Longform

That Goes On Behind Closed Doors?

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That's not how it's seen by citizens who joined forces with Nadolski for years to fight Gosnell. And a careful reading of letters in that thick file at City Hall shows Gosnell is masterful at manipulating words to say what he wants them to mean.

Attorney Gil Shaw, who closely followed the case for the neighborhood, says he can't believe a windfall for Gosnell was part of the discussion before the council or the deal Nadolski cut. "That's certainly not what was on the table when citizen groups were discussing it--it's certainly not what we thought we had walked away from [after the zoning case] a year ago."

Kathy Bishop agrees, saying "no way" did her Greater East Phoenix Neighborhood Association think Gosnell walked away with so much. "To me, this is a betrayal of the compromise," she says, adding that she also doesn't believe Nadolski was party to a sellout. "It really pains me to see neighborhood people feeling so poorly about [Nadolski] when she really is a neighborhood activist. I talked to her a month ago when I found out [about the Gosnell letters] and she was furious, too. I always thought the specific plan would be done before any more space was decided."

So did the chair of the 44th Street committee, Bert Stanfield-Pinel. "I was unaware of this [Gosnell] roadblock, or detour, when I embarked on this task," he recently told his thirteen-member committee. (Meanwhile, one of the most vocal members of the committee has shown his disgust by saying it's just a "mushroom committee--keep them in the dark and feed them bullshit.")

* Is the city's special citizens' group that was supposed to plan the future of the 44th Street Corridor, where Thomas Mall is a major factor, really just a "mushroom committee--keep them in the dark and feed them bullshit"?

In fact, even the planning staff admits the situation today is a recent "interpretation" of what the council meant last May. Deputy planning director Ray Quay told the gathering at Arcadia High School that it was last October--five months after the council's zoning decision--that the staff agreed with Gosnell's interpretation that the economic study was to be done early, long before the 44th Street committee had completed its specific plan. And it was only six weeks ago, he noted, that the staff had "interpreted" the zoning stipulation to say Gosnell would get first dibs on any excess office space justified by the study. Those interpretations, Quay said, were the "result of Gosnell's assertion" that this was what the Nadolski-Goddard deal meant.

But if citizens and planners were in the dark, so were other developers who also chipped in to pay for the economic study. One of them, John Graham from the Gateway Center, says he still can't believe what Gosnell's trying to pull. "When we agreed to help pay for the study, I had no concept that anyone believed there should be a cap on capacity or a direction of where it should go," he says. "I would be shocked if anyone believed those things." Like most others, he's only recently learned how Gosnell's No. 1 zoning stipulation was being interpreted by City Hall."But I could have read that stipulation six months ago and I would never have interpreted it the way it's being interpreted," he says.

"Everyone agrees the [automatic nature of the deal] is an abdication of the council's authority--it's truly amazing," Graham adds.

Planners also see it as amazing. "If I'm asked, I'll recommend we not do this again," says Quay. "It abdicates a legislative power to an independent group [the study consultants] who are not part of the legislative system. I don't think this will ever happen again because we've all learned a lesson from it."

But Mayor Goddard expressed surprise that anyone saw that technique as an abdication of power. "The planning staff wrote the stipulation at Linda's direction," he says. "If they had a problem with it, it would have been nice if they'd mentioned it before." He said the reliance on the study results, without further council action, came about in that May 4 meeting. "Gosnell felt a series of hearings [after the study] would be painful," the mayor says, so he agreed to cut his office request based on the understanding he would get whatever space the study justified. "There was a lot of acclaim at the time of getting it out of the political arena," Goddard says. "I think the market study is a good idea. It has the effect of bringing sanity back into the discussion."

Nadolski insisted the mayor had again misinterpreted things. "I agreed we'd put people on the 44th Street committee who hadn't been fighting with Gosnell for three years--that's what the discussion of keeping it out of the political arena meant; not that the council would abdicate its responsibilities."

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Jana Bommersbach