Neighbors frown on Thorstenson’s plans for arena

By Curtis Riggs | September 17, 2008

CAVE CREEK – The most controversial general plan amendment neighborhood meeting was held at the Buffalo Chip last week.

A crowd of about 25 opponents to T.C. Thorstenson’s plans to up-zone five and a half acres, where he built a riding arena behind what is now Hammerhead Jacks a couple of years ago, showed up to vent against his plans. Nearly ten supporters of the landowner/ buffalo wrangler’s plans were also in attendance.

The tension and emotions were high because of the controversial nature of the property and Thorstenson’s up-zoning plans. The Cave Creek Town Council approved up-zoning the property to commercial for applicant/ landowner Julie Terry in 2000. However, the up-zoning was overturned by citizen referendum soon after the town council approved it.
Thorstenson wants to build a “community event center for Western cultural events” on the property just north of Cave Creek Road, bordered by Vermeersch Road and Galloway Wash. The main opposition to his plans comes from residents in the nearby Black Mountain Shadows subdivision and community activists who oppose up-zoning in any form.
Local equestrians and those not opposed to development were there to support Thorstenson’s efforts.

“If you are truly interested in doing something for the town you could have the arena on that land while keeping it as it is now,” said Black Mountain Shadows resident Herb Natker. “If you keep it residential we will still have our dark skies, be able to keep our property values and our quality of life.”

Equestrian Adam Trenk said “If it is going to be a Western event center I’m all for it,” when offering his support to Thorstenson’s efforts.

Wild West Days events had been held in Thorstenson’s arena in the past as had cowboy mounted shooting events. Thorstenson halted them last year, however, as a way of appeasing neighbors.

Tempers flared at the meeting with Natker taking offense to William Doyle’s comment about “being all for” development. The tension increased even more with an exchange between Thorstenson supporter Jim Moore and activist Anna Marsolo.

A fear of increased noise was the major complaint voiced by Thorstenson opponents. Setting an unwanted precedent if the up-zoning is approved was another concern raised.
Thorstenson said he would plant a row of trees on the north end of the property near Galloway Wash to help buffer the noise from Black Mountain Shadows residents.

Thorstenson’s proposed general plan amendment will be heard by the Cave Creek Planning and Zoning Commission on Oct. 16 and by the Cave Creek Town Council on Nov. 17.