BY LINDA BENTLEY | AUGUST 25, 2010
Citizen urges town not to let neighborhood be ‘darkened by greed’
CAVE CREEK – The town’s website describes a general plan as a “policy statement on how the community wants to develop.” It needs to be flexible “to accommodate change and environmentally sensitive growth, while balancing the welfare of the community with individual private property rights.”
The general plan is there to assist the town’s decision makers as they guide Cave Creek into the future, as well as helping residents, businesses, and those wishing to do business in the town, understand the community and decide how Cave Creek will meet the challenges that may present themselves.
The plan, in accordance with state statute, guides land use and zoning decisions.
Three general plan amendments were presented to the planning commission on Aug. 19, with the town as the applicant, requesting a change in land use from Desert Rural Residential (DR-43) to mixed use:
- Area 25 is comprised of 25 parcels totaling approximately 50 acres between 48th Street and 54th Street on the north side of Carefree Highway. Fourteen of the parcels are currently vacant, one parcel contains an unoccupied church, while the rest contain single-family residences or equestrian uses.
- Area 18 represents 18 parcels totaling approximately 30 acres zoned DR-43 at the southwest corner of Carefree Highway and Cave Creek Road.
- Area 10 represents 10 parcels, zoned DR-43, south of the Walmart property totaling approximately 18 acres. Since advertising the agenda item for a minor general plan amendment, Associate Planner Luke Kautzman said two more property owners adjacent to Area 10 asked to be included.
During public comment, Wes Cooper stated the voter-approved general plan is the citizens’ contract with the town and said the town was using the White Paper as its guiding document instead of the general plan.
Ron Iverson asked the commission to defeat the amendment and said, “Let staff revise the zoning ordinance first to provide safeguards.”
He said a “quick fix for sales tax revenue” would turn Carefree Highway into another Bell Road.
Rae Iverson said the argument that homes will not be built was shallow and asked the commission to “reject this zoning change.”
David Smith said he expected to see pros and cons of the proposal in the application and called the “need for more commercial” one of the “most egregious spins.”
He said the town was doing it at the right time and agreed rezoning should not be done piecemeal.
Anne Teixeira asked the commission, “Why do zoning laws exist? Are they for the protection of residents or for special interests?”
She expressed her opposition to the change.
Paul Teixeira stated he too was opposed and questioned how the change would contribute to the town’s rural character.
He said, “I happen to live in a house that was built in the last eight years. The town is going from restrictions, so tight as to deter residential building, to commercial,” and urged the commission to vote no.
Richard Johnson said the change would create winners and losers, “where anything goes without market support,” with speculators, who have no vested interest in the town, winning while citizens lose.
Reading from the criteria, Paul Eelkema asked, “Will this amendment have a significant negative impact on the area?” answering, “That depends where you live … There certainly isn’t a need for an additional 50 acres of commercial space.”
Jesse Zamora said the current economic and vacant condition of existing commercial does not warrant more.
Zamora said it would be hard to fathom what could exist on the north side of Carefree Highway and stated the town should fill the vacancies in the town core before exploring more commercial options.
She said she always had a feeling of safety with regard to zoning because she lived in Cave Creek.
Brannon told the commission, “The area is zoned residential. Do not let our neighborhood be darkened by greed.”
Brenda Meeseman, who recently moved to the neighborhood from Tennessee, said, “I don’t want Phoenix to come on this side.”
Attorney Julian Weltsch was there to represent Harry Thurston, who owns three parcels at the northeast corner of Carefree Highway and 48th Street. He said his client purchased the property in 1972 and planned to move his saddle shop there but the property got “gobbled up by the town” and became residential.
Carlson said the reason no homes have been built in the area is because the people who own the land have no intention of building.
Commissioner Bob Williams moved to recommend approval of the general plan amendment for Area 25, to which Commissioner Ted Bryda offered a second “for discussion.”
Williams commended the neighbors for being “articulate, passionate and courteous,” and then said, “I’m going to respectfully disagree.”
He said a 12-member committee studied the towns’ finances for some time before it developed the White Paper.
Williams noted, “If every single square foot was occupied by viable businesses, it would only provide approximately 17 percent of the revenue required,” adding, “If you believe you can get this electorate to approve a property tax, be my guest.”
He pointed out, since general plan amendments may only be presented one time per year, the timing involved for development is affected, and said “nothing significant has changed since the White Paper.”
Bryda, who is also a resident of Estado de Cholla, told his neighbors, “You’ve sat there for four to five years. Get involved. You’ve got to control it.” He also told them residences can be built up to 25 feet tall as well as commercial.
Commissioner Shelly Anderson said she thought the area required more scrutiny.
Commissioner John Ford stated, “What Commissioner Bryda said is really important. It’s going to happen, but don’t just say, ‘Not in my back yard,” and said he was not going to support the amendment at this time.
Commissioner Reg Monachino said with 200 acres of vacant land in and around the town core and if the cost of doing business on Carefree Highway is cheaper than in the town core, the town core will decay.
“At some point it’s going to be commercial,” said Monachino, “But to add 50 acres to compete with the town core, I cannot support.”
Chairman Dan Baxley, who also worked on the White Paper, said he was hearing more of a “not right now” than opposed and wondered if anyone on the commission would entertain continuing the case.
With no takers, Baxley called for a vote, which failed 2-4, with Baxley and Williams voting in favor and Commissioner Peter Omundson absent.
The commission then voted unanimously in favor of recommending approval of the general plan amendments for Area 18 and Area 10, although Anderson made it clear that her motion for Area 10 did not include the two parcels not included when the item was advertised to the public, citing she didn’t think it was “Kosher.”