BY STEVEN LAMAR | SEPTEMBER 4, 2013
Slate Council won't fight for General Plan Trails ... the question is why not?
From the first General Plan of Cave Creek, circa 1986, and in every amendment to that Plan to date, the Citizens of Cave Creek have recognized that one of the main components of our rural lifestyle is the completion of the trail system that gives horsemen, cyclist, hikers, runners, and casual walkers access to our open space.
Access to our open space enhances the value of all our property.
The next giant step in that process was to be the connection of the West and East sides of Town with each other and the Maricopa County Trail system which will greatly expand the overall access to the regional park, the Spur Cross Preserve, and beyond. The trail has already been planned, engineered, all the right of way has been secured. It has been ready for approval and construction for some time. Approval that would have been a no brainer for any Town Council and Mayor entrusted with the Town's best interest. This is a project that was and still should be moved forward for the good of the Citizens of Cave Creek.
But there has been a fly in ointment, a very litigious person opposed to the trail system filed a law suit to stop the Morning Star trail even though the trail did not run on his land. This came after threatening confrontations toward Town staff when they were doing the work to get the trail expansion ready for approval.
Under former Council and Town Manager the lawsuit was vigorously defended because it had no basis in fact or law. The hearing was set for the early part of September.
In the mean time the person who brought this pending lawsuit against the Town becomes one of the Slate Candidates biggest supporters, first in the shadows, then out front using then candidate Trenk's lawyer, (the same lawyer who got Trenk on the ballot when he lived Scottsdale) to block Councilman Dick Esser from being on the general election ballot.
This was big time support to the Slate candidates when it was really needed. As Tom McGuire's resounding victory proved, if Dick Esser had been allowed to run he would have won. The slate then would have lost it's four vote majority. Esser had supported the trail system and the defense of this attempt to block its General Plan mandated expansion. He was trouble for the Slate, and trouble for their litigious new friend.
By the general election the good Citizens were already seeing through the hit pieces, attack ads, whisper campaign, and empty promises unleashed for the first time in Cave Creek with record setting spending. They voted in Tom McGuire in a landslide, and by a two to one margin defeated the Slate Candidates' attempt to block needed commercial development on the Corner of Cave Creek road and Carefree Highway.
Esser had to be kept out of the election to secure the Slate's four vote majority. The four vote majority was needed to fire the Town Manager who had steadfastly supported the General Plan expansion of the trail system, and the defense of the lawsuit to prevent it. The very first act of the Slate Council orchestrated by Trenk, with the new litigious supporter smiling in the audience, was a 4 to 3 vote to fire the Town Manager.
So maybe it is just a coincidence that Trenk, Francia, and Monachino met with lawyers for this slate supporter, and reportedly offered to abandon the plans to construct the Morning Star trail and delay any construction until there is a subdivision plat filed by a developer for the area. Projects in that area have been delayed for years and may well be delayed for decades to come.
We do know one thing. What this slate supporter has demanded from the beginning is the right to dictate what the Town does with its right of way secured from other land owners. He wants no expansion of our trail system when others work to make that dream a reality. A dream the citizens over three decades have included in the Town's General Plan.
So maybe it is just a coincidence that the new Slate Council, after secret discussion in executive session, announced that the attorney for the Town was directed to continue settlement negotiations with one of the majority's biggest supporters. Of course, no details of the direction that negotiation would take was announced. The Slate that ran on transparency has a murky interpretation of what that means. Something like we will be transparent when it suits us and helps our friends.
So to all you Citizens who ride a trail bike, a horse, a mule, lead a llama, walk, jog, or send your friends and family out to do those things when they visit, here are the questions to ask:
Why would the new Slate Council rollover on a lawsuit to block or delay indefinitely a trail system expansion called for by the General Plan that has been viewed as the next great step to connecting this Town to its open space and providing the West side residents access to the rest of the community?
Why would the new Slate Council tie construction of General Plan mandates to the whim of outside developers who have delayed projects for years in the area?
Is it just a coincidence that the fellow they want to now negotiate with in litigation against the Town helped get them get elected using litigation against the Town?
If they settle this lawsuit, they will have to tell us what the terms are. We will keep asking.
The real question is whether this General Plan mandated expansion of our trail system ever sees the light of day with our new Slate Council?
For the Love of Cave Creek, get connected, stay connected, and work together to protect our Town.
Steven LaMar, a retired attorney, is a horseman and Cave Creek citizen. He has served the Town of Cave Creek for more than 25 years.