Scottsdale residents voted several times to be taxed to pay for the acquisition of nearly 34,000 acres of desert to be established as a preserve. The Preserve Ordinance and the City Code state that “The Preserve will be left in as pristine a state as possible.” Is building within the Preserve inconsistent with the intention of voters, within the definition of a preserve, and with the ordinances governing the use of the Preserve? (link to ordinance and city code)
Many residents are not opposed to the idea of a Desert Discovery Center but they are opposed to it being in the Preserve. There are several city-owned sites within close proximity to the Gateway Preserve. Why not build the DDC elsewhere, outside of a Preserve – this was studied in 2016.
Why disrupt the natural ecosystem?
Thousands of plants will be destroyed and what will happen to the animals—their feeding patterns, migration patterns, habitats? Will they move into nearby residential neighborhoods?
Aren’t the proposed uses in violation of the existing Preserve Ordinance (link to ordinance 3321)?
The currently proposed uses and amenities, including a retail shop, cafe, and night lighting for parking are in direct violation of the existing Preserve Ordinance which was designed to protect the desert habitat and wildlife. There is concern that the City Council will change the Preserve Ordinance to accommodate these uses as requested by the project developers.
Do Scottsdale residents want to spend a significant amount of the City’s resources ($50-$75 million) on a Desert Discovery Center?
Would they rather spend their resources in some other way, perhaps for better roads, police/fire services, paying down the city’s debt or building up the city’s cash reserves? Shouldn’t residents be included via a public vote, rather than allowing seven City Council members to spend this large amount of money?
BE AWARE: Scottsdale has the highest debt per capita of any metropolitan area surrounding Phoenix. (link to data)
Could our taxes go up to cover operating deficits?
The short answer is YES. The most recent study in 2010 projected a revenue shortfall in “stabilized years” (years 3 and out) of a $1.6 million deficit. This shortfall is presumed to be made up by fund-raising events, grants, private donations, etc. If these fundraising goals fall short, or if the top-line revenues fall short (meaning if enough people don’t visit the facility as expected), and the facility is operating at a loss, it is likely Scottsdale residents will be taxed to make up the deficits.
Does Scottsdale need the DDC?
The critical hypotheses underlying this project—namely that “Scottsdale needs this,” “Scottsdale residents want this,” “A Desert Discovery Center will result in more tourists visiting Scottsdale,” et cetera —have not been quantitatively proven in a valid, statistically significant study. Past feasibility studies state: “We can make money if we have 300,000 annual visitors.” This is very different from: “We have data that shows we will have an additional 300,000 visitors.” Building a business plan, and potentially approving a multi-million dollar capital expenditure (with irreversible ramifications, such as destroying Preserve lands), without proving this critical hypothesis is an abdication of best practices and fiduciary responsibilities. No expenditures should be authorized until these fundamental assumptions are statistically verified.
Noise and Lights
We have traffic concerns.
Recent proposals project an additional 300,000+ visitors annually would come to a Desert Discovery Center built in the Gateway Preserve. Local residents worry about school children crossing streets, and question the capacity of the existing infrastructure (specifically, the two lane bridges on Thompson Peak Parkway and Legacy) to handle such an increased volume of traffic, etc.
What about the proposed nighttime operations, lighting, and sound?
Proposals have called for night-time events at the DDC (currently prohibited by the Preserve Ordinance). Evening events would require lighting of paths, parking, etc. An amphitheater has been discussed, though it hasn’t been determined whether this will be indoors or outside perhaps with sound amplification systems (currently prohibited by the Preserve Ordinance).
Is there a chance the displaced animals will move into nearby residential neighborhoods?
Yes, as aforementioned if natural habitats are altered, it is highly probable that wildlife will go in search of food and in neighboring communities.
What about Mission Creep?
If the Council feels they can change the present ordinance at will, what is to prevent more development in the future? If/when the DDC has a deficit, will they seek ways to increase revenue such as using the DDC for concerts and social venues (weddings, parties, etc.)?