What does Scottsdale City Council candidate Tammy Caputi think about the city’s development?
Leading up to the Nov. 3 general election, the Scottsdale Independent is hosting an ongoing question-and-answer series with candidates for local government.
This week’s topic is development — a hot issue in the 2020 election — as many people talk about factions of Scottsdale being pro-development, or pro-growth.
Related to the city’s development, Ms. Caputi talks about the Old Town Area Character Plan, improved communication and the “us vs. them” mentality. Read below to see what the council candidate had to say:
1. Museum Square, the Marquee and now maybe, if it comes to fruition and is approved, the Scottsdale Collective. Are you supportive of the revitalization that’s happening in Old Town Scottsdale, which includes all of the downtown area?
Old-town is four square blocks and should be preserved as a historic district — let’s just place Historic Old Town on the Historic Register and remove it from the conversation. Downtown Scottsdale is about 2 square miles: 1% of our total land mass of 185 square miles. The area zoned for type 3 height is only a few square blocks.
I support the Old Town Area Character Plan and the years-long process that developed it. Larger-scale projects are appropriate in a few very specific areas. Mixed-use developments allow people to live, work and play downtown, creating a thriving, walkable, year-round venue for residents and tourists. This decreases traffic, pollution and parking problems. Forty-seven percent of our city revenues come from sales taxes; downtown and Fashion Square are huge parts of that.
Downtown activity generates the crucial revenue that keeps our property taxes low and our quality of life high. A few select larger-scale projects limited to very specific areas are essential for maintaining our economic reality. We can grow strategically while maintaining our charm. It’s a balance.
2. The residents of Scottsdale have used their collective voice twice in recent years to stop Desert Edge and SouthBridge Two. Is a message being sent by the residents? And, is it being listened to?
The two issues couldn’t be more different. My family runs, bikes and hikes in the Preserve daily; no one wanted to see commercial development in the Preserve. The issue was many years in the making and involved many passionate people, and much misinformation on all sides. It definitely could have been handled differently, and it’s a shame it became such a divisive issue.
It’s always important that people feel their voices are heard, and I completely support civic involvement and outreach. More communication and education is always better, and should always start early in any process to increase transparency and trust.
Southbridge was private property. The city of Scottsdale lost $300M in annual economic activity and years of investment because three adjacent landlords wanted to limit competition. One of them is the largest single donor to my challengers. It passed the entire city approval process and had great support from the local merchants, but became a victim of politics, misinformation and bad timing.
Our downtown needs a refresh. A vibrant downtown is essential for maintaining our economic reality. Nurturing our economic drivers, like downtown, is what allows us to set aside 25% of our land mass as Preserve.
We have to balance our economic vibrancy with our neighborhoods and open spaces. The message we need to hear is that we need to provide better communication, and better facts and information to residents earlier in the process of change. As the chair of SCOTT (Scottsdale Coalition of Today and Tomorrow), our goal is to research and gather factual information and educate citizens through a variety of mediums so they can advocate more effectively on civic issues. I’m excited to continue this work.
3. Do you believe multi-acre, mixed-use developments, such as Museum Square or what Southbridge Two was planned to be, is what is needed in Scottsdale?
I can’t judge any project until I see it; I judge every project on its own merit, with an open mind and an understanding of the facts. I also make sure I’ve spoken with all the stakeholders involved.
Museum Square is an excellent example of a project that is beautiful, will revitalize the area, achieved wide-ranging support, and will provide enormous public benefits. We can strive to maintain excellence while improving economic vitality.
Serving for three years on the Development Review Board allowed me to become familiar with our standards and guidelines and character area plans. It gave me an appreciation for making sure development fits within the context of the surrounding neighborhood. It also made me realize you can’t please everyone all the time, but you can negotiate and compromise to make sure everyone gets at least what they need, if not everything they want.
4. What is a misconception the public has about development in Scottsdale?
There is no “us vs. them.” We are all stakeholders: residents, local businesses, investors, Council and city staff. We need participation from everyone from start to finish. Not all projects should be approved, but all projects can be improved.
Opposition is not vision, and “no” should not be our default position. We have a good process that can be made better the earlier our residents participate.
The biggest misconception is that development doesn’t pay for itself.
Developers have to pay entitlement fees, infrastructure costs and various other fees to the city on top of their construction and capital costs, while trying to make a profit. The recent deal with Axon is a good example.
Axon purchased the State Trust Land it will occupy for $17 million over the appraised market value, money which will be invested to benefit Arizona K-12 education. Axon is anticipating adding 650 high-paying jobs during the next five years. Every $10,000 in salary provides $70,000 to the community in economic impact. The deal is structured so the city will receive $16.51 million and pay $12 million, a gain of over $4.1 million.
Adding property taxes and construction economic impact, the total 10-year impact to the community is estimated to be $5.9 billion. I’d say this project is paying for itself.