Saturday, January 28, 2006

Keep character in Paradise Valley (editorial)

[Source: Scottsdale Republic] -- It's not surprising that Paradise Valley is experiencing growing pains. Or, should we say, regrowing pains. The town requires homes be built on 1-acre lots, so people are buying older homes and razing them for the more valuable land. Tastes have changed. People want studies, exercise rooms and movie theaters, and sometimes it makes more sense to demolish rather than remodel. But the quest for new and modern is taking its toll on some of Paradise Valley's most established neighborhoods. Nearly 150 homes have been demolished in the past two years, despite the town's efforts to ease remodeling restrictions.

Scottsdale saw a similar problem in some of its post-World War II neighborhoods and is finally warming to the idea of historical preservation. The city has taken steps to give two 1950s neighborhoods and the storied Taliesin West a historic designation. But some Paradise Valley leaders are still rather cold to the idea. We're not saying the town should create some wide-ranging historic zoning overlay. Go too far and you could stymie all meaningful redevelopment. But residents do need incentives to preserve their homes, especially when land is at a premium and it's still as easy to raze as it is to remodel.

City leaders told residents to form a homeowners association or voluntarily place deed restrictions on their properties. No one ever has, leading Councilman Dan Schweiker to conclude in the Scottsdale Republic, "They're only concerned about that preservation until it's time for them to put their house on the market." If that's the case, maybe prospective buyers should be reminded that even if homes look older on the outside, many can or have been remodeled inside to suit modern tastes.

Paradise Valley doesn't even have a historic property registry. The registry would at least identify which structures are historically significant. That's half the battle. Paradise Valley may not have many "old" homes, but it is in danger of losing many quaint, modest homes to progress. Homes that, as longtime resident Helen Harold says, were built "so that the desert dominated." Lose that feeling, and the town could lose some of its character.