Cave Creek maintains complaint-driven system for code violations

Sandy Eppel
Sandy Eppel

CAVE CREEK – Since there will not be another meeting before then, Mayor Ernie Bunch reminded citizens during the Nov. 20 council meeting the Christmas Pageant will be held on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 2 and 3 at the end of Spur Cross Road.

During Call to the Public Sue Marshall and Shelley Mulligan told council they will be putting together Creeker Christmas, a series of family holiday activities in and around Cave Creek, including bringing in 40 tons of snow for a kids’ event as well as a pub crawl for adults.

They asked council if the town had any spare funds it could contribute to their program. Because the item wasn’t agendized, council was unable to respond.

Robert Morris also spoke during Call to the Public, noting there was no public comment listed for the agenda item calling for a financial advisory committee.

Eileen Wright
Eileen Wright

He said he applauded Councilwoman Eileen Wright for making the suggestion. However, from his experience on the water advisory committee, the recommendations they made to council have been completely ignored.

Morris said he’d love to be able to support it but any advisory committee recommendations will end up being ignored.

Stephen Orgel said he was proud to live in a town with 24,000 registered horses and 5,800 people.

He said someone let residents bulldoze over a horse trail and a house now sits in the middle of where the trail once was without the trail being rerouted.

Orgel said he’s allowed people riding horses to cross his property but questioned how the trail access could just be eradicated like that.

Bunch asked Town Manager Carrie Dyrek to look into whether it was a legitimate trail that is part of the town’s trail system.

Kerry Smith stated over the past few months the number of agenda items on which citizens may comment has declined and questioned if it was perhaps an oversight.

He also asked why there was an 18 percent overrun on wages and salaries and said it would be helpful to have a footnote to explain.

Dyrek told council the Cactus Classic Mountain Bike Race held on Nov. 11 drew over 400 entrants with no incidents.

She also announced there were three positions open on the planning commission and five positions open on the board of adjustment each for three-year terms, as well as three positions open on the water advisory committee for two-year terms with applications available on the town’s website.

For future agenda items, Wright said she, along with councilwomen Susan Clancy and Mary Elrod, would like to have a comprehensive list of everything requiring a permit in town.

Council voted unanimously to approve an expenditure of $267,881 for new bleachers for the rodeo grounds.

During discussion, Wright asked Dyrek what the status was of the town’s former interest in purchasing the rodeo grounds.

Dyrek explained the county has no interest in discussing the matter at this time since the town recently renewed its lease.

Vice Mayor Ron Sova asked how long the lease runs.

Building Official Mike Baxley stated it runs through 2032.

Sova said there are 15 years left on the lease, which comes to an expense of $17,858 per year and the town received $10,000 from this year’s rodeo. He hoped the town would be able to increase the revenue from the rodeo in the future to completely absorb the cost.

Financial Director Robert Weddigen presented his quarterly financial report to council indicating preliminary results have revenues coming in at 105 percent of budget, while expenditures were down.

Weddigen said the town needs to adopt some new policies, stating the town has been operating in survival mode since 2008.

Wright moved to pass a resolution she placed on the agenda requesting that the town manager instruct the finance director to prepare and submit, by June 2018 a long term strategic financial management plan, form a financial advisory committee and place a quarterly financial report on the town’s website.

When her motion was about to die for lack of a second, Clancy agreed to second the motion for further discussion.

Smith said he agrees with the assessment that the town has been in survival mode and stated it needs to be in another mode. However, he did not agree that the town needs a financial advisory committee.

He proposed a friendly amendment to eliminate the formation of a financial advisory committee.

Wright said she did not accept his amendment.

Wright’s motion passed by a vote of 4-3.

Smith moved to amend the resolution by eliminating the financial advisory committee, which passed by a vote of 6-1 with Wright dissenting.

The next item, placed on the agenda by Wright, Elrod and Clancy, was a resolution to change the town’s complaint-driven system to one of pro-active code enforcement, requiring the town marshal to immediately begin a daily enforcement of the town’s codes ordinances and Arizona law with a monthly report to council on all enforcement activities.

Wright said, “We live in a wonderful town with little crime,” and said she would like the town marshal to focus on signs, noise, traffic, lights and parking in the town core.

Wright cited state statute that defined the only uses allowed for bike lanes and said they cannot be used for vehicle or motorcycle parking.

Dyrek said staff is proceeding with its review of the town’s ordinances.

Sova asked if Wright was suggesting the town marshal enforce the ordinances on the books or wait until the review of ordinances is completed.

Wright responded, “We need to get started now enforcing the ordinances as written in the town code.”

Councilman Thomas McGuire asked Town Marshal Adam Stein what effect that would have on special events.

Stein said, “We can cancel Bike Week, but they’re still going to come,” noting bikers have flocked to Bike Week in Cave Creek annually for more than a decade.

During public comment, Denise Holder said Cave Creek is made up of an eclectic group of people who didn’t move here to have someone go door to door and cite them for code violations and asked council to consider the ramifications of how the agenda item is written, not as Wright changed it during her introduction to only the town core.

Bill Basore said, as the agenda item was written it was pretty scary.

He said the ordinances should match what 85 percent of the people do. That is generally how speed limits are set.

Cheryle Carmitchel stated, “I read this to not just be the core. We could do a little better monitoring our town … We should enforce what we have. I shouldn’t have to complain. We should have a compelling obligation to enforce existing ordinances.”

Sandy Eppel said she was 100 percent in favor of the resolution, stating, “This selective enforcement needs to go.”

Eppel has been complaining about a neighboring residential property that breached its home occupation permit, creating a nuisance in the community. She became intricately involved in explaining the circumstances and read from the violator’s deposition well past her three-minute time allowance.

Bill Vale
Bill Vale

Harold’s owner Bill Vale called the resolution ill-conceived and noted it didn’t say core.

Vale stated, “As a complaint-driven system, we’ve been very responsive,” and said he hasn’t had a complaint

Pointing out more residents come to Harold’s than council meetings, Vale said, “I’ve never heard anyone complaint about the “faux painting” or sandwich signs.

He said, “I hope you don’t go near this silly thing. People come here for the charm of Cave Creek. We’re not Scottsdale.”

Another resident said he takes the opposite stance of Vale and stated, “I see the town drifting toward a biker mentality.”

He said there are signs at various venues that say, “Bikers welcome” which he said indicates they may not be so welcome if businesses have to advertise they’re welcome at their establishments.

After explaining a situation he recently endured with bikers in town, he said, “We need more law enforcement. People who break our laws should be dealt with.”

Tom Brooks from Black Mountain Shadows said, “I don’t see where putting Taste of Cave Creek on the town marshal’s shoulders fits into Councilwoman Wright’s description [of his duties].

Brooks said there were so many safety problems in town on Friday and Saturday nights that “sooner or later someone will get killed.”

Larry Johnson said, “All this says is we have codes and ordinances. Let’s enforce them.”

Terry Smith said he didn’t realize this was just the town core and stated, “This is what people ran away from. HOAs – neighbors going after each other.”

Smith said, “If Eileen [Wright] has a problem with signs, turn them in. File a complaint.”

Buffalo Chip owner Larry Wendt asked, “Exactly what are you trying to fix? You’re making it sound like Adam Stein lies around the pool all day smoking cigars. You have enforcement. You have discretion.”

Wendt asked if the town wanted cooperation and compliance and said the best government is small government.

He said, “We didn’t move into a homeowners association.”

Katya Kincel said, “As I read this resolution, it’s to enforce the ordinances on the books. I would like to see equal enforcement. It’s not to create a police state. It’s to change it from a complaint-driven system. It’s to instruct the town marshal to enforce the law equally.”

Wright moved to pass the resolution to pertain only to the town core and said, “Every civilization has laws. Even the aborigines had laws.

Elrod, who seconded the motion, said it was for the health, safety and welfare of the people in the town core.

McGuire lamented if only the town could make a law against “stupid.”

He said the town prioritizes and deals with health and safety issues first and stated, “We don’t want to become a homeowners association. There are some people you just can’t work with.”

Clancy said there was nothing wrong with the complaint-driven system and said, “I don’t want to live in an HOA.”

She said the focus should be on the health and safety in the town core.

Smith said he agreed with Clancy and doesn’t mind a complaint-driven system.

He stated. “Sometimes existing laws don’t support what we’d like Marshal Stein to do.”

Sova said he lives in the town core and in an HOA.

“I love it here,” said Sova, adding, “For the past 31 years we’ve had a complaint-driven system. I’m not in favor of this.”

Bunch said, “This has come up before. I wasn’t in favor of it then and I’m not in favor of it now.”

Council voted 5-2 against the resolution with Wright and Elrod voting in favor.