Monday, February 27, 2006

Paradise Valley seeks balance of rights, history

[Source: Diana Balazs, Arizona Republic] -- While the number of new homes in the Valley continues to rise, there are plenty of communities whose housing stock is aging. Statewide, 26 cities and towns have formalized historic preservation programs, and just five of those are in the Valley: Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe. Phoenix and Scottsdale have designated historic neighborhoods. But as bulldozers razed a record number of homes in Paradise Valley, the town is confronting a struggle that communities face Valley-wide: balancing preservation with property rights.

Paradise Valley residents are debating whether to create a formal preservation program. The median home price in the town is $1.32 million and of the 5,034 homes, nearly 8 percent, 389, have been demolished since 1999. Every year, the number of homes razed for redevelopment rises. In 2005, 79 single-family homes were demolished, compared with 68 in 2004.

Paradise Valley officials are encouraging residents to remodel their homes and are looking at ways to make that easier. Councilwoman Virginia "Jini" Simpson, 61, said the town doesn't have the staff or resources to establish a formal historic preservation program. She said likeminded residents can form homeowners associations and establish deed restrictions on their properties. While residents complain about new homes changing the look and feel of their neighborhoods, none has sought historic protection of their own properties, she said. The reason? The land in Paradise Valley is worth more than the house that sits on it, with acre lots averaging between $1 million and $1.5 million.

For many longtime residents, their property is their retirement nest egg and placing restrictions on redevelopment would sharply devalue their land, Simpson said. "To many people that's become a more valuable asset than anything else they own," she said. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]