BY LINDA BENTLEY | SEPTEMBER 26, 2012
Split planning commission votes against Park West application
‘Be very careful how you develop this Western town’
CAVE CREEK – So as not to conflict with the Taste of Cave Creek event planned for Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 17 and 18, the planning commission announced it would hold the next planning commission meeting on Thursday, Oct. 4 instead. Commissioner John Ford stated he would be on vacation and unable to attend.
After tabling the item on May 17, Planning Commission Chair Dan Baxley (l) began the meeting with public comment regarding two applications by Park West Partners for a general plan amendment and rezoning for two for parcels totaling approximately four acres just west of the CVS Drug Store on Carefree Highway from Desert Rural to General Commercial.
Park West has plans to develop a McDonald’s restaurant, a bank and another commercial building on the property.
Eileen Wright (r), who lives six miles north of the site, said, “We all have the privilege of living in this incredible town. This is Cave Creek. It’s rural and we love it just the way it is. The town needs to protect our residential land from rezoning to commercial,” and asked, “Would we waste something so sacred on a fast food restaurant?”
Wright asked the commission to consider the negative impacts the proposed rezoning would have on Cave Creek.
Charles Spitzer said this was “déjà vu all over again.”
He said, “Nothing’s really changed. The town doesn’t need it. Neighbors don’t want it.”
David Smith said he was one speaker too late and echoed Spitzer’s déjà vu comment.
He said Cave Creek has been “assailed by some very bad ideas,” which he enumerated as power lines through residential neighborhoods, Park West and phantom fast food.
Sharon McCarthy said the neighbors complained when the proposal for a general plan amendment consisted of 25 parcels.
Now, she said, even though it’s been scaled down to two parcels, the residents of Estado de Cholla are back with their “old tired complaints.”
McCarthy said it was quite clear from the 76 percent who voted in favor of Walmart that citizens support economic development.
Representing Park West, Attorney Susan Demmitt (r) of Beus Gilbert PLLC, who is also a Cave Creek resident, said this was a fairly simple decision. She said it was a philosophical divide.
Demmitt said, “This is an economic opportunity to help the town and protect the town core.”
She said the four acres were two small parcels on Carefree Highway, a significantly traveled commercial corridor, stating, “This is not appropriate for residential property.”
Asking the commission to keep an open mind, Demmitt said, “We really are in the same place we were five years ago when we first brought this forward.”
Carefree resident A. Stewart Jean, a managing member of Park West, said one of the issues discussed was that there was already a lot of land designated commercial.
He said there were physical constraints to those properties, pointing out the uniqueness of the community with its old town core, where a project like one before the commission “doesn’t work and doesn’t belong.”
According to Jean, the reasons companies like McDonald’s and Walmart want to locate at specific locations are market driven. He said it is a sophisticated science and there is a preference for that corner over the Bullington property.
He also said a lot of the land currently designated for commercial use won’t be developed for a long time.
Jean said, “It may seem like the same old tune to everyone here, but there’s a method to our madness.”
Commissioner Ray Fontaine asked Jean what kind of experience he had with these kinds of projects.
Jean said he developed the first Walmart in Arizona and has been very successful developing in small communities all over rural Arizona.
When asked why not the Bullington parcel, located on the southeast corner of Cave Creek Road and Carefree Highway, Jean said, “Research, traffic patterns … it’s all scientific.”
The proposed project consists of three buildings with a McDonald’s restaurant on the east end of the property, a regional commercial tenant in the center and a bank on the west.
He told the commission, “If they can’t go there, it doesn’t work for them. They don’t want to go anywhere else.”
Fontaine claimed 99 percent of Cave Creek residents are retired and on fixed incomes and he felt residents wanted more businesses close in.
Jean stated he did the McDonald’s at Cave Creek Road and Tatum Boulevard and said a McDonald’s restaurant employs 50 to 60 people, 10 of which are well-paid managers.
He said they make a strong impact with approximately $2 million as small business. “They’re a good organization.”
Jean said the retailer in the middle would employ approximately 20 people and the bank would employ 20-25 people.
Commissioner Ted Bryda mentioned traffic patterns and said there was an access issue at that location.
Jean replied the site plan is counting on a median cut, which he said was within all the safety margins.
Bryda said CVS was denied a median cut.
Jean said he was aware of that but stated it was because it was too close to the intersection.
When Baxley asked, “Would it be your intent to build this if it’s not leased?” Jean said, “No” and indicated he did not have a firm deal on the third building yet but cited there was a 30-year lease agreement for McDonald’s and 15 years on the other building.
Baxley offered the floor to Bryda for comment, since he made the original motion back in May.
Bryda said, “I guess I haven’t changed my mind since five years ago” regarding piecemeal rezoning and stated, “I can’t support it.”
Fontain said, “If Park West goes away, someone else will come in. I think it’s our duty to move it to council to make a final decision.”
Ford, who’s lived in Cave Creek for 43 years, said, “I believe that should be commercial. I believe it has to happen.”
Peter Omundson stated he wasn’t for changing the zoning at this time and said, “There’s plenty of general commercial available. Since we have such a large inventory, we ought to wait.”
Commissioner Iverson said she concurred with Omundson and citizens commenting, “Be very careful how you develop this Western town.”
Baxley said he and Bryda served on a task force some time ago, referring to the White Paper, and determined that area should be commercial sometime in the future.
The commission voted 4-3 against recommending approval for a general plan amendment with Omundson, Iverson, Bryda and Commissioner Reg Monachiono dissenting.
A subsequent vote for rezoning also failed by the same 4-3 vote, even though without the general plan amendment the rezoning couldn’t take place.