Scarp: Electrical substation flap only about politics - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Scarp: Electrical substation flap only about politics

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Posted: Saturday, August 16, 2008 9:21 pm | Updated: 10:19 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A resolution regarding the building of an electrical substation is on Monday's Scottsdale City Council agenda. Normally such proposals are routinely considered. But Monday's discussion won't be about electricity, although it will come up.

Read Mark Scarp's blog, 'Scarpsdale'

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It'll be about politics, steeped in rhetoric, white hats versus black hats. There will be particular attention paid to showing voters about to elect a mayor and three council members which politicians are the city's Friends of Neighborhoods and who are the Buddies of Developers.

The resolution itself simply states that the council opposes, in principle, moving the substation off its current site and wants to help the property owner deal with it where it is.

Mind you, an actual proposal to move it isn't being voted on. This resolution is simply a statement of how your elected representatives feel about moving it, which voters should see as a waste of time.

Since the real substation plan wasn't going to be officially heard until after the Sept. 2 election, Councilman Bob Littlefield put on Monday's agenda the next best thing: something to put his colleagues, four of whom are on that ballot, on the record about what he termed in a Saturday column on the Tribune's opinion pages as "protecting neighborhoods."


With apologies to Bill Clinton, that depends on your definition of "neighborhood" and "protection." To some in Scottsdale, anything that they don't like that's built closer than a mile from their house is evil, while to others, the same thing even just down the street would be quite unobtrusive.

There are those who want the city's "protection" at just about all costs short of handing over one of their children. Yet there are others who are quite wary of government people who tell residents in detail how to use their own property.

For those who haven't been keeping score, a resort and condo complex is proposed for the south bank of the Arizona Canal, just northeast of Camelback Road, where there's been a Salt River Project substation for decades. The developer wants to move it to a parcel of land he bought at the northeast corner of 68th Street and Indian School Road, and his proposal was to be officially heard sometime this fall.

Littlefield is upset that the developer didn't fulfill the councilman's political wishes and apply for a hearing that would take place before the election, even though the applicant is under no legal requirement to do so. Hence, the resolution.

Tom Irvine, attorney for developer Mark Madkour, wrote the council a letter Thursday warning that Monday's resolution would violate state and federal laws by pre-empting the actual proposal, so the council must not vote on it.


SRP spokesman Jeff Lane said Friday that if the substation remains where it is, increasing electricity demand downtown means that by 2014 or so it will need a third 69-kilovolt transmission line connected to it.

The connection would be by means that, it appears to me, would be quite unaesthetic to aesthetically minded Scottsdale residents.

Lane said this could tear up all the work SRP just completed west of Scottsdale Road to bury lines and beautify the canal's South Bank retail and restaurant complex. Moreover, riser poles would have to be erected to take the line up and over the Scottsdale-and-Camelback intersection. Talk about aesthetically unappealing.

Lane said the 68th Street site, if that's where the substation goes, would eliminate the need for digging up the Waterfront and erecting these poles. He also said that any other site south of the canal also would preclude such measures.

Madkour has produced drawings of a proposed 68th Street substation that show quite an artistic vision that gives little impression there's a substation behind all the art and greenery.

At the same time, the substation design is hardly any uglier than what's on that side of the canal now: the rear elevations of a restaurant and a few retail stores. Again, talk about aesthetically unappealing.


But these are nuts-and-bolts considerations that should be dealt with when the real proposal is on the agenda - yep, after the election. They won't be heard Monday, because this isn't about nuts or bolts.

This vortex need not have been stirred into existence if Madkour had a way to incorporate such an arty substation on his own hotel-and-condos site. But that isn't happening.

So what we'll get is an example of Scarp's Fifth Law of Scottsdale Politics: What the be-all-and-end-all in Scottsdale is only a temporary designation.

In this case, Monday's free-for-all is designed to last just long enough, until election day.

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