Cave Creek caves in to the will of the people

By Linda Bentley | June 18, 2008

CAVE CREEK – Following Monday night’s council meeting, Mayor Vincent Francia met with Town Manager Usama Abujbarah and Town Attorney Cliff Mattice to insist they allow the referendum to proceed through the process and place it on the ballot for a citizen vote, providing at least 70 of the 209 signatures submitted are found to be valid.

Monday night’s Call to the Public began with Sonoran News Publisher/Editor Don Sorchych holding up a multi-inch thick book, which he described as the county’s book on dust control.

He then held up two more thick volumes containing the various municipalities’ ordinances.

“I think it was outrageous the way the referendum was handled,” said Sorchych, asking, “Since when does the town manager and town attorney get to bypass town council and rule in this manner?”

Sorchych was referring to the town’s rejection of the 209 signatures he turned in to refer the dust ordinance to the ballot for a vote of the people, based on the town attorney’s opinion the ordinance was an administrative act rather than legislative and therefore not referable. Town Attorney Cliff Mattice also based his opinion on Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Swann’s recent ruling that removed a successful referendum drive against Scottsdale’s dust ordinance, removing it from the ballot.

Eileen Wright also commented on the dust ordinance, stating, “Cave Creek is supposed to be environmentally friendly. Asphalt and concrete are not environmentally friendly,” and asked what citizens were specifically being required to do. Because the item wasn’t on the agenda and couldn’t be discussed, Francia advised Wright to make an appointment with town staff.

Wright said many people wanted to know the same answers and asked how the public would become informed.

Francia told her to contact the Sonoran News to assign a reporter to go with her.
Todd Newman, who owns the Cave Creek Coffee Company asked council to reconsider the dust control ordinance and said, “Let the citizens speak to this.”

Larry Wendt of the Buffalo Chip Saloon stated he was not all that up on the dust ordinance until he was recently cited, other than he now must spend $1,500 to deal with it during the slow summer months, pointing out it is also a monthly expense.
The cost paled compared to the $20,000 fine he would be forced to pay for noncompliance.

Wendt said when it rains, runoff from Harold’s travels across his parking lot with half absorbed into the ground and the rest running downstream to the west.
bj wernimont
Epicurean Palette’s B.J. Wernimont said, “I too am very concerned with the dust ordinance,” explaining their life savings was put into the project.

“My question to you is,” said Wernimont, “When is this all going to end?”

Citing she originally wanted blacktop but was told by the town she had to use decomposed granite, Wernimont said she would have preferred blacktop because she has wood floors in her shop.

Fighting back tears, she told council she didn’t think people had a whole lot of confidence in the federal government and hoped the town would stand up for its citizens.

Wernimont said if Harold’s and the Buffalo Chip are forced to pave, her building would certainly be flooded.

Kathy Jones of the Mother Lode Gallery said she put in for a building permit two years ago and was told by the town arborist to use quarter minus for the parking lot.

Bill Vale from Harold’s Cave Creek Corral said he wasn’t going to speak and joked, “But I feel like I have to defend myself because all the water doesn’t come from Harold’s. It comes from Carefree.”

Vale also pointed out the numerous times he’s heard this council say, “Let’s keep Cave Creek Cave Creek,” adding he wasn’t so sure the ordinance was legal.

Gary Kiernan, also referring to the PM-10 dust control ordinance, said, “We all know this is going to impose an unfair burden on the citizens of our town,” and asked council to re-consider the decision that made passing of the ordinance administrative, rather than legislative, affording citizens an opportunity to refer the ordinance and render it null and void.

He said, “The folks who signed that petition represent a broader cross-section of the population who deserve a say in this matter. Let them have that say in a referendum.”
Also during Call to the Public, Planning Commissioner Stan Toal said after thinking about his work and his family he had reached a decision to leave the commission and tendered his resignation.

He said he believed through his and his colleagues work on the commission, “We have made this town a better place to live.”

Photo caption: B.J. Wernimont of the Epicurean Palette told council she was very concerned about the dust ordinance, as her life savings was spent on the project. Wernimont said she initially planned to pave her parking lot but was told by the town she had to use granite.