BY LINDA BENTLEY | FEBRUARY 22, 2012
P&Z recommends approval of town core zoning changes
Commissioner Ted Bryda said, ‘This whole plan is a dream unless council buys into it. I want to see results.’
CAVE CREEK – During the Feb. 16 meeting, Planning Director Ian Cordwell announced there would be a joint workshop of council and the planning commission at 6 p.m. on March 15 to hear about an upcoming case, Enchanted Canyon Resort, being proposed in the vicinity of 72nd Street and Continental Mountain Drive.
He also said they would be noticing two planning commission meetings in April, with meetings scheduled for April 12 and April 19.
Amongst the cases coming up for review is an application by Verizon Wireless for a special use permit to install a faux cactus cell tower.
Cordwell then provided the planning commission with a brief review of changes made to the town core plan since the January meeting and other items discussed.
He said changes were made to the vision statement and the town core boundaries and provided the commission with three different options for land use on the eastern end of town.
Cordwell said the commission discussed marketing of the town core through the creation of districts or allowing businesses to establish themselves through a free economy, as Vice Chairman Reg Monachino suggested.
There was also extensive discussion of bike lanes and pedestrian pathways through town.
During public comment, Michael Rockwell (r), owner of Azul-Verde Design Group, Inc., said he was the applicant for the rezoning case next on the agenda and stated he supported the town core revisions.
Cordwell said the town has identified the need for infrastructure for parking, bike lanes and walking paths, the need for a plaza area in the town core, adoption of a master streetscape plan, while preserving historic aspects of the town by encouraging core business owners to maintain historic buildings and respect the core’s character.
Commissioner Ray Fontaine said people should go to where the streetscape has been completed during business hours, stating, “It’s working.”
Cordwell said it had been suggested that public art be on display in the streetscape along with a recommendation that the town create a “public arts commission.”
Other suggestions included creating an artist directory and build upon the town’s strong volunteer support.
Commissioner Peter Omundson said he didn’t have so much of a problem with content of the document but how it will be implemented. He said they were all great ideas but were just laying dormant.
Cordwell said the town used to have an implementation plan but the town has a limited budget for some of these things due to the economy.
However, he said staff was looking at grants for bike lanes but council would have to approve the purchase of any land for use as a town plaza.
Chairman Dan Baxley stated, “This town needs to invest in its future. At some point it will be a substantial investment.”
Monachino said it was extremely important to establish priorities and “see where we can get the biggest bang for our buck, if we have a buck.”
Commissioner Ted Bryda (l) said, “This whole plan is a dream unless council buys into it. I want to see results.”
Commissioner John Ford said he was tired of seeing action items with no action and stated, “We need to make council aware these things need to get done.”
During public comment, Glenn Fahringer (r) pointed out while the medians and Gateway Park were all developed by volunteers, the town has not allocated any funds to maintain them or to properly take care of them.
David Lewis told the commission if the town had a ridge ordinance, like many other municipalities have adopted, it could protect scenic backdrops such as Saguaro Hill and suggested the former Epicurean Palette building would be a suitable venue for a community art center.
In reviewing the town core map, Cordwell said the dog leg portion added on previously was extended to Sunset Trail, which now includes the museum.
Bryda asked how many square feet the proposed changes from residential to commercial along Bella Vista Drive would add.
Cordwell responded it would add approximately 12 acres.
Bryda, after converting the acreage to square feet, stated, “That’s going to bury this town.”
Cordwell replied, “I disagree.”
Prior to voting on which version of the land use map the commission preferred, Monachino said he wanted to revisit the vision statement.
Monachino said, “I don’t think the statement gets us there,” and said he liked the old one better or the statement in the general plan.
Baxley attempted to gain consensus on a land use map but found there was none.
Omundson said he liked Map Number Two with high density residential on the north side of Cave Creek Road across from Bella Vista Drive.
Ford moved to substitute the map in the town core plan with Map Number Two. Omundson seconded the motion.
Bryda stated they twice rejected high-density residential and said he couldn’t support that map.
With Commissioner Rae Iverson absent, the commission voted 4-2 to recommend adopting Map Number Two with Bryda and Monachino dissenting.
The commission then voted 4-2 in favor of recommending approval of the amended town core plan, with Bryda and Monachino dissenting.
The commission voted unanimously in favor of recommending approval of Rockwell’s rezoning application, consisting of approximately 12 acres made up of 19 parcels owned by 11 different parties.
Rockwell said the owners were all supportive of “this sensible idea,” which he stated should have been done years ago, noting DR-89 zoning “does not work for these parcels,” most of which are legal nonconforming lots.
He said it was time for the town to “right the wrong” and it made sense from a town planning perspective.
Rockwell said, “Good planning, and that’s what this is all about, is good for the town.”
Several of the parcel owners, including Harold’s owner Bill Vale, spoke in favor of the application.
Vale said the rezoning of the residential parcel behind Harold’s would allow Harold’s to continue using it for parking, which he said is currently a non-conforming use in residential zoning.
Attorney Carol Lynn de Szendeffy, who was unable to attend the meeting, submitted a letter in opposition to the rezoning application reiterating her arguments to the planning commission last month that there was already an overabundance of vacant commercial space and vacant commercial property in the town core.
She said it would be at least 20 years before the existing commercial buildings and land are occupied, only two of the parcels front Cave Creek Road, and small commercial parcels off the main thoroughfare of Cave Creek Road have not worked, citing Hidden Valley Road as an example.
De Szendeffy said if the town needs additional right-of-way for the extension of Bella Vista Drive, it has statutory powers to accept deeds of gift and/or condemn land for public purposes, adding it does not need to trade zoning to accomplish the task.
Monachino said, “Overall this makes sense. The [Bella Vista] Loop makes sense.”
Ford said it was something long overdue.
Bryda said, “I’m really not happy with another 12 acres of commercial, but I’ll support it.”
Baxley stated it was a step in the right direction.
The commission voted unanimously in favor of recommending approval of the rezoning application.