Wild at Heart raptor center deemed right thing in wrong place

New town manager to start Feb. 10
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CAVE CREEK – The resolution brought forward at Monday night’s council meeting in support of Wild at Heart’s proposal to construct an $8 million raptor rehabilitation and education center on 13 acres of land in the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area/Phoenix Mine site came under heavy artillery.

bob foxDuring the last council meeting, staff was instructed to bring forward a resolution in support of Wild at Heart’s proposed project so its founder, Bob Fox (r), could commence fundraising.

During public comment, Judy Bliss, who was part of the Open Space Committee, said, “There are so many questions before this should be brought up for a vote.”

She said much more research and study must be done and asked if the resolution was legally binding.

Town Attorney Fredda Bisman said the resolution was not legally binding and only showed the town’s support.

Janelle Smith said Wild at Heart cannot afford to misrepresent to investors and the town cannot afford to misrepresent to its citizens.

She questioned who would be responsible for providing infrastructure and said it seemed as though Wild at Heart was seeking to gain approval through resolution instead of going through the zoning process.

Melissa Smith, who stated she didn’t live in town but on the fringes, said what Wild at Heart was proposing seemed reasonable but it was not.

She said, “Let us not undo the work of all the people who want to keep [Spur Cross] the way it is.

Fox said the resolution is only to show support so Wild at Heart can go out and start the fundraising for the project.

Councilman Thomas McGuire asked if he was seeking any commitment from the town.
Fox said he was not.

Vice Mayor Adam Trenk said he was struggling with the resolution as it was written and asked if another site would work.

Fox replied, “We would certainly look at any site.”

Everett Bell said, “Seventy thousand more visitors to Spur Cross Ranch scares me.”

Bell said a move to an alternative site would be valued and while he supports Wild at Heart, he shared the expressed concerns about Spur Cross.

Anna Marsolo urged council to read the minutes to the February 2013 Maricopa County Board of Supervisors meeting to read what they approved. She said, “This is not just Wild at Heart,” pointing out the plans include an amphitheater and a restaurant/snack bar that could accommodate large groups of people.

Mayor Vincent Francia looked to Bisman as he commented about the resolution being so specific “that it seems to bind the town to support of that site.”

However, Francia also cautioned council, “The county has always wanted a nature center.”

Bisman said although the resolution is non-binding it could be construed as approval because of the specificity.

Councilman Mike Durkin moved to approve the resolution but replaced “Spur Cross Ranch” with Cave Creek.

McGuire seconded the motion.

Durkin said he accepted the concerns expressed and couldn’t support the project with an amphitheater and restaurant, stating it was the right project in the wrong place.

Councilman Charles Spitzer said he supported the motion but not the resolution as written since there were numerous mentions of Spur Cross throughout the document.

Councilman Reg Monachino said, “I’m more than a little concerned. A lot more study needs to go into this,” and stated he would have difficulty supporting it.

Councilman Ernie Bunch said his issue was a little more basic. “We’re trying to find money to buy open space,” and stated there was only so much money to go around. He felt they would be competing against the town’s fundraising efforts.

Trenk said, “I can’t support this as site specific. I agree with Councilman Spitzer,” and asked if they could table the item until the resolution was revised.

Francia stated citizens voted to impose a property tax to save Spur Cross in 2000 and the only change he would support would be to give it to the citizens to decide.

Francia asked Durkin if he would withdraw his motion and then asked for a motion to table the item, which passed by a vote of 6-1 with McGuire dissenting.

peter jankowskiCouncil voted unanimously to approve the employment agreement between the town and Peter Jankowski (l), if he were to accept the position of town manager, at a salary of $130,350.

After the meeting, Jankowski was faxed a copy of the agreement, which he signed and returned.

According to Town Clerk Carrie Dyrek, Jankowski gave notice to his present employer Tuesday morning and will begin work in Cave Creek on Feb. 10.

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