Amendment denial could lead to new SUP ordinance

By Curtis Riggs | November 26, 2008

CAve Creek Museum
Must apply to all quasi-public entities

CAVE CREEK – One of the proposed amendments to the Cave Creek General Plan, which was denied by the town council last week, is a special case.

The general plan amendment for the Cave Creek Museum was not about trying to get the museum’s 1.2-acre property upzoned to commercial so it could be sold for more money. Because of the museum’s legal nonconforming use status, museum officials feared the museum collection and building could have no future value if a fire or other emergency occurred. If more than half its value was lost the legal nonconforming use designation would be nullified.

While the museum’s proposed general plan amendment was voted down 6 – 1, with only Councilman Ernie Bunch voting in favor, several council-members spoke about wanting to help the museum if they could. A revival of the special use permit process in residential districts could be the answer for the museum and its property on Basin Road.

After the Nov. 17 meeting, Mayor Vincent Francia said he would like to see “something to help” the museum in its effort to become a legal zoning use in an established residential neighborhood.

“But it would have to be done in a way that is not selective,” he said. “It would have to apply to everybody. The museum has been there for 40 years. It houses our history, but we can’t be selective toward them.”

Museum Executive Director Evelyn Johnson believes “there is a chance” the museum can work toward a special use permit with the town.

“The town council was very supportive of us last night,” she said. “They obviously care about the museum and I know the community cares about us.”

She called the council’s denial of the general plan amendment a “win-win for everybody” despite the uncertainty about how the museum will go about changing its zoning status.
“I understood the neighbor’s fears,” she said. The museum’s board of directors considered not going ahead with the amendment process after a neighborhood meeting, which was held this summer.

Cave Creek Planning Director Ian Cordwell said the town council could consider a special use permit for any quasi-public facility in any zoning district if they want to. He said fire stations, museums, libraries and other uses fall into the quasi-public category.

“I told (museum board member) Ellen Van Riper to put together language on an ordinance and once we get the language approved it could go to town council in three to four months,” he said. Museum officials have opted to not go through with a legal non-conforming use modification permit.

Van Riper said any possible new ordinance concerning special use permits would require the museum to comply with specified criteria on parking requirements, building setbacks and other zoning issues. She said the ordinance would also call for a building site plan.

“The site plan would define how big it could be,” she said.