By Linda Bentley | SEPTEMBER 9, 2015

Carefree comes together on Gateways

Carefree Kiwanis to fund town’s new splash pad
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CAREFREE – During the Sept. 1 council meeting, Kiwanis Club of Carefree President Bob Swan took to the podium during Call to the Public and announced, on behalf of the club’s 180 members, Kiwanis has made a commitment to fund the $135,000 splash pad and presented the town with their first installment payment of $25,000.

Swan spoke of Kiwanis’ commitment to helping children.

Councilman Gene Orrico, who serves on the Kiwanis board of directors and as its vice president, said the vote to fund the splash pad was 17-0 and was the first time all 17 board members voted unanimously.

Vice Mayor John Crane expressed what a great organization Kiwanis is, with Mayor Les Peterson stating, “They make a wonderful contribution to the community.”

Orrico pointed out Kiwanis also donates to 25 other nonprofit organizations.

Cave Creek Museum Executive Director Evelyn Johnson passed out copies of the museum’s annual report to council and stated volunteers at the museum log approximately 10,000 hours.

She said the museum is working on a new exhibit and is seeking $7,000 to help fund it.

Jim Van Allen also spoke and advised council that he’s worked the Christmas Parade, which he said draws thousands to Carefree, for the past six years.

He said, “Those people didn’t have a problem finding Carefree,” and asked council to think about that when it decides how many gateways to install.

John Traynor first recognized Kiwanis for all the great work it does and then addressed the gateway proposals.

Noting there were proposals for either two or four gateways, Traynor said he didn’t see one for none, although he clarified he wasn’t recommending none.

Traynor stated, “People won’t come to Carefree to see a gateway. We need a reason for them to come.”

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Kip Rustenburg introduced Lt. Ryan Branios, who has returned to District 4 where he previously worked as a deputy.

Moving on to the general agenda items, Crane moved to appoint Dan Davee, who has an engineering background, to fill the vacancy on the planning commission. The motion carried unanimously.

Following the vote, Town Clerk Kandace French administered the oath of office to Davee.

Council voted unanimously to authorize the purchase of a utility tractor with a mower attachment for the public works department in the amount of $72,000.

Town Administrator Gary Neiss said the money was not budgeted and would come from contingency funds.

Councilman Mike Farrar asked what the balance was in the contingency fund account.

Neiss said it was $195,000.

Public Works Superintendent Travis Johnson thanked council on behalf of his crew and said it will make their job easier and faster.

Neiss introduced the gateway agenda item continued from the Aug. 27 meeting.

He said it was good to emphasize how they got where they are and stated it wasn’t done in a vacuum.

Neiss provided a timeline of the public process, which included workshops, open houses, surveys and interviews to develop the Revitalization Master Plan.

In June, Neiss said survey work was done to establish the town’s rights-of-way for the bike lane project, to determine visibility triangles for safety and locate utilities.

In July, local architect August Reno produced designs that reinforced thematic elements within the town center.

At this juncture, he said council is discussing the most feasible locations and number of gateways.

Neiss said the main purpose of the gateways is to counteract the inner-facing design of the town center, stating the Baker Group heard from visitors over and over again they didn’t know the town center was there.

He said the town engaged Parsons Brinckerhoff in conjunction with the bike lane project to coordinate the design in conjunction with the size, line of site, bike lanes and other engineering considerations.

Neiss posted two alternatives for council to consider, one for two primary gateways, called the Core option, and a second for four primary gateways, called the Framing option.

Councilwoman Melissa Price said she was proposing the Framing option and stated it was because residents don’t come into the town center to shop and they need to bring people in from Desert Mountain and the Carefree Resort.

However, she said, “I don’t think there’s any wrong answer here. Either option will work.”

Crane said he was in the Core option camp, stating “It’s not just a gateway” and there was more to the project than just a gateway.

He said it was broadcasting who they are as a community – upscale and artistic.

Crane pointed out both Wampum Way and Carefree Drive already have roundabouts, the infrastructure is a shorter distance from Easy Street and the town core can be seen.

Crane said the cost to move utilities could cost anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 per gateway.

He said Lyn Hitchon brought up a good point at the last meeting about having a ring on every finger.

Crane said after they build two gateways they could always come back and reconsider adding more.

Price stated if they build the Core option it didn’t make any sense as to where the others would go and said, “It would be one or the other.”

Peterson provided an overview of the cost differences between the two options and said it would cost approximately $260,000 to build the Core option and approximately $1,508,000 to build the Framing option, a $1,248,000 difference.

He said there are costs associated with landscaping, sidewalks, lighting, undergrounding utilities and building roundabouts.

Peterson said the distances for the infrastructure requirements were significant for the Framing option.

He said, “People don’t come to Carefree to go under the gateway.”

Supporting the two gateway option, Peterson said, “It gives us identity” while noting they budgeted $1.5 million this year for economic development.

He said, he was 100 percent in favor of doing something and doing something in addition to the gateways.

Councilman Glenn Miller said the roundabouts were never part of the gateways.

Peterson said consultants pointed out the roundabouts are part of the entrance.

Farrar said, “We’re talking about primary gateways. You don’t have more than one primary entrance off each street.”

He went on to say the Urban Land Institute and Baker Group both identified primary entrances and he couldn’t understand why the town wouldn’t take the recommendation of experts who have demonstrated ability.

Farrar said, “Baker did a white paper on whether more is better.”

Supporting the Core option, Farrar suggested they use money to implement some of the other recommendations in the study.

Farrar said, “Steve Betts is our advisor. He agrees with everything the studies say. We need to be as prudent as possible with other people’s money.”

During public comment, Joe Devito said he believed the Core option was the best solution and two gateways were sufficient, although he did a very serious review of Price’s Framing option.

Devito said he wasn’t just speaking for himself but for a couple dozen other people.

Traynor said it was reasonably clear they don’t need four gateways but stated he appreciated all the work that went into it.

If the town were to install four gateways, Traynor said, “We’ll have more monuments than businesses.”

Traynor said the gateways were not going to draw people in and he disagreed with spending excess money on something that will bring in no revenue.

Jackie McDermont also spoke and gave council kudos for buying the building, to Kim Prince for getting Carefree on the cover of a magazine and for the pumpkin festival, which she said will be huge.

McDermont said she has never seen a more proactive council, “even if you do get bitchy.”

She said it was really important to her that they only have two gateways and stated too many would be gaudy.

“I hope they’re gorgeous and use Arizona stone,” said McDermont.

Jim Van Allen spoke about his days with the sheriff’s posse on Cave Creek Road and said council shouldn’t use Carefree Drive for a gateway off Cave Creek Road, suggesting they go one block further to Hum Road instead where there are turn lanes.

He also said Carefree Drive is not at a 45 degree angle.

Miller said they would need to do some major changes to Carefree Drive.

Tony Geiger encouraged council to listen to the experts and take the more conservative approach.

He said, “Don’t make an expensive mistake by putting in four or six.”

He recommended they let private development dictate where the secondary gateways may go.

Jerry Wetta said the Core option was a better solution and stated, “You know how I feel about saving a few bucks. I’d like to see us go with the small package.”

Hitchon said she favored the two-arch approach and stated she agreed with Price that if they went with the Core plan there wasn’t any place for other primaries.

Although council was deadlocked when they voted on Aug. 27, Price, who favored the Framing option then, moved to approve the Core option with Miller seconding the motion, which carried unanimously.

Farrar updated council on the new building and said it was closing on Sept. 11, a date they will all easily remember.

Prior to adjourning, Peterson thanked the three council members who voted for four gateways last time for being open minded.

Miller, who voted for four previously, said speaking to Steve Betts made all the difference.