Gateway partisanship becomes great divide

Farrar said, ‘To completely disregard their expertise, I can’t see us being so cavalier’
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CAREFREE – During a special council meeting on Aug. 27, council voted unanimously to authorize spending an additional $77,005 for its share of the additional $127,635 required to complete the Cave Creek/Carefree bike lane project.

Town Planner Stacey Bridge-Dunzak explained the town only received two bids for the project, both of which were higher than the total ADOT project estimate.

The low bid came in at $3,881,744 from Nesbitt Contracting Company, Inc. However, the project funding was capped at $3,754,107.

Bridge-Dunzak said the project is a benefit to the town and the funds are available in the HURF (Highway User Revenue Fund) account.

While Cave Creek can’t seem to come to an agreement about whether or not to move its gateway horse monuments to another location, Carefree spent the balance of the meeting squabbling over how many primary gateways to build and where to place them.
Previously, Carefree voted to approve the final design for its gateways, as recommended by both the Urban Land Institute and the Baker study, which will be constructed of two stucco and stone columns with a metal arch above for primary gateways and single stucco and stone columns for secondary gateways.
Councilwoman Melissa Price announced generous donations from local businesses, including Manship Builders agreeing to perform the masonry and stone work for eight columns and serve as the project manager.
Jim Manship said Cave Creek Building Supply has agreed to donate materials for the project.
Price said other businesses, including Let There Be Light, have agreed to donate to the project at their cost.
With Gene Orrico appearing telephonically, Mayor Les Peterson said, “Let us stick to what we know and what we don’t know and come to a rational conclusion.
Peterson’s presentation included statements from the Carefree Village Center Master Plan (CVCMP) and data from the Baker Study.
Quoting from the CVCMP, Peterson stated, “One of the most clear and primary challenges of the inward facing Carefree Village Center is the lack of a defined entry or gateway experience. Gateways are important because not only do they define key entry points into the village center, they also convey a sense of identity for the community and provide information for the unfamiliar visitor.”
The CVCMP also stated consideration should be given to where the gateways are located so as to identify at least one street that leads into the village center from Tom Darlington Drive and Cave Creek Road as a primary entrance.
Town Administrator Gary Neiss said the town piggybacked its engineering in conjunction with the bike lane project with Parsons Brinckerhoff, which put together a matrix to help council make an informed decision on locating its gateways.
Neiss said there are costs associated with each of the locations.
Peterson recommended primary gateways be placed at Wampum Way off Tom Darlington Drive and at Carefree Drive off Cave Creek Road since there were already roundabouts at both locations to which they could add a vertical landmark feature.
He told council that Steve Betts, former CEO of SunCor Development Co, is currently working to help strengthen the downtown Carefree area.
Councilman Mike Farrar stated Peterson did an excellent job and he agreed completely with the mayor’s recommendation.
Price said the committee looked at the Parsons Brinckerhoff matrix and all the criteria.
She said, “You’re right. Putting a gateway on Cave Creek Road is important but costly to bring electrical in. She indicated Councilman Glen Miller received an estimate of approximately $200,000.
Farrar said $200,000 is a considerable expense and suggested they wait until a developer comes in and see if it necessitates another gateway.
He stated the Urban Land Institute recommended archway entrances into town with the primary access points noted in its report.
Farrar went on to say the Baker Study supported the mayor’s recommendations and stated, “We have experts supporting the mayor’s conclusions.”
Peterson said the Parsons Brinckerhoff matrix supports it as well and that other options would require additional expense.
Price made her own presentation for a Phase I and Phase II that included a village center map showing a hotel and 11 restaurants.
She said, “We can make this town center amazing. I don’t want to look at only what we have today.”
Councilman Bob Gearhart said he thought they should do four primary gateways, two on each major street, now.
Peterson said there was $1.5 million in the budget and if they did four it would exhaust their budget.
Price stated their costs would be greatly reduced due to all the donations.
Councilman John Crane said, “Just because we budgeted money doesn’t mean we have to spend it,” and stated they might find two gateways are sufficient.
Farrar said, “More isn’t necessarily better. We’re a small town.”
He said they hadn’t even addressed landscaping and any of the other recommendations yet.
Farrar said he was initially opposed to any gateways but has since come around. However, he was leery of placing too many in such a small area.
Price told council Betts said gateways could be a draw for developers and said, “We know our town better than anyone.”
Farrar said, “Let developers put gateways in.”
During public comment, Lyn Hitchon said, “I agree with the Baker Study that you can have too many gateways. It’s like having a ring on every finger.”
Gearhart said if they went with either two or four it was a win.
However, he posed, “If we have money in the bank, why not do them all in one fell swoop?”
Peterson said the Carefree approach is “we don’t spend money just because it’s available.”
Farrar moved to approve Peterson’s recommendation for two primary gateways.
Crane seconded the motion.
The vote deadlocked 3-3 with Miller, Price and Gearhart voting no.
During the course of the meeting, Orrico became disconnected and they were unable to get him back on the phone.
Council took a short recess to see if they could get him back on to break the tie.
Farrar pointed out there was another council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 1.
Miller made a motion to approve four primary gateways at Carefree Drive, Sunshine Way, and Ho and Hum roads, as depicted in Price’s proposal.
Price seconded the motion.
Farrar said he didn’t see Sunshine Way as a primary entrance into the town and stated the Urban Land Institute and Baker Study already determined where the primary entrances are.
Farrar said, “To completely disregard their expertise, I can’t see us being so cavalier.”
Miller responded, “We all have opinions,” and, to support his motion, said, “We’re missing a lot of people from Desert Mountain.”
Price added, “And Carefree Resort.”
Farrar stated doing two would give them the opportunity to do other things that were recommended.
Miller stated, “That’s just their opinion. We all have opinions.”
Peterson said, “I would say Sunshine Way is problematic.”
The vote deadlocked 3-3 with Farrar, Crane and Peterson voting no.
Council then voted unanimously to continue the item to Tuesday’s meeting.

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