Scottsdale Area Association of REALTORS® Uses Land Use Initiative to Champion Property Rights and Allow for Future Development

Scottsdale Area Association of REALTORS® Uses Land Use Initiative to Champion Property Rights and Allow for Future Development

December 2021

A new ‘Desert Rural’ land use category proposed for the Scottsdale, Arizona General Plan did not sit well with the Scottsdale Area Association of REALTORS®.  For one thing, it meant significant barriers to any future development, when there’s no city land available for much-needed housing; for another, it threatened to trounce the rights of private property owners.  Using the findings of a Land Use Initiative analysis from the REALTOR® Party, the association crafted a comment letter that helped dissuade the City Council from adopting the new protective category.

As Suzanne Brown, Director of Community and Government Affairs, explains, “Opposing this new ‘Desert Rural’ protection didn’t mean we were looking to develop the neighboring desert preserve – which is well protected.  This new category was being proposed to maintain the large-lot luxury status of certain residential areas, by imposing a limit of one house on three-acre or more parcels.”  The REALTORS® were fortunate in having strong allies in two other organizations that worked in parallel toward the same goal of defeating the severe development restrictions.  The Goldwater Institute, a land use advocacy firm, estimated that the city could be liable for the devaluation of affected properties to the tune of $3.9 billion.  The Arizona State Land Department objected on the grounds that its ability to manage a large land trust would be significantly affected.  The REALTORS® argued that the proposed land use category unfairly restricted what property owners could do with their property, in addition to the significant devaluation of their land, as a result.  They backed up their position with facts and data from the Land Use Initiative review from Robinson & Cole, the law firm retained by the REALTOR® Party to analyze zoning regulations.  Says Brown, “They came through for us in a very tight window of time and gave us the talking points we needed to present our factual legal position in opposition to a special interest wish list item.  It enabled us to defend private property owners from overly restrictive governance.”  The combined opposition to the proposed ‘Desert Rural’ category resulted in its removal from the draft General Plan, which was approved by the City Council and placed on the November ballot.

To determine how the voting public was inclined to decide, the REALTORS® conducted a poll, also with the help of the REALTOR® Party, revealing a likely rejection of the General Plan – which had been twenty years in the making – unless there was a public awareness and education campaign to promote it.  The REALTORS® shared this with the mayor, and got to work internally, encouraging members to talk up the importance of adopting the General Plan among their fellow Scottsdale citizens.  “After all the work that had gone into formulating the draft plan, which is required by state statute, there was no formal campaign supporting it,” notes Brown, adding, “it’s a good thing we did the polling, alerted the mayor, who did draft some opinion pieces, and engaged our membership.  We were among the most active advocates of passing the General Plan, and in the end, it barely squeaked by with 52.34% of the vote.”  The REALTORS®’ contribution to getting it done, between the polling and the advocacy in advance of the vote, have strengthened their relationship with the new mayor, says Brown.  “When we don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye, it’s important to find areas of common ground.  This was definitely one of them, and we’re grateful to the REALTOR® Party for all its support!”

To learn more about how the Scottsdale Area Association of REALTORS® is protecting private property rights in its region, contact Suzanne Brown, Director of Community and Government Affairs, at or 480.945.2651.

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