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Pace: Keep current open space in Paradise Valley


The Town Council is scheduled to vote on Thursday, Nov. 18 to reduce the setback requirement of 20 feet to 10 feet along many streets in Paradise Valley.

This proposed change will forever change the character of many neighborhoods, and it will create a feeling of less open space and reduce the quality of life in our Town.

Once the town changes the code to give away land for development instead of retaining what has for decades been open space, it is gone. Municipalities can keep setback requirements, but generally cannot increase it.

What is driving this material change to town code? Corner houses that confuse applicants (and even town staff) in figuring out setback requirements and complaints about the town’s current landscape and hedge agreements around combination view fences.

Will this permanent change create a closed-in feeling of less open space in our town?


Is this proposed change contrary to the town’s general plan to preserve open space? Yes, this change is contrary to the town’s current and new draft of the general plan.

Does this proposed change adversely affect the quality of life in Paradise Valley? Yes, most definitely. We continue to see encroachment with proposals like this of more dense development that reduces the quality of live. We must be vigilant and work together to preserve Paradise Valley!

Was notice provided to residents whose neighborhoods and streets will be adversely impacted? No, there were no postcards or letters sent to residents or CCR or HOA committees to obtain feedback about the permanent change to the visual impact and permanent character change in their neighborhoods.

Did the Planning Commission agree to this proposed change?

No. The seven-member Planning Commission was unanimous in opposing this proposed change. The Planning Commission studied it for months and rejected the staff’s proposal to make this change to reduce open space along town streets.

The setback for fences was 40 feet for decades in our town. In approximately 2016, the Planning Commission worked hard on this issue and the town made a reasonable change to reduce the setback for fences greater than three feet from 40 feet to 20 feet, but only if a combination view fence was built, not a solid wall (three feet of solid wall below and three feet of view fence on top for a maximum height of six feet).

We do not want to look like a big suburban city like Phoenix with sidewalks close to the roads and a narrow feel along streets with row after row of block fences near the street.

It is also a safety issue if the town makes the change, it forces residents to walk closer to the roads within 10 feet — not the current 20 feet. And, traffic is increasing in our town from pass through traffic between Phoenix and Scottsdale. We need to take actions to improve safety for pedestrians.

When driving through the streets of our town, residents currently enjoy the views, the ambiance, the desert vegetations, the rolling topography all made possible by the foresight of our founders that made open space, low density and the mountains the focus of our community. Let’s keep current open space in our town, not reduce it.

Former long-term Town Planning Commission Daran Watschak worked in 2016 on the Planning Commission’s decision to reduce the setback from 40 feet to 20 feet, he wrote in comments he submitted to the town: “in allowing the combination wall at 20 feet, our objective was to entice homeowners to get rid of the oleanders right on the property line and push back the visual roadway corridors that they create, opening up the feel along roadways. Anything less than 20 feet for the combination walls would potentially create a feel of less open space. I would strongly recommend that the setbacks be kept as we reset them the last time (in 2016) and the town should stay with what is in the code now.”

I agree with the current and former Planning Commissioners that no further reductions should be made in setback requirements. We need to preserve open space and the low density, semi-rural character of our neighborhoods.

Is there any change that should be made from the current town staff proposal?

I support removing from town code the landscape requirements around combination view fences and to no longer have the town maintain hedge agreements. Residents should be able to place landscape around their fences and to not restrict heights of landscaping to three feet or to leave the fence completely open with no landscaping. Privacy and security are important to residents. Sometimes the view fence is not even visible when residents have plantings in front of or around the view fence.

If you care about preserving the quality of life in Paradise Valley, send written comments opposing the reduction in setback from 20 feet to 10 feet by Thursday, Nov. 18 to:

  •  jbienwillner@paradisevalleyaz.gov: Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner
  • eandeen@paradisevalleyaz.gov: Ellen Andeen
  •  pdembow@paradisevalleyaz.gov: Paul Dembow
  •  smoore@paradisevalleyaz.gov: Scott Moore
  •  jpace@paradisevalleyaz.gov: Julie Pace
  •  mstanton@paradisevalleyaz.gov: Vice Mayor Mark Stanton
  •  athomasson@paradisevalleyaz.gov: Anna Thomasson
  •  dmiller@paradisevalleyaz.gov: Duncan Miller, Town Clerk

Editor’s Note: Julie Pace is a current Town Councilmember and former Vice-Mayor of Paradise Valley.