It has been nearly 20 years since the City of Scottsdale has updated its General Plan --- a keystone planning document meant to illustrate how future development ought to unfold.
As Scottsdale rapidly approaches build-out, those guiding principles have never been more paramount, both elected and senior planning staff contend.
“What we have done up to now is we have tried to update the plan twice in Scottsdale --- once in 2011 and another draft in 2014 that never went through a public hearing process,” said Scottsdale Long Range Planning Director Erin Perrault. “What we plan to embark on this year is to update the full plan.”
Ms. Perrault explains the City of Scottsdale has been granted extensions beyond the 10-year update process defined by state law.
In November 2019 Scottsdale City Council approved a non-major amendment to the 2001 General Plan, which installed state-required content:
Ms. Perrault explains the amendment to the existing General Plan, which was approved by voters in 2001, is the first phase in a formal update process.
What first began as House Bill 2294 in the late 1990s at the Arizona Legislature is now known as the Growing Smarter Act, which requires cities and towns to adopt a General Plan. Provisions of the original Arizona legislation defines an effort “to assist communities in developing strategies for dealing with population growth.”
The City of Scottsdale continues to operate on its 2001 plan, Mr. Perrault explains, but says a full update ought to be before voters November 2021.
Ms. Perrault calls the update process, “General Plan 2035.”
“The next big thing will be coming up later this year,” she said of the creation of a citizen committee to help shepherd the project through the municipal process.
“We are going to resurrect that draft, as it never went to council. We are vetting it here internally. Later this year, we will be taking that out to the community to gain feedback. In 2021, we will go through the state-mandated update process, but until then we are going to be doing a lot of outreach.”
Ms. Perrault says she expects to offer a formal document to City Council in June 2021.
“We are required to have a General Plan by state statute,” she said of Growing Smarter legislation. “I have always worked with a General Plan or sometimes cities call it, a ‘Comprehensive Plan.’ Right now, Scottsdale is very much landlocked and what we are looking at is what our growth is going to be and how we handle build-out.”
But Ms. Perrault contends land-use dynamics will not change.
“Our zoning and land-use is pretty well defined,” she said. “We are not that growth community we once were. Speaking to land-use, specifically, the General Plan is a guide to what we want to see happen.”
The Scottsdale General Plan is an aspirational document, according to Scottsdale Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp.
“To me, the General Plan expresses the long-term vision for Scottsdale,” she said.
“It sets out priorities and goals on land-use and character areas. It is an aspirational document that rightly so incorporates citizen input --- that is a very important component of the General Plan.”
For Ms. Klapp, the No. 1 focus of the General Plan update process? Citizen input.
“I believe there are a number of passages within the 2001 General Plan that do incorporate the visions of citizens in 2001, which are true still today,” she said of the current planning document installed at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.
“We are instituting another citizen review committee and I am in full support of that. I believe that input will provide for us an understanding of what the people of Scottsdale want to see in the General Plan.”
But update processes have failed at the ballot box, and city officials, opted to not bring an update forward in 2014 for council deliberation.
“It appears to me that even in recent years, a variety of people keep pointing to that 2001 document as the primary vision of Scottsdale,” she said. “The heart of the General Plan issue seems to go back to that 2001 document.”
However, Ms. Klapp contends, the underlying issue of the pending General Plan update is revolving around differing opinions within local factions.
“It has not been the voters so much,” she explained.
“The various groups who have been working on this have disagreements. The citizens have been involved and I think one of the ways to bring in public input is to incorporate some of the things they have learned. We need to make sure all citizen input is heard.”
Lessons learned will be applied to the outreach process and subsequent steps as the General Plan update process unfolds throughout 2020.
“We have learned things over the course of the last 20 years,” she said of the municipal update process. “We still will be using the citizen committee and we will expand upon that established effort. It is always difficult to reach all citizens of a city this size. I believe we are going to try all we can to have as many voices heard as possible --- it is my intention to get citizens what they want.”
The Scottsdale 2035 General Plan update process is more than a chance to get a development document correct, but rather, she contends, an opportunity to restore trust and integrity at City Hall.
“This is an opportunity to build better trust among the citizens, be able to provide input and show we have listened to them,” she said. “I am hoping this document can be unifying in some way.”