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Paradise Valley Planning Commission poised to render advisory vote on SmokeTree proposal

Photo of Smoketree monument sign in the Town of Paradise Valley
A view of what used to signify The SmokeTree Resort. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/
Paradise Valley PC dissects all things SmokeTree at Aug. 15 study session
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

The Paradise Valley Planning Commission is hosing a public hearing Tuesday, Sept. 19, on the proposed major special use permit amendment at the SmokeTree Resort property, 7101 E. Lincoln Drive.

Withey Morris Baugh, PLC on behalf of ST HOLDCO, is formally pursuing the major SUP amendment as proposed plans include the development of an 82-guest unit resort. The ‘Arrival’ building will include 77 guest units, back-of-house functions, lobby, meeting event space, a grab-and-go market bistro element and spa/fitness facility.

The casita building, as proposed, will include five single-story guest unit casitas with private patios and small plunge pools. The redevelopment will also include a detached fine dining restaurant with outdoor patios/cellar bar, surface and underground parking, signage, perimeter walls, landscaping, lighting and utility improvements.

The resort borders two public roads —- Lincoln Drive, a major arterial, and Quail Run Road, a local road.

Of note: Use of the property as a resort began prior to its annexation into the Town of Paradise Valley in 1961.

Last night, the Paradise Valley Planning Commission hosted what ultimately became a final work study discussion on proposed plans for the rebirth of the dilapidated commercial property as over about a 90-minute period local commissioners conducted due diligence on some 66 development stipulations sought for agreeable redevelopment terms.

The Paradise Valley Planning Commission is an advisory body made up of seven Town of Paradise Valley volunteers appointed by Town Council to four-year terms providing recommendation votes on all things planning and zoning.

“We will only take action if we need to ask Town Council to push back our deadline if we cannot reach a consensus,” said Paradise Valley Planning Commission Chairwoman Karen Liepmann at the onset of the Aug. 15 discussion at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

Paradise Valley Community Development Director Paul Michaud provided members of the Planning Commission myriad facets of the updated proposal focused on key elements of concerns expressed at the previous meeting, which was held last month.

“As you recall in your statement of direction you need to take some kind of action prior to Sept. 19,” Mr. Michaud pointed out to the advisory board members as he began to distill major points of forming development stipulations.

Of Note: Pamela G. Georgelos, an attorney at Gammage & Burnham recused herself from the conversation due to her employment and relationship to the owner of the property, Walton Global.

Mr. Michaud went on to outline stipulations of focus like the height of the wall separating the proposed resort development and the neighboring medical office.

“The owner of the medical plaza requested the wall to be 8-feet tall,” he pointed out. “That is not of our character as if the site were residential code allows for an 8-foot wall by right so that is not out of character.”

Another point made by Mr. Michaud in his report to the Planning Commission is the contemplated ballroom is 5.25% beyond open space guidelines, and due to the acreage of the property the envisaged project would be the most concentrated commercial site of the community.

“They are over the guideline on density but with the overall between what we have on our other resorts,” Mr. Michaud said. “They would be the highest resort regarding floor area maximum footprint and drip line. The applicant is requesting a very similar way to calculate [FAR] like Omni or Camelback Inn whey they are looking at gross numbers.”

A graphic rending of an overview of the SmokeTree property in the Town of Paradise Valley. (File Photos/
Parking, traffic & technology at the Planning Commission

While Mr. Michaud explained parking and traffic analysis outcomes will not change certain clarifying points are being pursued by members of the Planning Commission.

“The findings for the traffic analysis is there are about 1,200 daily trips 41 trips in the morning and 113 trips in the evening,” Mr. Michaud said of an analysis provide by Scottsdale-based CivTech. “As total trips along Lincoln, it is just 5% total so they are a very small contributor.”

Paradise Valley Commissioner Jim Rose has concerns around parking availability and traffic at the proposed French Cowboy restaurant, which is expected to be at total of 4,465 square feet in size.

“This event space is concerning and it would not be so concerning if we’re not on such a small property,” Mr. Rose, former longtime general manager at the Camelback Inn, said of his parking and traffic concerns.

“You know? It is a very well thought out traffic study [but] I just am still uncomfortable not because of the traffic study but because of the size of the property. When you get to the smaller properties that is when parking starts to get real interesting — I am still concerned about a line of traffic along Lincoln Drive. I just see a lot cars … it seems the resort can be inundated with cars on peak nights and I just hope the resort can handle that operationally.”

With the anticipated submittal leading up to the Sept. 19 public hearing, Mr. Rose requested a “very concise” narrative on the restaurant operations to help Town Council understand best proposed services.

Attorney Benjamin Tate of Withey Morris Baugh — along with Dawn Cartier of CivTech — helped to clarify points of interest expressed by members of the Planning Commission regarding the French Cowboy restaurant concept, contemplated events and ensuing traffic.

“Recognition of the reality of having such a robust [marketplace] element would create judgmental traffic flow for Lincoln,” Mr. Tate said of evolving ancillary restaurant offerings in tandem with the contemplated French Cowboy restaurant. “To preserve the element, in the sense that people can go to grab a coffee that is not sitting at a very small metal table [at AJ’s] and trying to avoid the bumpers of the cars coming to park.”

Mr. Tate went on to explain to Mr. Rose and fellow members of the Planning Commission the operators being courted for the resort where the SmokeTree property sits today will be fist-in-class.

“The scenarios you are presenting would fly in the face of the operational standards of the operators we are courting for this property in terms of exclusivity and international reputation,” he said of the significant private investment being made in hospitality at the site. “I don’t mean to be nebulous but we are trying to cultivate a certain experience.”

A cursory overview of the proposed traffic flow of the property site. (File Photos/
Paradise Valley: The epicenter of Arizona luxury events

The Town of Paradise Valley is the epicenter of luxury events during the cooler months of the calendar year and proposed plans at the SmokeTree Resort call for an event space meanwhile commissioners express concerns about worst-case scenarios involving traffic backed up along Lincoln Drive on a Friday night.

“I certainly respect your concerns as these worse case scenario are out there,” Mr. Tate said offering new technology has changed how many residents and visitors of the areas travel when attending an event. “The operational considerations today are not the same as they were say five years ago.”

Ms. Cartier also clarified a ‘sensitivity analysis’ will be included in supporting documentation forthcoming in the final development proposal for all things traffic, probable or not.

“I believe the 200 person event is exactly what they have planned,” she said. “What we are being asked to respond to is the question of what happens when there is a 300-person event and I don’t anyone expects events to be any bigger than what is proposed.”

A community meeting is slated for the evening of Tuesday Sept. 5, at the Andaz Resort & Bungalows, Town Hall officials say.

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