Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Camelback Mountain

I've been in Phoenix on business the past few days. I did alot of driving around. Man, is Arizona ever a beautiful state. The immensity of the landscape is breaktaking, and the surreality of the rock formations is sometimes unnerving.

One can't help think about the first pioneers of early America riding across these lands in wagons. They must have thought the land both blessed and haunted.

Anyway, every once in a while I have to trot out my liberal roots for show, so today I've got to comment on something that's going on out in Phoenix, which is just a travesty in my opinion. Many conservatives might disagree with me here, so I'll try to make my case well.


Here's the thing; good ole' Donald Trump (in many ways a man to be admired) wants to build a 14-story hotel on Camelback Road, right smack in front of Camelback Mountain. That sounds like a great idea. It will bring revenue into the city, give people jobs, and help tourism. Great.

The problem is the hotel he wants to build is 100 feet taller than existing regulations allow. The city council is considering it, and apparently the issue will be decided in the next few days.

The answer ought to be, "Mr. Trump, your hotel idea is fired."

Here's why: Camelback Mountain is beautiful. It is a tourist attraction in itself.

Camelback Road is the Rodeo Drive of the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. There is already ample shopping, dining, and hotels along Camelback Drive. The restriction on the height of buildings is there so that the view of the mountain is not obscured, thus destroying the tourism value of the area. In other words, by building this tall structure Trump wants to milk the golden goose and kill it at the same time.

Now, that's kind of an extreme statement, right? It's only one 14-story hotel, after all.

But, the truth is, it's always just one hotel, and then another, and then another. No, no, no, no, no.

You know what this reminds me of? A few years ago I was meeting with a wealthy man in Napa Valley. He was a developer. During the course of the meeting he complained to me about how the city of Napa was anti-business. I asked him what he meant. He said they have too many restrictions on land use. Land can not be broken down into areas of less than 10 acres. So, how is one to start a variety of businesses in Napa?

Well, the thing is, Napa is Napa because of it's restrictions. It is wine country, with beautiful vineyards, and it sports a wine industry which is the talk of the world. It's wineries bring big tourism. People flock to Napa by the tens of thousands to go wine-tasting for the weekend.

Understand, Napa is just a little sleepy town. Napa is no Phoenix-Scottsdale. It is not a huge swath of land. So, the tourism is disproportionate to the area already.

The point is this developer and Donald Trump are doing what developers do. They look at a piece of land and envision what value it has, and what they can do with it. But, the problem is, the value of the land is based upon what the land is before the developer does his magic.

Land development is like interior decorating. Sometimes developers, or decorators do a wonderful job and sometimes they ruin the place. Anytime a developer or decorator comes in and wants to make structural changes to an already picture-perfect living space, you know they are motivated more by ego, than by an instinct to improve.

Say no Phoenix.

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