BY LINDA BENTLEY | MAY 16, 2012
Citizen input can help shape town’s future
Area 25 gets another look as a specific area plan
Photo by Linda Bentley
CAVE CREEK – With Commissioner Ray Fontaine absent, the planning commission conducted a workshop last Thursday to learn about a text amendment option to the general plan for a 25-parcel area along Carefree Highway between 48th and 54th streets.
With an application for a general plan amendment and rezoning on the agenda for the May 17 planning commission meeting for approximately 4 acres just to the west of CVS at the corner of Cave Creek Road and Carefree Highway, staff thought it was a good time to review the entire area previously known as Area 25.
Planning Director Ian Cordwell explained how an overlay for the area previously failed and because the town no longer has PADs (planned area developments), Estado de Cholla residents, just west of the area, wanted to have input as to how the area was developed.
David Smith (r), who hosted several neighborhood meetings on the subject, said the process started several years ago and pointed out the last time the area came up for a change in land use designation, the town decided it was not appropriate for commercial.
Out of those community meetings, Smith said they came up with a proposal to make Area 25 commercial but with regulations.
Staff’s proposal included making the area between 54th and 52nd streets General Commercial, the area between 52nd and 50th streets Commercial Buffer with a change to the area between 50th and 48th streets from Desert Rural – one home per 2.5 acres – to smaller residential parcel sizes.
Smith said the general consensus was staff’s proposal would be good for the residents and good for the town in the future.
Cordwell said staff would have to come up with a description for the specific area plan.
He said the applicant for this Thursday’s case will decide whether they want to move forward or not based on what the town decides on the area plan.
The commission heard from various members of the community, who were generally in favor of the proposal except for Cheryle Carmitchell (r) who lives on 2.5 acres behind Lowe’s.
She said, “I can’t condone commercial use.”
While she acknowledged Lowe’s is in Carefree and the town had no control, she said the town did a great job with Walmart to mitigate the impact on the adjacent neighbors.
However, she stated she couldn’t support commercial for the area and said, “I feel discouraged and sad.”
Estado de Cholla resident Richard Johnson said it was unlikely the Carefree Highway frontage lots would ever develop under their current zoning and said he believes this is the right process.
He noted the end result would be more commercial land, which he said should have a compelling near-term use.
Kerry Smith asked if the town had a current inventory of available/vacant commercial property in Cave Creek.
Cordwell said there were several projects coming through the planning department, so many properties that may appear available really aren’t.
Paul Eelkema said he also believed in the inevitability of those parcels becoming commercial and agreed with the proposal.
Judith Brown (r) , who lives in Phoenix but stated her parents owned a couple of parcels in Cave Creek, said she supported designated areas for commercial.
Kerry Smith said because there was so much vacant commercial property, it is indicative of no demand.
However, Smith pointed out just because there is vacant or available commercial property, it may not be suitable for what the person has in mind for their business.
Ron Iverson, an Estado de Cholla resident, said, “We’re not passing judgment. This is a process,” but asked what assurances they would have.
He said, “My biggest fear is when Walmart moves into a community businesses shutter and the town core dies,” and questioned how they could prevent that from occurring.
Cordwell clarified this was a general plan amendment, not a rezoning and was not regulated by the zoning ordinance. He stated a section of statute permitted specific area plans within the general plan, whereas they could place certain restrictions, such as lower building heights, on the land use.
He said this allows the town to designate certain land uses but with restrictions as sort of a plan within the general plan.
There is a 60-day process during which the changes are sent out to neighboring communities for comment. The amendment will then come before the planning commission in September and to council in October.