Guest Editorial


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A history of community service to Cave Creek

TOM mcguireWhen Elaine and I moved to Arizona in 2000, we looked at many parts of the Phoenix Valley. Outdoor recreation, open space, large lots, the high-Sonoran desert environment, spectacular views and the fun-loving and Western Town Core brought us to Cave Creek. Even at first glance, we could see a town poised for a bright future.

We became aware of the far-sighted citizens who had purchased the summit property on Black Mountain and then gave it to Maricopa County to be preserved forever. (That was before there was an incorporated town of Cave Creek.) 

Cave Creek was incorporated in 1986 to avoid being swallowed up by the rapid growth of Phoenix and to determine its own future. Subsequently, an important accomplishment of the early Councils was the large-lot zoning that helps preserve our desert.

I became involved as an officer of the Black Mountain Conservancy and a geology docent at Spur Cross. I have led geology hikes every month for 11 years. As a result of my volunteer service and participation in Town Council meetings, I was asked by the Mayor to run for the Council in 2005. 

Elaine and I became involved in the final phases of the acquisition of the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. This land cost $21 million; $7 million from each of Cave Creek, Maricopa County and the State of Arizona. In fact, the voters overwhelming supported a property tax that ended in 2012.

To support my community, I have been a volunteer at the Cave Creek Museum. I have hiked tens of miles of our horse/multi-use trails and I have worked on trail maintenance. I have encouraged town staff to connect trails throughout Cave Creek. These trails will unite future citizens within a very special town environment. I have helped with community trail runs, bicycle events and A Taste of Cave Creek.

While I served on the Town Council I have supported annexation of open desert and the density transfer that has preserved approximately six square miles of desert environment distributed throughout Cave Creek, at no cost to the citizens. (Only re-zoning by future Councils can expose this land to sales and development.)

The voters approved purchase of the Cave Creek Water Company in 2005. Any Arizona town that controls its water controls its future. Our CAP allotment will support the community until grow-out, years into the future. (Even then water will be available, but at a higher price than we pay now.)  

When the old wastewater treatment plant approach capacity, the town was require to built a new wastewater treatment plant. The new “water ranch” was planned and constructed so it could expand to meet projected growth.

These acquisitions required the Town to borrow about $70 million, now reduced to about $60 million. Currently, Cave Creek is exceeding the revenues needed to pay off these loans, is on track to buy out the loans earlier than required, and has been able to establish millions of dollars of added financial security. 

The voters have spoken: They do not want a town property tax. Fortunately, sales tax revenues have increased faster than projected. Rezoning allowed Walmart to build within our town limits. I supported this as an important step to help the town survive the economic downturn of recent years. Protection of our eclectic Town Core has been central to creating a unique community.

Cave Creek has three major sources of income. Income from construction has, in the past, been a major source of revenue. That income “tanked” with the economy in the recession. Now, we hope construction continues to recover in the future. Meanwhile the town receives “state shared revenues” from our state taxes. Sales taxes provide the “third leg of the stool.” 

Faced with the reality of disaster, your Council Mayor and Town Manager utilized financial reserves and drastic cuts to staff to continue loan payments and still provide vital services. Redirecting emphasis on construction to new sources of revenue are also important steps for the future. Staffing has remained reduced to make local government more efficient.
Carefully planned rezoning along the Carefree Highway, with buffers for protect local homeowners, will bring new revenue. This will help property owners profit from their investments, prevent the hated  town property tax, help protect the Town Core, provided planning and maintain essential services.

In spite of these hardships, we bring you a town that has shown remarkable planning and flexibility. This has enabled Cave Creek to meet the ongoing needs of citizens while meeting debt service. On top of all this, this administration has built infrastructure for the future and greatly expanded open space. 

Elaine and I are proud of our town and proud of our more than a decade of service to the Cave Creek.