Guest Editorial

By JOHN TRAYNOR  |  February 17, 2016

The Howling

I was utterly amazed to discover that this Carefree Mayor has tripped to the level of the Town’s P&Z Commission blogger in attacking those who disagree with the new party line.  Is it possible that paid outside opinion is advising that the only way to prevent people from questioning certain new initiatives, and their cost, is to label those raising awareness as ill-informed crackpots, and then accuse them of “manufacturing facts”.  No Mayor Peterson, the facts stand.  If the P&Z ‘workshops’ were intended to begin a series of dialogues with residents on building height, why then are they not given greater visibility, and why not do a much better job disclosing content well before scheduled meetings?  

No one you know is considering 70 foot building height?  I assume you are acquainted with the town administrator and town planner.  A term you used in your editorial, ”balderdash” (1590-1600 AD, origin unknown), would be a gross understatement to describe your denial.  Perhaps you did not read the briefing materials town staff prepared for presentation to the P&Z on 10/19.  It surely must have been available to you, even if not easily accessible by the public.  The P&Z meeting packet we eventually obtained, clearly shows two options being considered. 
Sorry, I meant ‘workshopped’.  Option A, Less Intense (also presented at the January meeting after residents were alerted and about 40 attended) and Option B, More Intense (not discussed at the January meeting but presented on 10/19 to an almost empty room – the key here is almost).  Option A shows commercial building height up to 50 feet, with the possibility of taller structures (note the *).  No rational person would believe a height increase from the present 24 feet to 50 or 70 feet is “modest.”  “Form based zoning” does not change the laws of physics; in this reality a foot is still a foot.  Option B cleverly switches from a description in height to a description in ‘floors’; listing from 2 to 5 floors to be precise.  The Easy Street Condos will be 3 floors, well in excess of 40 feet thanks to a previous zoning text amendment for the developer.  Care to estimate how many feet 5 floors would be? 

For the record, I most certainly did attend the October 19th Planning & Zoning Commission meeting in Carefree, as well as the January meeting.  Interestingly, and contrary to absurd assertions by the Town’s P&Z Commission blogger, I saw no one in “an emotional tizzy” nor did I subsequently attempt to manipulate anyone into that state, although your blogger appears to have arrived there.  Carefree residents seem to be intelligent, sensible people who love their town.  The Commissioner herself may be living in a distorted state of reality which has apparently rubbed off in town hall.  Why criticize residents who express legitimate concern over discussions which can potentially lead to altering the character and charm of a town they love?  Given this commissioner’s penchant for howling, that is a rhetorical question.   Also for the record Lyn, this is not a rodeo circuit, it’s about the character of our town.

The P&Z Agenda, when posted before meetings, has not contained any detail or supporting material for their meetings to date.  No audio of those meetings is posted on the Town website, as is customary for Council meetings, and there is no notice that such recordings are even available.  Jim Van Allen was present for the ‘workshop’ discussion of building height and also addressed the commission on that topic.  He spoke at length about the problem with 70 foot heights.  He advised that they should expect large crowds to object and those residents will want to vote on the issue.  Jim, with many years of experience as an executive in the hotel industry, and in hotel construction, has explained that 5 floors basically equates to approximately a 70 foot structure.  Perhaps the commissioner fancies herself a hotel construction savant.  Or, perhaps she didn’t read the material before that meeting or even after Herbert posted it.  If Commissioner Hitchon and her mentor, Town Administrator Neiss, ever choose to actually be honest, perhaps they will finally admit that this entire notion of raising commercial building height is driven by the presumptive need to give a developer more incentive to build a hotel in the Town Core.  That is called ‘greasing the skids’.  The Administrator is correct on one score; this is “not an ending point” - far from it.  For folks who freely toss around the word ‘transparency’, they are actually very transparent.  They don’t enjoy the light and so the howling... 

People see the destruction being wrought on our roadways and those of our neighboring town.  Mayor Peterson, the ‘Public Safety’ card has been played by numerous administrations when other ploys have failed to convince the public.  Everyone supports Public Safety, right?  But you know there are no Federal or State regulations mandating bike lanes, none.  Carefree has done without them for over 30 years, we could survive without them going forward.  With only a 24 inch addition to the shoulder, it doesn’t take a doctorate to comprehend where the remaining 3 feet for the bike lanes will be obtained.  Narrower road lanes do not enhance Public Safety.  Oh, and Carefree only lost 6 plants, really?  Who counted them?  When Jim Van Allen urged the council, on several occasions, to save the plants and trees, the response was always the same; there is no money in the budget for vegetation.  Perhaps you listen to advisors more than to common sense.  But who cares, it’s all about getting free money, right? 

Bike lane construction and median destruction are a good example of waiting too long to react.  I believe it is far better to raise awareness and raise questions before the bulldozers arrive than afterward.  Jim and I will strive to keep residents informed.  How those residents respond may cause additional howling from town hall.