Vol. 15 Issue No. 8 | February 25 – March 3, 2009

Two more Habitat For Humanity Hidden Valley condos given P&Z nod

By Linda Bentley | February 25, 2009

‘You need to do something with the kids to keep them out of the parking lot and off the street’

CAVE CREEK – The planning commission voted unanimously last Thursday, with Commissioner Steve LaMar abstaining, to recommend approval to amend the final plat and site plan for a two-unit increase to Habitat for Humanity Desert Foothills’ (HFHDF) Hidden Valley condominium project.

Commissioner Bob Williams asked staff if there was a change to the play area on the amended site plan.

Associate Planner Luke Kautzman responded, “Yes, the units are going where the play area was. The play area was moved off the hill and down by the parking lot. That was the only area left for the play area.

When the Hidden Valley project was reviewed the first time around, the commission asked that the play area be moved away from the parking lot, citing safety concerns.

HFHDF President Paul Christopherson said, “We are committed to building simple, affordable homes … There are teachers, government and church employees living in our homes. Many Habitat owners are first time buyers.”

Williams asked what HFHDF was doing about the play area.

HFHDF Executive Director Todd Rogers said they had been working with their attorneys to find a way to transfer the liability from Habitat to the homeowners.

“You need to do something to with the kids to keep them out of the parking lot and off the street,” said Williams.

Rogers said they have a grant to complete the homes by Dec. 31, 2009 and there was no problem with funding to complete the play area; it was just a matter of getting the legal issues resolved.

Commissioner Ted Bryda said two more units constituted a 25 percent increase in the size of the project and asked if HFHDF was increasing the size of the play area.

LaMar, who said he was going to recuse himself from voting as he was a founding member of HFHDF, asked Rogers to make the play area a priority.

Commissioner Dan Baxley said, “I have a concern there are children with no place to gather and play.”

Rogers said, “We’ve been consulting with Fun Coach USA and working with attorneys to make sure Habitat doesn’t have liability,” and asked, “Does that make sense?”

Baxley responded, “The commitment doesn’t make sense.”

Rogers said he couldn’t speak for the board but he would take it back to the board to get them to see it through.

Christopherson said, “I can speak for the board. We will put play equipment in. It will not be left a square piece of dirt. Funding for the equipment will not be a problem for us.”

Chairman Jim Bruce asked staff, “Do we require other condominiums to have a playground?

Are we requesting something of them that we don’t others?”

Planning Director Ian Cordwell said staff was putting that into an ordinance.

Baxley asked, “How do we memorialize this then?”

Cordwell said it could be done with a stipulation to have it completed before the C of O (Certificate of Occupancy) is issued on the two units and stated they could put the stipulation on the site plan.

Cordwell drafted stipulation 19 to read: “Applicant shall complete play area with safe and adequate equipment,” which Christopherson said was fine with him.

Williams asked if they could address size, citing that was a good point brought up by Bryda.
Bryda said, “My intention is to keep kids off the street.”

Reg Monachino commented, “Unfortunately, I’ve got some experience in this issue. We just put some equipment in at a school. There are regulations.”

During public comment, Jason Sefton said he was the landlord at the Blue Ridge Apartments across the street from the HFHDF project.

“I oppose this,” he said, “Since this project has been built, the kids are at our place and I have to make a special trip to pick up trash.”

Williams reiterated he did not wish to repeat Basin Road.

Baxley said, “I see this as more than a safety issue. Where do these kids play? That’s a concern I have.”

Commissioner Bill Allen had a recommendation for HFHDF to make with the HOA to make sure they do the clean up.

Rogers said the HOA will be having its meeting next month and, like the Basin Road condominiums, will be hiring someone to take care of the landscaping and clean up.

When asked if the two new units would be the same as the existing, Rogers said the units would be smaller, modified versions of HFHDF’s older condos.

When it came time to vote on the site plan and the final plat, LaMar said he didn’t feel the need to recuse himself but he abstained from voting “to not have an appearance of impropriety.”

Four of the Hidden Valley condos, which Cordwell says are 1,200 to 1,400 square feet, sold for $250,000 in April 2008. In December 2008, after the economy and real estate market plunged even lower, HFHDF sold the other four units for $255,000.

When HFHDF built its first condominium project in Cave Creek, Tom Ensign told the town there was a great need for affordable housing in the area and in order to qualify for a HFHDF home, the applicant needed to live and or work in the area.

Today, in order to qualify for a HFHDF homes, the applicant must have a need for simple, decent, affordable housing, the ability to pay for housing and meet their other expenses and are willing to partner with HFHDF in building their home by providing 400 hours of sweat equity (200 for a single parent).

HFHDF, which claims to serve the Cave Creek, Carefree, North Scottsdale, North Phoenix, Anthem, New River and Desert Hills areas has built all of its projects in Cave Creek, which comes to a total of 22 units, including the two units in the current application.

Photo by Linda Bentley
The condominium projects built by Habitat for Humanity Desert Foothills (HFHDF) on Basin Road proved to have inadequate parking and no place for children to play except in the street. HFHDF now wants to amend the final plat for its Hidden Valley project to add two more units where the play area was going to go.