PHOENIX – The Arizona Coyotes’ development department threatened to sue Phoenix on Wednesday for interfering with plans for the team’s new home in a proposed entertainment district in Tempe, saying the lawsuit against Phoenix “intentionally harmed” the developer.
Bluebird Development LLC’s “notice of claim” gave the city 60 days to drop a lawsuit seeking to block the entertainment district — or “settle this matter for $2.3 billion,” the damages Bluebird said it would suffer from the case of the city.
Phoenix last week said in court filings that the housing planned for the project would violate an agreement between the cities to ban residential construction in an area subject to noise from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which the city owns.
Bluebird said the city’s lawsuit violated an agreement that Sky Harbor would not oppose the proposed district, which must be brought before Tempe voters next month in a special election.
The Sky Harbor lawsuit alleges that when Tempe developed advanced development plans, it violated a 1994 intergovernmental agreement that addressed flight paths, noise issues and land use around the airport.
The agreement states that Tempe “shall take such measures as are necessary to ensure that new development … in noise-sensitive neighborhoods within its jurisdiction will be consistent with the noise levels prescribed” in the Federal Aviation Administration’s noise regulations .
This federal plan specifically notes that “responsibility for determining acceptable and permissible land uses and the relationship between specific properties and specific noise contours rests with local governments.” While it does not recommend housing in the noise-affected area where multi-family housing will be built in the entertainment district, it is permissible where the resulting buildings are sound-proofed and “when the community determines that a residential or school use should be permitted.”
While on paper the legal battle centers around housing, Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez says Phoenix’s opposition stems from protecting economic interests.
“Phoenix City Hall’s misconduct appears to be aimed at maintaining its monopoly on downtown gyms and has nothing to do with the safety or soundness of the airport,” Gutierrez said in the press release announcing the allegation.
In the release, the Coyotes pointed to comments made by Phoenix Aviation Services Director Chad Makowski at a special Nov. 29 Tempe City Council meeting as evidence of an agreement not to oppose the development.
“The positive and productive relationship between Tempe, Sky Harbor and the city of Phoenix has been and continues to be extremely important to us. I wish you all the best as you make this important decision for your community,” Makowski said at the meeting, which entertainment district advocates pointed to.
In the same remarks, Makowski also said, “I continue to object to the addition of 1,995 residential units within the 1.2 square mile high noise boundary.”
However, in a motion to dismiss the Sky Harbor lawsuit released along with the notice of claims letter, the Coyotes present a screenshot of the airport’s website after the special council meeting that reads: “Negotiations successfully concluded with the developer before the Tempe City Council votes .”
Phoenix disputed Bluebird’s characterization that a deal had been reached and said the developer must be disappointed with Tempe.
“After meeting with the mayors of Tempe and Phoenix and two negotiations between the city managers of Tempe and Phoenix, we understood that Tempe is open to a reasonable compromise that will protect the airport, the communities surrounding the airport, and allow these developments to proceed,” the statement said. statement from Phoenix.
Beyond the legal battle, the fate of the entertainment district and arena rests in the hands of Tempe voters, who will decide on three ballot measures related to the project on May 16.