BY LINDA BENTLEY | FEBRUARY 29, 2012
Community not so enchanted with proposed resort project
‘The Enchanted Canyon Resort site is comprised of 220 acres of land located at Continental Mountain Drive and 72nd Street’
CAVE CREEK – As part of the general plan amendment process, community meetings have been scheduled by LVA Urban Design Studio – Steven Voss for a proposed change in the land use for 19.9 acres designation from Desert Rural zoning to mixed use.
The problem is the 19.9 acres, as seen in LVA’s Exhibit 3, has been carved out of the middle of a 160-acre parcel in the vicinity of Continental Mountain Drive between 72nd and 80th streets.
CC Investors 220 LLC, which owns parcel, also owns the 60-acre parcel abutting the 160 acres along the eastern end of the northern boundary up to the county line, making up 220 acres in total.
Several years ago, council changed what constitutes a major general plan amendment, which, by statute, may only be reviewed once per year, from one acre to 20 acres.
Anything less than 20 acres may be submitted as a minor general plan amendment any time throughout the year.
So, seeing a minor general plan amendment application for 19.9 acres carved out of the applicant’s 220 acres, raised some suspicions amongst community members when they learned about the proposed project.
In fact, the applicant states in the narrative: “The Enchanted Canyon Resort site is comprised of 220 acres of land located at Continental Mountain Drive and 72nd Street … nestled along a main wash and Mexican Hat Mountain. Incorporated into the Town in 1986 the site sits in the northeast corner of the Town, adjacent to Maricopa County and the Town of Carefree boundaries. This property enjoys great views of the Spur Cross Ranch Area to the northwest along with many other spectacular vistas of surrounding mountains and desert landscapes.”
The current low density Desert Rural residential zoning, if changed to a mixed land use designation, would then pave the way for rezoning that allows for resort, spa, ancillary restaurant, ancillary retail and outdoor amphitheatre uses, which the applicant states would “blend with the proposed Desert Rural residential and equestrian uses in a seamless resort community,” while claiming the project “embraces the town’s western, equestrian lifestyle, rural development patterns, dramatic views, trails, open spaces and wildlife habitats that are the trademarks of the town’s high quality of life.”
The applicant further states, “The Enchanted Canyon Resort will promote a greater appreciation of tourism and all that Cave Creek has to offer.
“Ecotourism, as an alternative to mass tourism, is typically focused on personal growth with an appeal to environmental and social responsibility. Travel destinations, such as the town of Cave Creek, are areas where pristine vistas and participation within the natural landscape are the focus. The Enchanted Canyon Resort is intended to be a destination that relaxes and educates the traveler. The local Sonoran Desert vegetation and the town’s southwest heritage are the primary attractions. In addition to assessing environmental and cultural issues, an essential piece of ecotourism is the promotion of recycling, energy efficiency, conservation, and creation of economic opportunities for local communities. Guests will take advantage of Cave Creek’s restaurants, galleries, hiking, biking and trail opportunities.”
With a section dedicated to “Sustainability,” the applicant states its goal is to “partner with the town for both economic and environmental sustainability” by providing short term construction and permit fees and long term bed and sales tax dollars from the resort.
It states: “The plan for the project incorporates environmental, conservation and community design elements that support sustainability, quality living and economic vitality. The proposed development and operations are designed to minimize its overall footprint and conserve the surrounding natural resources. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of the site is being maintained as natural and revegetated desert landscape. In addition the project preserves and protects the nighttime environment and dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting practices, maintaining nighttime ambience. By planning for sustainability the project promotes responsible development promoting a long-term sustainable community that is environmentally sensitive, livable and economically strong. In addition to planning, the Project provides education and awareness of conservation both for the contribution that it makes to the quality of life and for its own natural value. The project assures that future generations see a healthy environment, which functions together between natural and human systems while promoting a healthy lifestyle.”
Well, in doing the math, 67 percent of 220 acres, which the narrative states the project will encompass, is 147.4 acres. That leaves 72.6 acres that will not be maintained “as natural and revegetated desert landscape.”
Creekers are asking how it’s possible then for this project to come through as an application for a 19.9-acre minor general plan amendment and why a commercial resort project is being proposed in the middle of a low-density rural area.
Those and many other questions are hopefully being answered during the various community meetings and during the joint workshop for town council and the planning commission at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 15 at Cave Creek Town Hall.
After all, Creekers just finished paying for Spur Cross to prevent it from being developed as a resort.