Thorstenson’s general plan amendment shot down

By Linda Bentley | November 19, 2008

‘A general plan amendment is serious business’
CAVE CREEK – Monday night T.C. Thorstenson packed the council chambers with proponents for his application for a general plan amendment to change the 5.5-acre parcel behind Hammerhead Jack’s from very low density residential to Commercial Core.

Thorstenson said, “I can’t say enough about the times we’re in and the economy … I want to put a Western cultural center in.

“The Buffalo Chip can pack in 600 people on a Friday night, but it doesn’t start until 8 p.m. All the shops are closed, so it doesn’t do the town businesses any good.

 “This property is ideal for what I want to do,” said Thorstenson, “There’s an easement across Hammerhead Jack’s. What I want to put in is a cultural center, 160’ x 330’ open span building,” plus the required 213 parking spaces.

ThorstensonThorstenson said he had 741 signatures from people “who are taxpayers and want this to happen.”

Councilman Dick Esser commented, “This property, as you know, has a history,” and asked if the easement was a recorded document.

Thorstenson said it runs with the land if the property becomes commercial.

Herb Natker stated, under current zoning, the property would generate approximately 20 car trips per day and said, “He wants to bring in 4,000 … So far, I can’t see any reason to approve this.”

Michael Fiflis, attorney for the property owner of Hammerhead Jack’s, stated, “In my opinion, the easement is void. It allowed for an easement in exchange for 22 parking spaces. What Mr. Thorstenson is talking about is 213 parking spaces … I disagree with Mr. Thorstenson about safety issues. Regardless if the easement is valid it would back up traffic on Cave Creek Road.”

Esser asked, “Does your client consider this a private easement?”

“It’s definitely not a commercial easement,” responded Fiflis.

Charles Spitzer said, “None of the arguments of the applicant are applicable. The site has no access from Cave Creek Road. It has no commercial access.”

There was no shortage of people present to urge council to approve Thorstenson’s application.

There were also a few who disagreed, including Sam West, who said, “I believe it’s against general planning principles to do what’s being proposed,” adding, “I believe it was Prescott that moved its rodeo grounds out of town because it was causing too many problems.”

Anna Marsolo stated, “The parking for visitors is one thing,” and asked, “What about parking for all the exhibitors?”

Steve Sample said the repeated use of the site for Wild West Days indicates the town agrees with a higher and better use.

Councilwoman Kim Brennan said she supported approval so it could go to a referendum and the people could then decide.

Councilwoman Grace Meeth said, “I’m a horse person and I support what T.C. wants to do, but not on this property. I do have a problem with access … When you rezone, there is no guarantee that’s what it will be.”

Mayor Vincent Francia told Thorstenson, “The activities you are holding on your property are good for this town. A general plan amendment is serious business. It might be a different story if we were talking about a development agreement.”

The amendment failed by a vote of 2-5 with Brennan and Councilman Ernie Bunch voting in favor.

Photo: After devoting well over an hour to T.C. Thorstenson’s case, Mayor Vincent Francia asked the standing-room-only crowd to raise their hands if they were in favor of his proposed general plan amendment to change the land use designation for his 5.5-acre parcel behind Hammerhead Jack’s from very low density residential to commercial.
Photo by Linda Bentley