Carefree’s Future Matters

November Town Council Meeting, November 7, 2017 at 5:00PM

Items 1 – 4 Consent Agenda:  These items were all related to routine town business (meeting minutes, bills, financial reports, event permits, etc.).  Hearing no request, The Mayor called for a motion and subsequent vote.  Approved, 6 – 0.

The Mayor made a few brief remarks about now deceased Councilman, Jim Van Allen.  He then asked for a moment of silence to remember him and his contributions.

Item 5, Call to the Public:  Initially no one spoke.  However, the Mayor permitted Shelly Spense, a Carefree resident and Publisher of Images Magazine, to address the Council.  She had several concerns and questions regarding the 100 Acre developer plan [far north Carefree] currently being prepared for submission to the town.  She wanted to know what was being proposed.  She said she received a letter from a Board member, Lyn Hitchon [carefree truth blog, written by a P&Z Commissioner].  In that material, Ms. Spense found information which was a direct contradiction with a letter she and other neighbors had received from the developer’s attorney.  In that attorney letter there was specific mention of rezoning the 100-acre parcel.  [For the record, again, material within brackets [ ] and typically either italicized or bold or both, contains My comments and/or opinions.  In no way does it reflect the comments or opinions of others.  So… Currently the land in question is zoned R-190, meaning 190,000 sf. lots which most normal people consider 5 acre lots.  Having attended the initial community meeting on this topic, directed by the attorney, I can summarize what was said.  The new owner wishes to take the current 100-acre, R-190 zoned parcel and split it in two, ‘giving’ 50 of those (essentially unbuildable) acres to the town of Carefree – free and clear – and then build 23 homes on the remaining 50 more suitable and buildable acres.  Because of the large wash in the area, the builder will have to construct a very substantial bridge across the wash in order to access a largest part of those 50 buildable acres.  In essence the 50 acres will shrink.  So, what starts out as R190 zoning then becomes something far less.  Even simple math shows that in a ‘perfect’ plan, the 23 home site lots would become approximately 2.1739 acres (the blogger wanted to be precise in her clarification, so I used my calculator like she did) – far smaller than R-190 specifications.  In fact, the developer’s initial plat drawing displayed at the community meeting apparently shows lots smaller than 2 acres.  While this is far from a done deal, other recent approved rezoning requests show the town’s willingness to move away from more rural or semi-rural low-density zoning to higher density.  Some will cry foul, claiming that 2 acre lots is not high density, but when one looks at existing homes in the surrounding area it becomes clear that 2 acres in this region is indeed higher density.  If someone is drowning in 3 inches of water, they don’t want to hear the water is not deep!  Make no mistake; the town is more than willing to discuss higher density with developers.  Whether it is relating to 1 or 2 acre lots being requested for much higher density or 5 acre lots being converted to a higher density of 1.75 or 2 acre lots – higher density is higher density.  If the Town can’t see that then we need new people who can].

The blogger, in her clarifications stated it was not rezoning but rather a “density transfer within the property”.  Ms. Spense asked several questions relating to the conflicting information but each time she was advised that the Council and staff were not permitted to respond to questions during Call to the Public.  The town administrator was taking notes and was asked to follow up.  [Some in Town Hall will cry foul again, when I say that in the past few years zoning gimmicks are being deployed to get around our existing zoning protections (like RUPDs), something that both Councilman Jim Van Allen, myself, and others had been citing.  Now the blogging Zoning Commissioner is claiming that the 100-acre potential debacle in not rezoning at all but merely a “density transfer”.  Since it is a fairly well-known reality that she gets her information directly from the Town Administrator, we can reasonably assume that his position will align with her claim of “density transfer”, another sleight of hand.]

[I find what I read in the copy of that blog mind-numbing.  Any person who could believe that a “43 story skyscraper” “is going to be built in downtown Carefree” should not be allowed to buy or own a gun, drive a vehicle, or vote.  Hot tip: don’t buy a house from the realtor spreading that story!  The fact that the blogger even addressed that nonsense, and then went on to cite emails and forwards she receives “containing outrageous content” referring to some “spinning-out-of-control rumor mill”.  As the blogger already knows very well, people can post anything they want on Facebook, just like they do in her blogs.

Mr. Mayor, time for another public lecture about bloggers.  I hope this time you address the real problem in your camp.]

Item 6, Current Events:  This was the longest section of the entire meeting.  I’m going to provide a very brief summary.  COINS can fill in the remainder.

Jim Keen stated that first quarter sales tax revenue was up 20%, largely due to construction revenue.  Retail is improving, and October is looking good.

The Carefree Christmas Tree Lighting will be on 12/1 under the Sundial at 5PM.

The Carefree Christmas Parade will be on 12/9 starting at 10AM.

Council member Kroyer provided a recap of Pumpkin Festival notable achievements.  There were 20% more visitors [Not sure how this is determined.]  There were more things to see, more merchandise to sell, more vendors, and 67K website hits [I believe she say that was a 23%increase over last year.]  She also reviewed why we put on these events then turned things over to Gina Kaegi.

Gina began by stating that Jim Van Allen had been an active supporter and a big help in the prior years and was missed this time around.  She thanked Chief Kraetz for all the help his guys provided each evening, putting the pumpkins to bed (refrigerated truck).  She then proceeded to thank those who financially supported the event, and all those who contributed support in other ways.  Gina also mentioned she would be putting out a notice to fill the Council vacancy, with the entry deadline set at 11/17.  See COINS Notice here

Council member Farrar introduced two Cave Creek Council members (Tom McGuire and David Smith) who were attending our meeting.  He then announced that the Town of Cave Creek, during their Council meeting, had approved their 1/3 contribution for Ollie-the-Trolley, leaving only merchants in each town to come up with the final 1/3 to support the Dec-Apr Trolley service (11AM – 9PM) between the two towns.  He said it was time for the merchants and landlords to step up.  Earlier he commented on the success of the Pumpkin Festival, to which he had previously invited all the area Mayors.  Linda Kavanagh, the Mayor of Fountain Hills and her family had attended and received a personal tour.

Council member Crane discussed our upcoming Veteran’s Day event (see Gina’s press release later in this document), mentioning notable veterans from prior wars/conflicts who would be in attendance.  He also mentioned the Driven-to-Give event scheduled for 11/18, from 8AM to 4PM at the Sundial, where Sanderson Lincoln will donate $20 for each test drive taken with benefits going to the Veteran Heritage Project.  Also mentioned was the Little Free Library program that is set to kick off on 11/16 at a 4PM ribbon cutting in the Garden.  I could not hear him speak, so look for more details in COINS.  The Annual Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast will be held on 11/18, 7:00 AM - 11:00 AM at Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion.

Item 7, Discussion regarding the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year audit: The Town Administrator introduced the subject and reviewed many of the accomplishments within Carefree over the past 10 years.  The chart displayed also showed that the town had managed to bank over $2M during that timeframe.  Jim Keen, Town Accountant then delivered a high-level summary of the financials, which was followed by a representative of the Audit firm (via telephone) providing a recap of the Auditor’s report.  Bottom line, Town financials are within generally accepted Accounting standards.  In other words, it was a good Audit.  Council voted 6 – 0 to accept the Audit.

Item 8, Adjournment:  Prior to this item, the Mayor permitted Bob Hesselgesser, the Account Representative from City Sun Times, to address the Council.  Sadly, I was unable to hear most of Bob’s comments.  He spoke about the preliminary Carefree Christmas festival insert (samples distributed to Council and attendees), and mentioned the deadline for final submissions was rapidly approaching, 11/15 I believe I heard.

[The meeting recording was not posted as of 3:20PM today, so I was unable to double check some notes with the recording.]

[On the subject of hearing, I sure hope that the $266K+ renovation of 33 Easy Street will include a vastly improved sound system, one from which all council members, staff, and public speakers can be clearly heard – even by me.]

Adjournment Time was shortly before 6PM.

John Traynor