Thursday, March 5, 2009


Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ) - Friday, July 13, 2007
Author: RICHARD KELLEHER , The Republic

Two decades ago, Phoenix council members had a vision. They created village planning committees composed of resident volunteers who determine which projects get built and which do not within their area of town.

This concept helped the city win the All-America City Award in 1989. The city also won the award two years in a row, 1979 and 1980, as well as 1950 and 1958. Three of those awards were garnered while Marvin Andrews was city manager. Andrews was so deft at managing the city, Arizona State University has named a graduate urban planning program in his honor.

The city's village planning handbook, however, fails to provide the history of when the first village planning committees were established.

Two planning committees, Paradise Valley and Desert View, regulate northeast Phoenix. Both meet at the Paradise Valley Community Center, 17402 N. 40th St. in Paradise Valley on the first Monday of the month and Desert View on the first Tuesday.

Almost a decade ago, I served as a journalist on one of the largest community newspaper groups in the nation. During my time on the paper, I got to cover both village committees.

This was the time Vestar was seeking applications for what has become the Desert Ridge shopping center. What was then locally owned Westcor, which controls Paradise Valley and Kierland Commons shopping areas, had representatives at each of the village planning process meetings while Vestar was seeking its approval.

It is unique for a city anywhere in the world to hand control of growth over to citizens. Yet probably less than 1 percent of any of the city's million-plus citizens have ever taken the time to attend one of these meetings. If you want to see true democracy in action, you must attend one of these meetings.

These committees are also breeding grounds for future politicians. District 2 Councilwoman Peggy Neely was on the Paradise Valley Village Planning Committee.

Both committees also have one vacancy each. According to the city's planning office, as of July 1, there were 20 members on the PV committee and 14 on the Desert View committee. The mayor gets to appoint two members on each committee.

Councilwoman Peggy Bilsten, whose term in District 3 expires in January, appoints 10 members on Paradise Valley, while Neely appoints nine.

Neely gets to appoint the majority of Desert View, while the council representative for District 1, currently Dave Siebert, who is being term-limited out of office, also gets to appoint members.

While covering these meetings, it occurred to me that Donald Trump-wannabees should be attending these meetings. This is where you learn what areas are developing. Attending these meeting will inform you as to where new dry cleaning, grocery and all the other businesses needed to serve a growing population are needed.

For more information on the village planning committees, visit