Board of adjustment overturns planning director’s permit denial

Bill and Debbie Basore
Bill and Debbie Basore

CAVE CREEK – Tuesday, Nov. 15 marked the first board of adjustment meeting held in Cave Creek in six years.

The two longest sitting members of the board, Fred Mueller and Brian Sirower, were elected chair and vice chair, respectively.

Because there were two new members, Town Attorney Jeff Murray did a short presentation to brief them on their duties and responsibilities.

Murray explained the board of adjustment is a quasi-judicial body that has two duties: variances and appeals of decisions of the zoning administrator.

Because the case was an appeal, Murray didn’t elaborate on the statutory requirements for issuing variances and said the burden is on the property owner, who will have the last say.

Planning Director Ian Cordwell, who is also the town’s zoning administrator, explained to the board that he received an application from Bill Basore for a building permit on Sept. 16 to rebuild a legal non-conforming structure that was damaged by wind and removed by the owner.

Cordwell said he didn’t feel he had the authority to approve a permit to replace a non-conforming structure outside the buildable area defined by setbacks and, on Oct. 12, issued a letter of denial to Bill and Debbie Basore.

Cordwell wrote, “Per our previous discussions and correspondence, I recognize you disagree with my interpretation,” and scheduled the public hearing before the board of adjustment so Basore could appeal his decision.

In the alternative, Cordwell told the Basores they could build the structure within the developable area defined by building setbacks or adjust the property line in collaboration with the neighboring property owners so as to place the structure in the proposed location.

Bill Basore took to the podium while his wife passed out documents to the members of the board.

Basore said he spent approximately 400 hours reading minutes to understand how the whole process works.

He said, “In an ideal situation, my pole barn would still be standing and you would all be home watching TV.”

Basore explained the history of the property, which he said they bought at auction in 2011.

He said the property used to be owned by former Mayor Jim Threadgill, who used the shed for his horse buggies.

Basore said the building probably never satisfied any building codes and after he noticed the building was swaying during a monsoon storm, he believed it was a safety hazard and took it down but said the piers and concrete were left in place.

Basore said he ordered a building kit and told his neighbors he was putting the barn back up and no one objected.

He said it took six months for the kit to show up and he hired crew to build the barn.

According to Basore, the crew began work the day after he and his wife had to be out of town for 10 days.

After they returned from out of town, Basore said a black SUV showed up and it was Town Marshal Adam Stein asking why he didn’t respond to the stop work order.

Basore said he never received a stop work order and the crew he hired claimed they also never received a stop work order.

He said he looked around the property and eventually found the stop work order in the bushes, which he said was probably due to a monsoon.

Basore said he screwed up by not getting a permit and subsequently applied for a permit and paid double the fees as a penalty.

Basore went into the history of why the town changed the ordinance pertaining to legal non-conforming uses because of the Cave Creek Museum’s situation and its inability to obtain grants.

He said at the time, the ordinance read that if over 50 percent of a building was damaged the entire building would need to be brought up to current code. Basore noted that language was subsequently removed.

Mueller confirmed with Cordwell the issue was the zoning clearance and not the building.

Basore said the only reason it took so long to get the structure rebuilt was trying to find people who would work so far away and asked the board to “do the right thing.”

During public comment, Stan Edwards, who purchased 10 acres from Threadgill, said he subdivided it into two five-acre parcels and sold five-acres to the Basores. He said he couldn’t think of any reason why the barn would not be approved and asked the board to “do what’s right.”

Terry Smith said he’d been up to the property before the barn was taken down and determined it wasn’t safe.

Smith said he was back again after it was taken down and stated, “In my opinion, there is no reason why it can’t be rebuilt.”

Neighbors Tom and Denise Holder said they’ve lived in their home since 1987 and the area is “very neighborly.”

They too had no objections to Basore rebuilding the barn.

Sirower moved to overturn the zoning administrator’s denial, with Board Member Paul Eelkema seconding the motion.

Sirower said there were inconsistencies in the ordinance concerning vacancy and destruction.

He said the provision regarding vacancy was not relevant but the provision regarding “portion thereof” was.

Sirower said it seemed like the remaining portion of the structure – the slab and piers – was still being occupied.

Board Member Jay Johnson said he agreed with Sirower that there was continual use for the structure to be grandfathered in.

Eelkema stated the slab was in continuous use and there is a clear statement in the zoning ordinance that you can restore a damaged structure.

The board voted unanimously to overturn Cordwell’s denial and approve the permit.