Developer battles community in court and council chambers

Preliminary traffic study indicates 85 percent of drivers travel at 40 mph in 25 mph zone
CAREFREE – After about three hours of presentation and discussion, the board of adjustment, with Doug Stavoe absent and Bob Gemmill appearing telephonically, denied Mike Walsh’s application for the following four variances to the town’s zoning ordinances to allow:
  1. A disturbed lot area of 33,411 square feet (89.4 percent) where the maximum allowed is 60 percent of the total lot area.
  2. Disturbance of washes having a 100-year flow of 50 cubic feet per second or greater where disturbance of such is not allowed.
  3. Modification of the historic entrance and exit points and hydrolic properties of natural drainage channels where the standards require such washes to be preserved in their natural conditions.
  4. The quantity of fill material to exceed the quantity of cut material where the standards state that fill material shall not exceed the quantity of cut material.
Mike Walsh
Mike Walsh was denied his application for four variances by the Carefree Board of Adjustment on Tuesday to make modifications to a wash in a 100-year flood plain on his lot in the Los Reales at Carefree subdivision that would allow him to build a larger house.
Walsh presented his case to the board with engineers and Attorney Fred Davidson arguing on his behalf.

Walsh’s neighbors in the Los Reales at Carefree subdivision, located between Entrada and Carefree Foothills on the north side of Carefree Highway, packed the council chambers to speak in opposition to the requested variances.

Jerry Bednorz said he originally thought about purchasing the same lot, which Walsh bought in 2003 for $100,000, but stated, “You cannot build a 2,500 square foot house on that property. You would have to build a smaller house.”

He said that was known at the time the final plat was recorded in 1996 and nothing has changed.

Bednorz said his house is 2,200 square feet, “2,800 with everything.”

Walsh wants to build a 3,475 square-foot house – 4,792 square feet with patios and garage.
Lois O’Neill, the subdivision’s property manager spoke to advise the board that the Los Reales CC&Rs do not require all homes to be a minimum of 2,500 square feet. She also said Jay and Michelle Holland, whose home is on lot 5, were unable to attend the meeting but are adamantly opposed to changes to the wash.

Another homeowner stated Walsh knew when he bought the lot he would have to build a small home. She said, “Walsh says he wants to do what’s right and just wants the same thing as everyone else, except everyone else follows the rules.”

She also noted Walsh’s lawsuit against the HOA was still pending.

Alan Neely, who lives in the Entrada subdivision downstream from Walsh, asked, “If the town approves this, who’s assuming liability?”

fred davidson
Fred Davidson

Davidson told the board there was a false impression that doing nothing will preserve what’s there and stated the lot is comprised of two building envelopes with an average size of 3,700 square feet.

He stated, “The impact of the proposed plan is less than the impact of the existing plan.”
Board member Peter Koteas said he was listening intently and noted, “Every party is opposed to this. None of the people affected are convinced,” and recommended a continuance.

Walsh told the board, “You want to limit my ability to build an average house on my lot … Neighbors have reviewed my plans but won’t review my engineering.”

Planning Director Gary Neiss suggested the possibility of a variance to reduce setbacks rather than wash encroachment.

When Chairman David Schwan asked Walsh if he had ever explored reducing his setbacks, Walsh said he had not and criticized the notion.

Schwan asked if Walsh was interested in continuing the case or if he wanted an up or down vote on the application, as submitted.

Davidson replied his client wanted an up or down vote.

Although board members were amenable to a continuance, Walsh was not and the board voted unanimously to deny the application.

After a short break, the regular meeting of the town council met with Gemmill and Stavoe absent.

Council voted unanimously in favor of adopting the tentative budget, capping the total at $5.9 million, and a housekeeping item to designate K.T. Palmer Sundial Circle, from Easy Street to Carefree Drive, as a through street, rescinding section 7-2-3 of the town code designating it as a one-way street.

Traffic Engineer Paul Basha did a preliminary presentation of his speed limits study, still under way, seeking some direction from council before he completes his final report.

Basha said speed limit determinations have several considerations and traffic engineers generally try to set speed limits at what 85 percent of drivers travel.

Noting 85 percent of drivers southbound along Tom Darlington Drive, north of Bloody Basin Road, traveled at 40 mph in a 25 mph zones, Basha said, “We’d rather this sort of situation not exist.”

And, he said, if that were the only consideration, Tom Darlington, north of Bloody Basin Road, southbound, the speed limit would be posted at 40 mph with 30 mph posted for Cave Creek Road, east of Tom Darlington, westbound and along Tom Darlington, south of Cave Creek Road, southbound.

However, he pointed out there are sight distance issues and areas with poor visibility because of vegetation.

He said, you can either trim the vegetation down to three feet or keep the speed limit at 25.
Basha stated 25 mph is the lowest speed limit in the state and Carefree has been lucky that it has had very few collisions.

During public comment, Mary Husband stated she agreed with Councilman Koteas that there needed to be an adjustment going from 50 mph on Cave Creek Road to 25 mph and believed the speed limit should be raised to 30.

She asked, “How do they figure they’re moving traffic better and safer by changing two lanes into one?”

Basha replied, “The idea was to slow people down.”

When Basha showed council a picture of a raised crosswalk, Koteas commented, “That just looks like an aggravation for the driver.”

Basha said that was its intended purpose.

Schwan advised council, “If you see something you really don’t like, now’s the time.”

When Koteas realized raised crosswalks could end up where the pavers and turnabouts are currently located, he blurted out, “Mama Mia.”