The Scottsdale City Council, facing the threat of a lawsuit, voted Monday against passing a resolution that would have sent a message that it would not support relocating an electric substation to the western edge of downtown.
The failed council resolution stated that Salt River Project should be advised in writing that the council is opposed to the relocation of a substation from Scottsdale and Camelback roads to 68th Street and Indian School Road, where neighbors are protesting the possible substation. The substation’s move is being requested by the developer of the proposed Scottsdale Solis Resort to accommodate the hotel and condominium project.
The four who voted against passing the resolution — three of whom are running for re-election — said it would deny the public process if the council approved the action. City Attorney Deborah Robberson also advised the council that the resolution should not be passed because it raises legal issues for the city.
The more than two-hour hearing included neighbors speaking out against the substation as well as supporters of the move, including downtown developers and business leaders, some of whom wore pink badges with phrases such as “energize downtown,” “support the move” and “protect due process.”
“The politically expendient is ‘Sure, let’s just support the neighbors.’ But I want to support the neighbors and will, but we need to make sure we all clearly understand what we’re doing for long-term public good for city of Scottsdale,” Councilwoman Betty Drake said.
The resolution, which was placed on the agenda by Councilman Bob Littlefield, said his goal was accomplished by forcing everyone running for re-election to make a public stance before the Sept. 2 election.
Littlefield said the four who failed to pass the resolution are telling the neighbors: “I feel your pain, it’s horrible you weren’t consulted, but you know what, we’re not going to take the opportunity to help you out.”
The three council members who supported the resolution were Littlefield, Jim Lane and Tony Nelssen. The four who voted against the resolution were Mayor Mary Manross, Drake, and Councilmen Ron McCullagh and Wayne Ecton.
At stake is a major proposed downtown project that would bring another high-end hotel to Scottsdale, whose developer said without the Salt River Project substation being relocated, the project cannot be built. The $600 million Solis Scottsdale project would include seven buildings as high as 72 feet north and east of Scottsdale and Camelback roads, including 241 hotel rooms, 141 condo residences plus 16 single-family penthouse residences.
The developer first suggested moving the substation to the east end of the project, across a residential street from single-familiy houses. That move was opposed by neighbors, and the developer bought the commercially zoned land at the northeast corner of Indian School Road and 68th Street for the substation.
The resolution opposing the substation did not pass, but the council must still vote whether to abandon an alley to allow for the substation, as well as a separate vote to rezone the property for the hotel project. No hearing dates have been scheduled for those votes.
Last week, the developer unveiled publicly for the first time renderings of the proposed substation location, with two 24-foot lit “vertical lanterns” and a 24-foot shaded park area. Then lawyer Tom Irvine, on behalf of developer Mark Madkour, wrote a letter to the city saying voting on the measure would be illegal, a violation of due process and property rights. The letter stated that each council member who voted could be held personally liable. Irvine reiterated those positions during the council meeting Monday.
The letter even played up Littlefield’s role in making this a political issue.
Littlefield had previously sent an e-mail to supporters saying it wouldn’t be too much to wear buttons, T-shirts and bring banners.
He told the Tribune that was an inside joke and he did not expect anyone to go that route.