CAVE CREEK – Creekers are waiting for the late American economist Milton Friedman, who said, “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program,” to be proven wrong when it comes to the big white tent in the center of town.
In December 2016 when Rare Earth Gallery erected the enormous white tent on the northeast corner of Cave Creek and School House roads, locals didn’t hide their opinions of the structure, referring to it as a “monstrosity.”
When locals learned the structure was temporary while new gallery quarters were being built, they eased up somewhat on the criticism.
As we reported back in December, the original plan was that Fernando Maldonado, who owns the property, was going to remodel and repurpose the old elementary school buildings into a commercial retail project that would eventually house the gallery.
At the time, Cave Creek Building Official Mike Baxley told us the permit for the temporary structure was good for up to 180 days with no provision for renewal and after which time must be taken down.
Creekers didn’t believe the town would abide by the 180-day limitation and expressed concerns that extending it would set an unwanted precedent.
Well, 180 days has come and gone, Maldonado has only recently applied for the requisite rezoning for the old elementary school parcels, which will be going before the planning commission on June 22, no longer plans to include space for Rare Earth Gallery and, as anyone can see, the big white tent remains.
A few months ago, when it appeared Maldonado was in no rush to proceed with plans for the property, Wayne Helfand, the gallery’s proprietor, decided instead of being dependant on landlords, to pursue purchasing land on the southeast corner of Cave Creek and School House roads to build his own gallery, which has been issued permits and is currently underway.
Helfand attempted to lease other commercial property in town when his lease ran out at the southwest corner in December to no avail.
And, with the change in plans underway, Helfand knew full well there was no way construction of the new gallery building would be started, let alone completed, before the 180 days expired.
Helfand said the process is a huge undertaking – dealing with banks, funding, permits, engineering, building plans, vegetation plans, soil testing and more – but they have now received approval to move forward to begin construction of what he says will be a museum-quality establishment to house these unique offerings while preserving the rustic charm of Cave Creek.
Getting back to the big white tent and the 180-day expired permit, it appears Baxley, as the building official, has the authority to extend the permit on a month to month basis providing the temporary structure meets monthly safety inspections and work continues to progress on the new construction.
With pieces of petrified wood weighing in at up to 9,000 pounds, Helfend said the original move to the temporary site was a very expensive ordeal and he never dreamed his store would still be in a tent with no bathrooms or air conditioning, especially through the summer months.
Helfend promises the new gallery will be an asset to the town that will make the community very proud.
Expecting to complete the gallery within five to six months, Helfand asks everyone to be patient as he proves Friedman wrong this time and watch the progress taking place on the southeast corner.