Commission OKs mixed use for residential area

By Linda Bentley | October 22, 2008

‘Those in Cave Creek are dooming the town to a sad and slow death’
CAVE CREEK – Attorney Ben Pearson presented a major general plan amendment to the planning commission on Thursday for 25.03 acres, which included his three 2.5 acre parcels plus 10 parcels owned by eight of his neighbors, to change Desert Rural (one home per acre) to Mixed Use (any combination of commercial, multi-family residential and residential).

Four 2.5 acre parcels, two of which are owned by Judith Brown and none Pearson’s, have frontage on the south side of Carefree Highway between 52nd and 54th streets.
Brown, who readers may recall was denied a special use permit for a pet resort on the north side of Carefree Highway a few years ago, purchased the two parcels in 2006.
Pearson spoke of a work study session in 1987 to annex the neighborhood into Cave Creek and said letters went out to land owners in 1988 saying commercial was a good use for the land.

“We agreed to annex based on that letter,” said Pearson, in addition to statements made by staff about the intersection being good for commercial.

He stated the town didn’t want to do “spot zoning” as the reason it remained residential.
Chairman Ted Bryda attempted to move the meeting along because he said six of the property owners planned to speak.

Although her original plan was to build a new house or remodel the old one to bring in more revenue than her three bare lots, Roseann Nuckles said there have been many changes in the area and traffic now cuts through their neighborhood on posted, private roads.
Sharon McCarthy said she moved to the area 25 years ago “when Cave Creek still looked like the mining town it once was.”

She said, “Now local residents don’t spend much money in this town. There’s no permanent place in town for arts and crafts fairs or a farmers’ market.”

“Those in Cave Creek are dooming the town to a sad and slow death,” said McCarthy.

Pearson & VannucciSara Vannucci stated she lives next to the parcels, supported the application and said, “We are now authorized to disclose that we are in discussion with the Sonoran Desert Center for the Arts (SDCA),” as she introduced its Chair Joan Wilde.

It’s not clear who Vannucci means by “we,” as she is not a party to the application and doesn’t live close enough to the subject parcels to be officially notified.

More curious though, in 2005, Vannucci spoke at a February council meeting, “on behalf of the communities on the north and south sides of Carefree Highway,” to express their “concern about the commercialization of Carefree Highway ...”

Vannucci also formed a political action committee (PAC) Stop Runaway Growth in General Plan to defeat the town’s general plan.

Carping about what was being “dumped” on the “corridor citizens of Cave Creek,” Vannucci said, “None of the PAC sponsors or council members supporting this plan live in the affected neighborhoods … Ask those of us who live there, where we already see Home Depot and Saba’s lights all night, every night.”

As we noted in 2005, Vannucci purchased her home long after Home Depot and Saba’s were built.

Wile said SDCA was looking for property in the area to build a cultural arts facility, “These properties are one of the properties we’re considering,” noting the size and location met their criteria.

Commissioner Reg Monachino’s asked how many properties were being considered.
“Four, not all in Cave Creek,” answered Wile.

Commissioner Bob Williams commented how other municipalities were commercial-izing around the town.

Don Asakawa said, “I see no compelling reason for the town to approve this, since there’s no contingency [for SDCA] to purchase the land.

Jim Pearce of Carefree expressed, through a PowerPoint presentation, a variety of reasons as to why the application should be denied.

Grizzly Taylor, who lives just south of the gas station, stated there are others who live next to the proposed plan and said, “During Pearson’s attempts to buy my property, I was shown Discount Tires and multi-family residential as potential uses.”

Carol Perry said she originally planned to oppose the application but was thinking about supporting it if it was for a cultural arts center. She too noted, however, “Pearson’s representation one month ago at the Buffalo Chip showed us strip malls and Discount Tires.”
Lyn Hitchon, representing 89 home owners in Sentinel Rock Estates in Carefree opposed to the amendment, said the intersection was overused and it made no sense to change land use when existing buildings were empty.

Kathy Hulka, founder of the Dove Valley Coalition, said she has spent a lot of time going downtown trying to thwart multi-family residential. She said Phoenix “just doesn’t get it,” and urged the town to safeguard their “quality of life.”

Bill Mattingly commented an applicant north of Carefree Highway withdrew to wait and see what happens with this case.

Citing the primary goal and mission of the general plan is to maintain low density, Anna Marsolo said there are 240 commercial acres in town, 60 of which stand vacant in the town core.

Herb Natker stated it was nice SDCA was considering the location but said, “Once it’s rezoned, it’s rezoned.”

Pearson insisted, “We can’t develop our property as residential.”

With a motion to approve on the table, Commissioner Steve LaMar said, “The reality is, there’s not a stop sign at Carefree Highway and Cave Creek Road like when I moved here,” adding, “I find it ironic that people in Carefree oppose this” with Lowes across the street.
Citing financial flexibility, LaMar “reluctantly” supported the amendment.

Vice Chairman Jim Bruce stated there are currently commercial projects that are empty and believed the only purpose of the application was economic gain.

Williams said, “I think you have to plan now. If you started now, it wouldn’t provide revenue for ten years. It becomes less suitable every day as residential property.”

Commissioner Dan Baxley said he agreed with LaMar and felt the corner was a logical place for commercial development to occur.

Commissioner Bill Allen commented, “It seems to me from the responses we’ve elicited from Carefree, they want theirs but don’t want us to have ours.”

“My concern,” said Monachino, “If we allow this, where does it stop?”

Bryda said he had mixed emotions and stated, “I don’t believe in rezoning. Traffic is only going to get worse.”

The commission voted 5-2 in favor of recommending approval with Monachino and Bruce dissenting.

Photo: Sara Vannucci (l), seated next to Ben Pearson and Sharon McCarthy, spoke in support of their general plan amendment to reclassify approximately 25 acres from Desert Rural to Mixed Use (including commercial). Vannucci formed a political action committee in 2005 to oppose the town’s general plan, accusing the mayor and town council of participating in “back-door negotiations.”
Photo by Linda Bentley