BY Bob Williams | JUYLY 2, 2014
Below is a portion of my Guest Editorial published about a year ago by Sonoran News in its August 7, 2013 issue. It is worth a re-read because the worst is happening - Trenk and his vacuous slate just foreclosed Cave Creek’s ability to capitalize on the most commercial property in Cave Creek. This economic travesty is nothing but political pay back to a small group of residents in Estada de Cholla that chose to live on the highway but want nothing commercial built on the north side of Carefree Highway from 48th Street to the CVS Pharmacy on Cave Creek Road. You know the area – right across the highway from Fry’s, Home Depot and a dozen other businesses.
Cave Creek Economics
A few weeks ago, the Scottsdale Republic published an in depth assessment of Carefree’s diminishing economic condition. I’m sure some of you read it. To simplify, and hopefully not over simplify, it said many shops (businesses) have closed, more are closing, there are no crowds and no real draw for crowds, revenues are declining, Carefree has no property tax, and the resident population cannot support the town. Like Cave Creek, they need visitors/tourists. This was pretty much the same set of conditions in Cave Creek after the development bust some 5 years ago that spawned the infamous White Paper. So, indulge this White Paper veteran on his take on Cave Creek Economics 101.
Apart from lots of details that aren’t very interesting and important only in the aggregate, we recovered economically largely because the timing of Walmart was fortuitous and Walmart met or exceeded our tax revenue expectations and theirs. Carefree has struggled largely because CVS and Lowe’s have not performed as expected. Here is one fact, however, that is critical to understanding Cave Creek’s economics and few bother to understand it; certainly not the new town council slate. If every square foot of vacant space in the town core was occupied and producing sales tax revenues at the average of the aggregate core, it would never provide more than about 20 percent of the revenue needed to operate the town even with austere budgets. That fact was exposed based on rigorous analysis in 2009, and it is surely true today within a few percentage points one way or the other.
Don’t take me wrong. I am not saying the town core is unimportant. The iconic town core is a critical component of what makes Cave Creek, Cave Creek right along with low density, open space, pedestrian/ equestrian/bicycle trails and so forth. It is extremely important and must be protected and carefully managed. It is simply not the economic engine many want to believe it is. A good part of that, of course, is that you can’t put everything in the town core – such as a Walmart or a trailer park and in the words of a former vice mayor, you can sell only so many rubber tomahawks.
The bottom line is simple – absent a development boom, and don’t hold your breath, Cave Creek’s economic engine and economic future, my friends, is on Carefree Highway and Cave Creek Road south of the Carefree Highway. Period. If Cave Creek ever hopes to have the discretionary dollars needed to purchase open space, expand/improve infrastructure, support some nonprofits, preserve the community and live the good economic life, it better get cracking in a serious way out there because Scottsdale and Phoenix will continue to snap up every potential opportunity – and put it right there just like they do now.
Unfortunately, Cave Creek now has a huge disconnect and it is significant. The new town council slate has not a clue on this critical economic issue and they continue to gloss over that void with their shallow and unsubstantiated distraction and obfuscation allegations such as transparency, agenda, financial accountability, audits, ad infinitum.
The solution is as obvious as the problem. If this woefully uninformed town council slate cannot get educated very quickly and pull its collective head out of its collective behind and vigorously pursue sound economic development, Cave Creek will needlessly forfeit all opportunity for true economic independence and likely end up in economic trouble again. If their ‘agenda’ continues to be vengeance, buzzwords and nonsense distraction, Cave Creek better send them packing and the sooner the better. Our economic future is too important to ignore.
Remember that Durkin, Wright, Meeth and others supported Carefree’s referendum to prevent McDonald’s from locating behind the CVS Pharmacy. Cave Creek Voters wasted no time in stuffing that one up their nose but that may be the end of it. The slate quickly approved a grade school there – on a major highway. How callous can you be even if it was an opportunity to prevent commercial development? Now the Saps on the council approved a SAP (Specific Area Plan) that significantly damages the property owners and forecloses any meaningful economic development in that area and, apart from office space, will likely attract only small businesses to compete with those in the town core – an irreparable economic loser. They have effectively thrown Cave Creek’s economic future under the bus. Once again, political payback trumps the essential interests of Cave Creek. How do you spell corruption? Trenk, Durkin, Spitzer and Monachino.