By Linda Bentley | DECEMBER 9, 2015

Creekers rally in support of Buffalo Chip

I thought the worst thing I’d ever have to go through was the fire in 2005 until I stood next to Larry on Thanksgiving Day watching the Buffalo Chip burn down”

Larry Wendt

CAVE CREEK – Dan Allen, the new owner of the Silver Spur Saloon (at the former location the Smokehouse and the Satisfied Frog) spoke during Monday night’s Call to the Public to announce they will be holding a fundraiser for the Buffalo Chip from 4 p.m. until around midnight on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Mike Beckham, president of Las Ventanas HOA, spoke to say they not only share a road with the wastewater treatment plant but with all of the town’s utility vehicles as well.

As a result, he said they are constantly picking up trash that falls of the trucks and asked the town to please keep the area clean.

Beckham also thanked the town and staff for finally resolving the odor problems, which he said has not recurred.

During approval of the consent agenda, council voted unanimously to cancel the Dec. 21 council meeting.

With a standing-room-only crowd in support of the Buffalo Chip Saloon and Steakhouse, a Carefree resident called it the crown jewel, epicenter and core of everything he loved about Arizona and urged council to approve the resolution to waive all engineering, zoning, permit, licensing and utility capacity fees for the Buffalo Chip, in order to remove any obstacles to rebuilding.

Darryl Steffens, whose family has owned the property for the past 56 years, spoke in support of the resolution.

Larry Wendt introduced himself and joked, “I used to own the Buffalo Chip.”

He said, “Tonight I come with my hat in my hand.”

Wendt told council how he had really great commercial liability coverage, but said he wasn’t as bright when it came to insuring the contents and only had a policy for a little over $200,000.

Wendt said, “I’m here to say thank you for your consideration on this.”

He asked the public to please help take care of his 120 employees by donating to the Parkway Bank Buffalo Chip Employee Fund and Foothills Food Bank.

Mayor Vincent Francia moved to approve the resolution and fighting back tears said, “I thought the worst thing I’d ever have to go through was the fire in 2005 until I stood next to Larry on Thanksgiving Day watching the Buffalo Chip burn down.”

Councilman Ernie Bunch, who seconded the motion, said he hoped staff would expedite whatever they could, without sacrificing safety, to help get the Chip back.

Councilman Mark Lipsky said he loves this town and agreed with the man who called the Chip the crown jewel of the town.

Councilman Thomas McGuire asked what the monetary amount was they would be waiving.

Town Manager Peter Jankowski said it would be around $30,000 to $40,000 in fees but no out-of-pocket costs to the town.

Before council voted unanimously to pass the resolution, Vice Mayor Steve LaMar said, “This is the least we can do.”

Continued from the last meeting, Jankowski was again asking council if it was interested in spending $4,000 to obtain an appraisal for the approximately 30-acres adjacent to Spur Cross Conservation Area (SCCA) known as Harmony Hollow.

Councilwoman Susan Clancy said she wasn’t sure why they were doing this and asked if the town was thinking about purchasing the property and if they had money in the budget.

Francia asked Jankowski if he knew the current asking price.

Town Attorney Bill Sims said that would not be something they would disclose if it were under negotiations.

Jankowski said council was not authorizing the price but just this very first step.

Councilman Dick Esser also questioned why they were doing this.

Vicki Preston, conservation director with the Desert Foothills Land Trust (DFLT), said they have had conversations over the years with the land owners.

She said the property is bordered on three sides by SCCA with Jewel of the Creek a short distance to the south.

According to Preston, 16 of the 30 acres is in the wash and the parcel contains one dwelling.

She said it is a major wildlife corridor and is currently zoned DR-190, which allows for one home per 4.36 acres.

Preston said once the appraisal was done, DFLT could have more in-depth conversations with their board regarding partnerships and fundraising.

She said, “We’re asking the town to move forward with the appraisal process.”

During public comment, Eileen Wright said the Harmony Hollow property is 27.9 acres that the “local tabloid said the town should buy.”

She asked, “Why should the town consider buying it? How about we go to the Cross family and ask them to donate it for a tax deduction.”

Wright then questioned why a town “buried in debt” would consider making such a purchase.

McGuire, who moved to approve the request said, “All we’re talking about is an appraisal. We’re simply seeking information.”

LaMar, who seconded the motion, said while the Harmony Hollow parcel was certainly something the town would be interested in preserving the timing was the conundrum, as the town is in negotiations with the state land department about preserving 4,000 acres.

Stating, “The devil is in the details” LaMar also countered Wright’s statement and said, “We’re not buried in debt.”

Esser said, “I think what we’re doing is premature. My thought is we don’t need to spend $3,000,” adding, “No one is going to argue the fact that it’s a key parcel.”

Lipsky stated, “I was made aware in September or October that this parcel was going to be for sale. I asked the town if we could get an appraisal. That’s the entire story.” He said it had nothing to do with the “local tabloid.”

Bunch said preservation of the 4,000 acres is more important.

Francia stated, “We are literally on the verge of negotiations with the state land department.”

Council voted against authorizing the appraisal, with only McGuire voting in favor.

Council voted unanimously in favor of a development agreement with Las Ventanas that was continued from the last meeting because council sought clarification of the 20-foot height that no one was available to answer last month.

Beckham and another member of the HOA explained the 20-foot pole was not a light, would be hidden in the bushes and was simply for a 12-inch by 18-inch solar collector for the 10-foot high light at the entrance to their community.

During public comment Janell Smith-Haff said the town’s solar ordinance allows for 15 feet not 20.

Sims said it was the town’s prerogative to amend that if it wished.

The town unanimously voted to accept the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) presented by Brian Hemmerle, who conducted the audit for the town’s audit firm Henry & Horne, LLP.

Hemmerle stated the CAFR was an unmodified or “clean” opinion with no reported significant deficiencies.

Council voted unanimously to reappoint Ted Bryda and David Smith to three-year terms on the planning commission.

In order to stagger terms on the Water Advisory Committee (WAC), Jankowski said two of the appointments would be for one year and three would be for two years.

Jankowski said they were still looking for a qualified person to serve from the Desert Hills service area.

Betsy Wise, who was seeking appointment questioned the reasoning behind the one-year term and said she would have written something different had she known.

Jankowski reiterated this was only to implement the staggered terms and all appointments would be for two years thereafter.

Bill Allen, who chaired the committee and was seeking reappointment, commented that the WAC was the strongest committee he had ever served on.

Wise said she assumed the appointment was for two years and stated one year was not long enough.

Clancy questioned how council was supposed to determine which of the four applicants should serve for one year and which ones should serve for two.

LaMar suggested since Bill Allen and David Smith have served on committees for years and would certainly reapply, to make their terms one year and appoint Wise and Tony Geiger to two-year terms.

LaMar’s motion carried unanimously.

Council unanimously approved an expenditure of $539,240 for a mill and pave project along Cave Creek Road.

In a handout, Jankowski noted $464,426 of the total was being paid with HURF (Highway User Revenue Fund) funds and the remaining $74,814 would come out of the Public Works Capital Improvement account.

Jankowski said the town usually waits until the end of the budget year to do these kinds of projects. However, by coordinating the work with the bike lane project, the town was not only saving a substantial amount of money, it would not have to burden citizens with lane closures again later in the year.

While both Clancy and LaMar appreciated the information and explanation, they stated the agenda item in their packets should have included those details, especially so the public could be made aware of where the money was coming from.

Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution authorizing off-site parking for the Foothills Food Bank (FFB), which Planning Director Ian Cordwell stated was necessary to issue permits for its expansion project.

The food bank purchased a lot across the street and one lot over to accommodate the parking requirements, but Cordwell said the ordinance requires council’s approval for such a situation.

Answering council’s questions, FFB Executive Director Pam DiPietro said the food bank serves approximately 400 families per month in a 180 square foot radius.

She said majority of their clientele live in Cave Creek with the second highest number from Anthem.

Esser asked if there was another situation like this in town and if it was precedent setting.

Cordwell said there were no other like situations in town, it was not precedent setting and could be authorized on a case by case basis.

Kathy Jones, who lives next door to the food bank and opposes the expansion, said she is tired of putting up with rats, vagrants and public urination. She said, “I have rights too.”

As council voted unanimously to approve the off-site parking, Bunch, directing his comment to DiPietro, stated, “I find it a sad commentary that your business is booming.”

Last, council voted unanimously to extend an agreement with Hidden Rock that had expired.

The agreement was for financial assurances put into place by the previous council to set aside funds and released only after inspections were completed.

Extending the agreement allowed for the release of funds so Hidden Rock could pay its bills.