|By Donna Hogan, The Tribune, Mesa,
Ariz.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 4, 2008 - NO RESIDENCES, No Ritz -- that's what the president of the hotel brand that became a common term for anything ultra-upscale is telling anybody who will listen.
Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. President Simon Cooper is in the Valley this week to make sure that message is conveyed loud and clear to residents of Paradise Valley, where some naysayers want to scuttle his proposed resort project.
"We've never been rejected before. We've never even been questioned. We benefit communities big time," Cooper said. "But you can't build a luxury hotel today on a stand-alone basis."
Scottsdale-based Five Star Development plans to build a $1.5 billion Ritz-Carlton resort and residential community on 123 acres southwest of Indian Bend and Scottsdale roads, all but about 16 acres on Paradise Valley's side of the border with Scottsdale. The centerpiece of the planned project is the 225-room Ritz-Carlton resort. The contentious part of the plan is 100 planned villas, with price tags topping $2 million.
In April, the Paradise Valley Town Council unanimously approved the planned project.
But a group of residents, who don't want the homes because they would not conform to the town's one-home-per-acre zoning, gathered enough signatures to put a referendum on the November ballot that could negate the council's OK.
The group, dubbed Preserve Our Paradise, wants the resort, but not the residences, said Christine Larkin, the organization's treasurer.
Five Star has been telling Paradise Valley residents the resort without the villas doesn't pencil out, said David Schmid, vice president of development.
Schmid said he is confident more residents support the Ritz project than oppose it, but Five Star is worried they won't vote for that proposition on what is expected to be a long and complicated ballot that includes several statewide propositions and a presidential election.
So Cooper said he showed up in person to "convert support to votes."
Larkin isn't worried about losing the prestige of having a Ritz resort in Paradise Valley, if her group wins."We (Paradise Valley) are not in a financial crisis, and I am confident this is an exceptional piece of property, and if this developer doesn't (build something that conforms with residential zoning) I'm confident another one will," she said.
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