Museum gets planning commission nod for SUP

‘Why would we limit the radius to one-quarter mile when the impact could affect people in one-half mile’
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eileen wrightCAVE CREEK – Planning Commission Chairman Ted Bryda welcomed Commissioner Eileen Wright (l) to the commission and asked that the Oct. 17 meeting, which falls on the second day of Taste of Cave Creek, be moved to Oct. 24.

The commission recommended approval for Cave Creek Museum’s special use permit (SUP) application.

The museum applied for commercial rezoning two years ago when the ordinances were revised but was turned down.

Associate Planner Luke Kautzman said now that SUPs are back in the ordinance, the museum, which is currently a non-conforming use on residentially zoned property, was seeking to legalize their status with an SUP.

evelyn johnsonEvelyn Johnson (r), the museum’s executive director, provided a brief history of how the museum was established through Maricopa County.

However, Johnson said when the town incorporated, the county failed to document the means by which the museum was legally established.

She said the museum has been “proudly telling the town’s history for 43 years.”

Bryda asked if the application was now for two pieces of property, since the museum purchased the former Ellen Sands property across the street.

Johnson said the museum never has enough storage or money while accommodating 8,000 to 10,000 visitors per year.

Bryda asked if the museum intended to use the vacant parcel across the street just for parking or for a building.

Johnson said they would like to keep their options open.

Wright asked if the SUP would allow the museum to apply for grants.

Johnson said it would.

Public comment began with Johnny Ringo, president of the Cave Creek Merchants and Events Association (CCMEA), who urged support for the SUP and stated, “It’s a use permit to preserve our history. I can’t see anyone opposing this.”

Shirley Bowman, a museum docent for about 12 years, also supported the SUP.

jay williamsJay Williams (r), who said he lives across the street from the museum on Basin Road, stated the SUP was the right way to right this longstanding wrong.

Also urging approval of the SUP, Jean Glass said it would preserve the repository of the town’s history.

Carol Zelaya said she was a direct neighbor and expressed concerns if the museum was thinking about developing the former Ellen Sands property, which is right next door to her property.

Zelaya said, “I want the museum to get what they want but realize there are residences there.”

Commissioner Rae Iverson asked if there were reverberations felt in the neighborhood from the stamp mill.

Johnson said there were none, stating they have run the stamp mill and people inside the museum had no idea it was running.

Commissioner Dan Baxley’s motion to approve carried unanimously.

Kautzman brought forward changes to the town’s zoning notification process. The 11 inch by 17 inch signs will be going away and replaced by a four-foot by four-foot sign as the standard.

He then displayed what increasing the notification radius would look like, using the Foothills Academy application at 50th Street and Carefree Highway, if they changed it from 300 feet to one quarter mile.

Baxley said he was troubled by removing the three 11 by 17 signs and changing it to one sign. He said he would like to see more signage.

Iverson said they could ask merchants in town to post signs and asked, “Why would we limit the radius to one-quarter mile when the impact could affect people in one-half mile.”

Wright said she was not in favor of the amendment as written and claimed the community came together when a resort in her neighborhood “was almost a done deal,” because only one neighbor was notified.

Wright wanted notification to encompass a one-mile radius.

Bryda said signs have to be posted, while Baxley stated he wanted the signs big enough so people could see them.

Commissioner Ray Fontaine said a double-faced sign placed perpendicular to the road is more visible than parallel.

Iverson said, “The citizens of this town deserve the best notification the town can offer. I don’t think one-half mile is unreasonable.”

Commissioner Peter Omundson said, “One-half mile seems really reasonable.”

During public comment, David Smith brought up a technical issue, saying the ordinance, as written, states notification can be done by one of the following methods and “one of the methods is advertising in a newspaper that most people deny they read.”

Sara Vannucci pointed to the map reflecting the one-quarter mile radius for the Foothills Academy application and said, “I can see that building from my front porch but I’m out of the notification radius.”

Nick Wold, a local developer who lives on Military Road, said sometimes paving causes drainage problems for people out of the notification radius and the town should look at the property owners downstream.

Smith said he didn’t think one-quarter mile radius was sufficient and stated if they made the signs smaller there should be more of them.

Bob Moore said he was “overjoyed” the ordinance was coming forward and stated large properties needed a larger radius than one-quarter mile, especially for SUPs.

He urged the commission to send the ordinance back to staff and stated, “I doubt if any of the people from Gila Bend are going to come out to comment.”

Baxley said he would rather staff take an extra month to do it right.

Kautzman said notification could also go in water bills.

Iverson said other newspapers were available to citizens and the town should advertise in two not one and wanted a place on the town’s website home page where people could click “Notices,” without having to maneuver their way through layers of menus.

Kautzman said there was a link that said “News.”

However, Iverson said that is not where someone would look to find notices.

In providing Kautzman with direction, Baxley said when the ordinance is brought back to them at the next meeting he would like to see the line-by-line changes, a change to the notification radius to 2,640 feet (one-half mile) anywhere it’s currently 1,320 feet, and said there was too much flexibility in how the town can provide notifications.

Kautzman introduced a zoning ordinance change that would remove multi-family residential (MR) designations of MR-8, MR-14, MR-21 and MR-43 and replace them with just one MR category that would apply to all MR properties.

Omundson said he would rather have the numbers and would rather steer people in the right direction.

Fontaine said the numbers guarded against over-achievement.

According to Kautzman, since the restrictions apply to all categories it’s impossible to achieve more than eight to twelve units anyway.

Vice Chairman John Ford asked, “From a legal standpoint where do we stand?”

Kautzman said if they left the ordinance with just MR-8, it could be considered a taking.

With a recommendation to leave the ordinance as is with the numeric designations, Baxley’s motion to recommend approval failed unanimously.

The commission also voted unanimously to eliminate certain sections of the zoning ordinance with references to PUDs and PADs, since they are no longer allowed.

The commission voted unanimously to table discussion of the Native Habitat Corridor requirement in Desert Rural Zones with Bryda stating, “Because we don’t have enough information.”

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