General plan still needs work

Prior to their regular Monday night meeting on March 5, the Cave Creek Town Council met in executive session to discuss legal matters with town Attorney Bill Sims regarding negotiations pertaining to Spur Cross Ranch and the rodeo grounds. They also conferred with Sims regarding the new town standpipe.

During the Call to the Public the stage was set for later discussion on the town’s General Plan. Bruce Arlen raised concern about the trails portion of the plan. The size of the easement in the plan was 20 feet, which is wide enough to create a road. He questioned if this would allow trails to become roads.

Kerry Smith, vice chairman of the Citizen’s Water Advisory Committee (WAC) addressed the part of the plan dealing with water. He said prior councils and town managers had kept inadequate records and staff has had to a lot of detective work to get town water records into a much better condition. He stated the water portion of the Plan is very specific. That specificity is needed to assure implementation.

Jeff Gross and Terry Smith both voiced their support of the trail plan. Having those trails available is part of what makes Cave Creek what it is, a western town.

Katya Kincel noted that it would be better if the colors on the maps were coordinated so on all maps a color would represent the same thing. She also voiced concern over the trail map.

Town Manager Carrie Dyrek told the Council a work session with the WAC is scheduled for March 20 at 4pm to review the rate study report.

Only three items appeared on the evening’s agenda. The first was accepting minutes from several previous meetings and work sessions, which were all approved rapidly.

Next up was an item to appoint a citizen to the Water Advisory Committee. Joseph Liska was the only name given to the council. He was not present to address the council. The council was told that another resident had also submitted to be on the committee and was present. Matt Prante introduced himself to the Council and listed his qualifications including certifications in the water distribution field and that he is an employee of the city of Phoenix. Both applicants live in the Desert Hills area of town and there was a desire for the new board member to reside in that part of town. It was noted there were two positions open on the WAC. The council voted to appoint both to the committee.

The final agenda item was for the council to approve the proposed General Plan and have it put on the ballot for voters to ratify in August. The document presented had already gone through four public input sessions held by the Planning Commission as well as two HOA meetings, 10 public workshops and 2 public hearings. In addition five newsletters had been sent out, updates were posted on the Town website, and noticed were published in this paper.

Bambi Muller, the town’s trails planner, was asked to address the concerns about the trails map voiced during the call to the public. Ms. Muller says there are no 20 foot easements currently. Usually a 10 foot easement is requested, but a wider easement may be asked for to allow the trail to be created in manner that’s less destructive to vegetation or due to terrain.

The map in question was created as a ‘wish list’ for easements to connect current trails with the public trails in parks. The word, primary, was used to describe the most desirable of easements. However, hikers and others have been seen with the maps. People may believe that ‘primary’ means these are main well used trails. Muller said, “It’s not meant for a map to be out there for public. For people to say how to get to from point A to point B.”

Concerns were raised that the proposed trails cross private property, making it look like the Town was going to be taking the land from the property owners. According to Muller, often an easement is only a few hundred feet long and is not taken by the town if the landowner doesn’t want to give the easement. However, having the proposed trail map allows planners to approach new owners if the property is sold.

Vice-Mayor Ron Sova asked Town Attorney Sims what would happen if the council voted against the proposed General Plan. Sims said the Council has three choices. They could approve it and send it on to the voters to decide, they could not approve it vote to re-adopt the current General Plan which dates back to 2005, or they could amend the plan and approve an amended version.

Sims told Councilmembers they can suspend this hearing and announce at this meeting when the hearing would reconvene. He suggested holding a work session before the next hearing. He also pointed out that for the General Plan to pass through Council to the voters in would take five votes in favor rather than the simple majority of four.

Mayor Bunch brought up a letter sent to the planning commission signed by 19 residents voicing concern over the general plan. Only two of the 19 were in attendance. Bunch said, “Sending the letter at the eleventh hour and expecting something to happen, is a bit much I think.”

Councilwoman Susan Clancy questioned if the board had enough information to make the proper amendments to the Plan. Mayor Bunch voiced his concern as well, saying he was not sure a consensus could be reached in the work session. Councilman Tom McGuire said, “I think we owe it to them. (Citizens of Cave Creek) We owe it to ourselves, to see if we can rise to the challenge.”

The council voted unanimously against the Plan in its current form. The Council scheduled a work session for Monday, March 12 at 1pm. The public hearing will reconvene, and the Council will present an amended version of the General Plan at the regular Town Council meeting on Monday, March 19 at 7pm.

Town Manager Carrie Dyrek said the Council has until their regular meeting on April 2nd to finish the Plan and get it on the August ballot. Councilwoman Clancy said, “I would suggest that each Councilperson, if they have an issue, bring it in with their solution ahead of time.”