tell horse property or estate owners that they can’t have walls or unbroken fences? Are we really ready to do that even to the land that “abuts” the Preserve let alone everything “within the proximity” of the Preserve.
No, we’re not even remotely close to having thought through the consequences of the whimsical proposals floating around. It is time to stop this nonsense.
Editor’s Note: Mike Norton is the CEO of the Athena Foundation Scottsdale and a long time Scottsdale resident.