Dueling Buffalo Chips?

Ford selected to fill council vacancy

CAVE CREEK – With Councilman Thomas McGuire absent, council appointed John Ford to fill the vacancy on council left by Mark Lipsky’s resignation by a vote of 3-2 with Mayor Vincent Francia and Vice Mayor Steve LaMar dissenting.

Neither Ford nor Russ Carlson, who was also under consideration, were interested in running for council but were willing to serve out the rest of Lipsky’s term.

The names were drawn out of basket to determine the order in which each nominee’s name would come before council for a vote.

Town Attorney Bill Sims advised council the first to receive at least three votes would be selected.

Ford, whose name was drawn first, received the three votes required to be appointed.

Tony Geiger, chairman of the water advisory committee (WAC), made a presentation to council outlining the three major areas of the water utility – water supply, conservation, and operations and maintenance – that need to be addressed and asked council to provide WAC with direction.

Geiger said the town is in the utility business and whether or not citizens agree with the town being in the utility business it doesn’t change the fact.

Councilman Dick Esser asked for some sort of timeline to complete some of the suggestions in Geiger’s presentation, noting after three years nothing’s been done.

Geiger responded, “We’re on our third utilities manager,” adding, “He’s the best one yet.”

He said they could complete the four suggested items to bring back to council in 180 days but stated it was incumbent on council to impose deadlines, take responsibility and hold people accountable.

Geiger also implored council to look at the entire water utility as a complete system and address it in its entirety.

According to Geiger, the town just lost another operator that day and said it was now down to two.

He also said Cave Creek is not considered a good place to work by people in the industry.

Council voted unanimously to implement the first four recommendations suggested by the WAC, which included a benchmark study, rate study, time use study and look into tie-ins to other municipalities for emergencies.

Town Manager Peter Jankowski advised council there were three vacancies on the WAC and they received four applications from people interested in serving.

He said there currently were no representatives from Desert Hills but the two applications they received from Desert Hills were a husband and wife, but stated he didn’t believe was a good idea to have a husband and wife serve on the same committee.

Neither of the two were present to address council.

Ralph Ferro, a Carefree resident, also applied.

He told council he lived in Carefree but was right on the corner of Cave Creek.

Ferro spoke about his interest in water issues from when he lived in California, which he said grew into becoming educated on the subject while serving as a member and president of the Elsinore Valley Water and Sewer Facilities Corporation.

Sara Vannucci also applied but was not present to address council.

Because there was currently no representation from Desert Hills, Francia’s motion to appoint Becky Dixon to the WAC for the term ending Dec. 2017 carried unanimously.

Council also voted unanimously to appoint Ferro to the committee for the term ending December 2016.

Associate Planner Luke Kautzman provided a brief narrative for Red Moon Development’s site plan for an office/residence building in the Tamarisk Grove area behind Local Jonny’s in a Commercial Buffer zone.

He noted the application was submitted last summer but required Maricopa County Flood Control approval, which has been obtained.

Kautzman said the project meets all of the zoning requirements and will only be 41 percent lot coverage where 60 percent is allowed.

Commenting it is in compliance and meets the town’s requirements, council voted unanimously to approve the application.

Jankowski brought forward a resolution previously passed by council to clarify council’s intend to waive certain fees for the rebuilding of the Buffalo Chip Saloon.

Because the site plan for the new Buffalo Chip will be built entirely on property owned by Larry Wendt adjacent to its former location on property owned by the Steffen family, Jankowski wanted to make sure council still wanted to waive fees.

Because there is existing infrastructure and meters at the former location, they were looking at waiving approximately $2,000.

However, according to Jankowski, the fees would be closer to $20,000 now that Wendt is planning to build on his property.

Esser said he was comfortable with what they did the first time.

Councilman Ernie Bunch said he wasn’t aware there was another property involved.

Jankowski stated things have changed since the original resolution was approved and the parties can’t come to an agreement.

Wendt explained when he first discussed rebuilding the plan was to build a duplicate of the Buffalo Chip on the same lot.

However, Wendt said it will be more cost effective for him to rebuild entirely on his own property.

He said, “I don’t know what the Steffens plan to do with their property.”

During public comment, David Steffen said his family plans to build a replica of the Buffalo Chip that burned down and asked that council keep its commitment to waive the fees.

Francia stated it was council’s intent to waive certain fees to rebuild the Buffalo Chip Saloon, regardless of parcel number.

Bunch said stated he was still of the same mindset.

Council voted unanimously to clarify its intent as remaining the same.

As Planning Director Ian Cordwell introduced the site plan for the new Buffalo Chip Saloon, LaMar asked if he had the wrong site plan since it was for Cowpunchers Smokehouse & Saloon.

Civil Engineer George Everland explained Cowpunchers was the LLC that owns the property.

LaMar asked who owned Cowpunchers.

Everland responded, “Larry Wendt.”

Wendt elaborated and said Cowpunchers is the corporation he placed his businesses under because he was advised by his attorney not to put a liquor license in his own name.

When asked who owns the Buffalo Chip name, Wendt stated, “I do,” and said it is registered with the secretary of state’s office as a trade name.

Wendt reiterated he will be rebuilding the Buffalo Chip Saloon.

Wendt said he’s been a “hobo” for the past six months since the Buffalo Chip burned down but said with support from the town and council’s help, “We’re going to make a go at it.”

According to Wendt, his contractor can have the project completed in four to six months from the time permits are approved.

Although Francia had already called for public comment and was ready to call for a motion, Anna Marsolo said she didn’t hear him call for public comment and wanted to speak.

Marsolo asked if the hill between the site and Wendt’s residential parcel to the south would be coming down.

Cordwell said the hill would be preserved.

She then asked how the town will monitor Jack Cartwright Pass so it’s not used for parking.

Cordwell stated it is a public easement that is 40 feet wide and even with a bike lane only 22 feet is needed.

T.C. Thorstenson also asked to speak and reiterated all the same issues he brought up during the planning commission meeting about Wendt having unpermitted illegal structures, insufficient water retention plans and insufficient parking.

He said he wanted the Buffalo Chip rebuilt but said it should be on the original site.

Bunch asked Cordwell if the lot line adjustment between the site and Wendt’s residential property was going to create a non-conforming lot.

Cordwell said it was not.

Francia asked Cordwell if the site plan before council met the town’s requirements.
Cordwell said it did.

As Bunch’s motion to approve carried unanimously, Bunch said, “Welcome back, Larry.”

During public comment on an agenda item to approve an asphalt contract with Sunland Asphalt to complete chip sealing approximately 1.5 miles of roads as preventive maintenance to extend the life of the roads, Raymond Stone, who said he lived at the end of Spur Cross Road, asked if that stretch was included in the chip sealing plan.

Town Engineer Dave Peterson said it was not.

Stone asked if the item could be amended to include his road.

Peterson said it could not at this time but could let Stone know when his road is scheduled to be done.

LaMar moved to approve the contract and said, “A stitch in time saves nine.”

The motion carried unanimously.

Last on the agenda was a resolution brought forward by Trails Coordinator Bambi Muller to clarify that dedicated non-motorized trails within the town of Cave Creek’s trail system allow for all non-motorized uses, including pedestrians, equestrians and bicycles.

Council voted unanimously to pass the resolution.