Guest Editorial

By John Traynor & Jim Van Allen  |  january 20, 2016

Commissioner Hitchon’s misguided missiles

Just when you think some sanity could creep into Carefree, warheads fly.  Ms. Hitchon, who happens to be a voting member of Carefree’s Planning & Zoning Commission, and a long-time cheerleader for Carefree Town Administrator, Gary Neiss, used her blog / not-quite-the-truth email to initiate a personal attack.  Apparently she was very distraught over two CFM Newsletters which we sent out, one prior to the P&Z meeting and the other as a summary of that meeting.  Her attack included words and phrases like inflammatory, highly editorialized, couldn’t hear, sketchy notes, and incendiary assertions.  Needless to say those words and the other half-truths she imparted along with them were clearly intended to motivate her ardent followers; I can already visualize the names on the forthcoming letters she will publish shortly.  I wonder if those chosen followers would agree to allowing construction of 50, 60, or 70 foot tall buildings in Carefree (I doubt even Ed Morgan would go along with that).  Or, will they simply agree with her hate words and completely ignore the real issue.  Haters hate, and Ms. Hitchon seems to hate anyone who disagrees with her or the Town Administrator & Planner.

If you had the misfortune to see her recent missive, you were treated to numerous forms of ‘misinformation’, a word she featured in her personal attack.  I must admit to being seriously hard of hearing (not by choice and not selectively - I do wear hearing aids), and I don’t always take perfect notes.  That is why I have made a number of mild complaints about the Carefree Council Chamber sound system and recording quality in the past.  The new system is better, but with my hearing, not perfect - I do try to be accurate, honestly Lyn.  As she knows very well, minutes of the P&Z meetings are, and have been, historically thin and generally devoid of useful information as are the agendas.  There are no voice recordings of those meeting posted on the town website as there usually are for council meetings.  I also confess that I did not go to steno school and I do not have a photographic memory.  My non-apologetic confession is finished.

That said, what her followers did not read or hear from her  was a denial that higher building heights, up to 5 stories (14 or 15 feet per story) had been presented at the 10/19 P&Z meeting.  Even Ms. Hitchon should be able to figure out that 14 x 5 = 70.  Jim Van Allen may have been one of the few (perhaps only) spectators present at the October meeting when building height was discussed.  He made a strong case against that proposal.  He urged the commissioners to permit residents to vote on building height, (even if  informally).  The ‘Option B - More intense’ plan which contained that 70 foot potential height was not discussed at the recent meeting.  It was mysteriously absent.  In fact, and as I stated in our meeting summary, the mention of 70 feet in this recent meeting (with about 40 people in attendance this time), was poo-pooed as if it never happened.  The ‘Option A – Less Intense’ plan that was presented by staff this time around still allows for 50 foot height, with the potential to go to 60’, or as allowed by the ‘Development Review Board’, which just happens to be the P&Z Commissioners.  By the way, all other commercial height limits would be raised from the current 24’ to 30’ (like the Galleria) elsewhere in Town.   Sure the P&Z was not expected to act/vote during the recent meeting, but they will.  Hearing no objection from elsewhere, I have little doubt they would have endorsed staff recommendations at their next opportunity as they typically do.  They would then recommend that the Council approve the text amendment. 
Nobody from the public could have known that the 70 foot height would not be discussed again this time around since details for the discussion packet was not even posted on the town website.  Once Ms. Hitchon received information about our alert on Sunday, she certainly had ample time to advise her inside staff source to prepare for intense public scrutiny and comment about their sky-high building ideas.  She even had her husband along to video record the meeting, something that never happens at P&Z meetings.

It is true that several comments were made (and supported by rounds of applause) during the meeting to allow residents to vote on the issue of building height in their own town.  And contrary to what Ms. Hitchon perceives, I know the difference between the General Plan and a general Zoning change.  I also know that certain members of the staff like to hide behind codes or regulations when it suits them.  They ignore it when it doesn’t, as with the ‘Eastwood’ high-density development project recently approved even though the parcel in question did not meet the 10 acre minimum requirement as stipulated in their code.  9 out of ten citizens opposed the General Plan amendment and up-zoning.  Ms. Hitchon voted to approve that recommendation from staff too.  A few years back she didn’t want Walmart in her neighborhood and spoke out against it during a Cave Creek meeting.  I wonder how she’d vote on an Eastwood-like project near her home in Sentinel Rock.

If you love Carefree and are against raising commercial building height limits in Carefree, as we are, we’d urge you to weigh-in on this matter by sending an email to and let them know.
John Traynor & Jim Van Allen, Carefree
Co-Authors of Carefree’s Future Matters, CFM