Bigger than Spur Cross

By Linda Bentley | November 12, 2008

‘This will put us on the map as one of the nicest little towns in America’
CAVE CREEK – During Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting, Planning Director Ian Cordwell gave a brief overview of how the annexation and creative rezoning of state trust lands will provide the town with thousands of acres of open space for conservation and recreation.

When they began discussions about five years ago, Cordwell said the state initially looked at land uses more in line with the type of uses normally found in Phoenix and initially called for two resort sites.

However, he said the state planner assigned to the project was “very respectful of our land uses.”

As a result of meetings and input from neighbors adjacent to the annexation area, the town rezoned 240 acres along Carefree Highway to General Commercial and Commercial Buffer.
Cordwell said a key part of connecting the open space from Cave Creek Recreation Area to Spur Cross Conservation Area was through an 80-acre donation by the developer of Cahava Springs Ranch, forming a land bridge.

The two 100-acre resort sites were consolidated into one and, according to Cordwell, the state would retain ownership of the site and lease it to the resort developer.

He noted there was one recent change in zoning, when the attorney general noticed all the land was not for schools. A small piece of land in the open space area is designated for the benefit of state hospitals and had to be rezoned.

Steve LamarDuring public comment, Pat Grady said he was personally supportive of the conservation efforts by the town but his concern was with how the planning department was going to assert its role to discourage hillside development.

Grady said he would like to have a neighborhood meeting with town staff to address the issue before the annexation/ rezoning items go to council.

Cordwell said he was feeling optimistic and advertised the agenda items to go before council on Dec. 1, but said he would ask council for a continuation to February.

Scott Dahne also expressed appreciation for the town’s conservation efforts, while reiterating Grady’s concern over building on ridges and hillsides and a desire to keep buildings off steep slopes.

Jack Hallam, who lives on Spur Cross Road, said he would like the town to maintain views. He said he was very in favor of the annexation but said, “We need to get on top of proper management of trails,” and wants the town make sure “we don’t get houses on steep slopes.”

Hallam said he was an avid hiker in the area and extended an invitation “any time someone wants to look me up and take a hike.”

The planning commission unanimously recommended approval for the four annexation/ rezoning requests for the areas known as Willow Springs, Rogers Wash, Apache Wash and the rezoning of core site land located within the boundaries of Cave Creek.

Commissioner Dan Baxley commented how, at one point, he stood in the audience on some of the rezoning issues and commended Cordwell and staff for “a job well done.”

Commissioner Bill Allen said a question of access had come up but he has since been assured that it’s been addressed.

He said the annexation represents an opportunity but also represents a challenge. According to Allen, the additional home sites will require the town to double the amount of its water and he had some concerns about bringing that amount of water to the town.

Commissioner Reg Monachino said he had the same concerns as Allen about water.

Commissioner Steve LaMar said, “It can’t be understated what a wild and uphill battle it’s been. The town manager and staff did an incredible job. This is bigger than Spur Cross. This will put us on the map as one of the nicest little towns in America.”

Vice Chairman Jim Bruce said the whole commission feels the same way about the annexation.

Chairman Bryda said, “I take my hat off to Ian,” noting Cave Creek will become a model for preserving open space.

Cordwell said the next planning commission meeting has two cases scheduled; a special use permit for Ric’s Auto Body at Spur Cross Station and a non-conforming use modification for a single-family residence.

Photo: Planning Commissioner Steve LaMar said it could not be understated what a wild and uphill battle the annexation/rezoning project has been and commended the town manager and staff for doing an “incredible job.”
Photo by Linda Bentley