BY LINDA BENTLEY | MARCH 21, 2012
Enchanted Canyon Resort project met with organized opposition
Wright found the project so offensive he said it would cause the wrath of the spirit of the desert to rise up
Photo by Linda Bentley
CAVE CREEK – The organized opposition has already begun against the Enchanted Canyon Resort project, as evidenced by the standing-room-only crowd in attendance during the March 15 planning commission workshop, many of whom were wearing blue “Protect Rural Zoning” T-shirts.
Attorney Wendy Riddell with the law firm Berry & Damore LLC, representing CC Investors 220 LLC owners Norm Kitzmiller and James Barrons, also present, made a brief presentation of the project to the planning commission.
Riddell stated her clients were requesting a minor general plan amendment for 19.9 of the 220 acres encompassing the project, to change the designated land use from Desert Rural zoning, allowing for a maximum of one dwelling unit per acre, to mixed use zoning.
She said the remaining 200.1 acres would remain Desert Rural.
According to Riddell, the proposed amendment is “consistent with the goals of the general plan,” stating the resort would: “Contribute to the unique character and diverse lifestyle of Cave Creek; considers other lands outside the town core for commercial development; encourages tourism; and encourages new development that enhances the quality and fiscal vitality of the community.”
Riddell also stated CC Investors were seeking to do a Planned Area Development (PAD) with residential portions developed as DR-89, DR-70 and DR-43 in addition to the General Commercial zoning for the resort, despite the fact PADs were removed from the zoning ordinance several years ago as undesirable entities.
Planning Director Ian Cordwell indicated a chapter to reintroduce PADs would also be coming forward for review.
The architecture of the resort is being proposed with “traditional hacienda style,” while the residential components would be “individualized design for custom homes.”
Riddell said the colors would be low reflectivity and suggested there would be an architectural review committee.
The project would have 210 total units consisting of 123 resort rooms, 57 casitas, 15 DR-43 lots, 13 DR-70 lots and two DR-89 lots.
And, while Riddell boasted the development was proposing 160 acres, or two-thirds of the total site, would be open space, there was no mention as to how much of that open space could be developed open space.
She said approximately 48 acres is proposed to be dedicated to the Desert Foothills Land Trust.
Riddell said the project would further enhance Cave Creek’s trail system and has 5.5 acres set aside for a trailhead, which she said would accommodate 4 horse trailers and 15 vehicle parking spaces.
She said the proposed amphitheater was not intended to be a music venue and more of a plaza-type venue for art shows and gatherings.
Water would come from the town’s water system, although the developer would be investing in the necessary pump improvements.
Riddell said they recently engaged a traffic consultant and stated all access to the project would be from Fleming Springs, Echo Canyon and Continental Mountain.
She stated the business community has expressed a need for a destination resort.
When Riddell confirmed to Planning Commission Chair Dan Baxley that all traffic to and from the project would be via the Fleming Springs route, Baxley noted the subdivision ordinance requires more than one access.
Baxley, who said, “By the way, I’m wearing a blue shirt tonight,” indicating he could be in agreement with the opposition, then questioned the estimated number of employees.
Riddell, who replied 50-80, said they could put those numbers together when the application comes back for review on April 19.
Commissioner Reg Monachino questioned how long it would take to complete the project, if it was being planned in phases and wanted to know how it would be bonded to protect the town.
Commissioner Ray Fontaine was interested in knowing how many day trips, including employees, were estimated for the resort.
Riddell said she’ll be able to provide answers to those questions when it comes before the commission in April.
Although this was intended to be a work study session for the planning commission, Baxley agreed to allow citizens to comment.
Mike Durkin said he lives directly across the street from the proposed horse facility and said the applicant has provided nothing specific about the intended uses, while pointing out the resort was three miles from the town core and would allow up to 90 percent disturbance on sloped lots.
Stating he was an engineer, Durkin said the traffic impact for employees alone would be about 2,300 trips per day.
Durkin said the project was a big departure from the general plan and stated, “This is a train wreck.”
Vincent Terry Smith (r) said his property adjoins the project and said every meeting the developers have held to present the project to the community, lacked persons who had the details about various aspects of the project.
He said the proposed septic system was only a short-term solution and stated, “This is not a project I would recommend for recreational use.”
Wearing a blue “Protect Rural Zoning” T-shirt, Claudia Shaulk said she lived at Continental Mountain and Echo Canyon and was representing the equestrian community, which she stated is “not a tourist attraction.”
Stating the proposed trailhead along the road was not a good idea, Shaulk said, “I don’t believe the developer has the best interests of Cave Creek in mind.”
Carefree Town Attorney Michael Wright, who lives directly to the south of the project, found the project so offensive he said it would cause the wrath of the spirit of the desert to rise up.
Wright noted how the developer seized on the phrase “encourage tourism” from the general plan but failed to cite the rest of the phrase, which states, “and development in the town core.”
He said, “When the developer bought these 220 acres, I presume they knew what they could and couldn’t do with their property.”
Wright read a section from the “Code of the West” including, “Life in Cave Creek is different than life in the city.”
He asked the commission, “When you go home tonight, do not recommend this project to the town council.”
Adam Trenk, also wearing a “Protect Rural Zoning” T-shirt told the commission, “I’m not angry about this project, I feel threatened by it.”
In reading the criteria for allowing a general plan amendment, Trenk dispelled the developer’s narrative as to how the project complies and said, “I urge you to deny this application.”
Since there was some time left before the start of the regular planning commission meeting, Baxley asked if there were any supporters of the project in the audience who wished to speak.
There was no one present in favor of the project.
Cordwell invited citizens to e-mail any comments they may have concerning the project to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Buzz from the community indicates there will definitely be a referendum if this project is ultimately approved by council.