Council looks at Easy Street North Development

Carefree Town Council approved a special event application for the Carefree – Cave Creek Italian American Club to hold the Carefree Italian Festival on April 14 and 15, and also approved an extension of premises liquor application for Corrado’s Cucina Italiana Restaurant to coincide with the event. As special event liquor license was also approved for Foothills Food Bank in conjunction with the Carefree Community Block Party.

In the call to the public, Tom Fiedler brought forward concerns he had regarding traffic on the part of Cave Creek Road that is in Carefree. One concern was this stretch of road has a higher posted speed limit than any other roads leading into Carefree. He also cited increased traffic from the growing number of homes in the area and the growth of plants in the median reducing site lines as factors that could lead to safety issues. He had had conversations with the mayor in about a year ago, but wanted to restate his concerns. One of his suggested is erecting signs that displayed each vehicle’s speed. Studies have shown that this does slow traffic. He also provided Town Administrator Gary Neiss information he had on devices that are available to help reduce traffic speeds. Mayor Les Peterson said they will review the information and get back in touch with him.

Mayor Peterson asked Captain Rich Johnson, new area commander for the Sheriff’s Department to introduce himself. Capt. Johnson, who first started with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department in 1996, has served in a variety of positions within MCSO. He says he spent a lot of his law enforcement career working in Internal Affairs. He said this shows what you can expect from him and his officers. “You will get accountability and integrity, following the rules and following what we should be doing.” Another priority for him is more engagement with the community, to break down the walls between law enforcement and the public. He also introduced Deputy J. J. Cosme who is assigned to the Carefree area.

Council then moved on to the Easy Street North proposed development. Neiss provided some background to the development. The previous proposal was for a three story development with residential space on the top two floors and commercial space on the first floor with parking located underneath. The height at the top of the living space was 37 feet with an additional 6 foot parapet to screen rooftop equipment. The tops of the elevator shafts were an additional 3 feet higher than the parapet. Neiss said the new proposal has the same height, but the commercial element is not in the new proposal, all 3 floors would be residential and parking would still be located beneath the structure.

Larry Gabriele of Azil Development, LLC addressed the council. He said the market has changed since that proposal was made. There is not a market for the commercial space. He later explained that the large condo market was doing very well with four different projects around the valley having higher price point condos, one million dollars and up, that are selling well. This proposal would have 50 condos, all would be two bedroom with a den or 3 bedroom, with sizes ranging from 2400 square feet to 3000. Estimated price point would be $700,000 to $1,500,000.

Gabriele introduced Justin Dewitt of Humphreys & Partners Architects LP. He said the firm is working to make the building low slow slung, using a lot of horizontal elements in the design. The structure is also being designed to honor what’s around it. The old project had the common area look out in the direction of the post office. Now the common area faces out toward the sundial. Another proposed feature would have an overhang above the entrance to the lobby that would create a waterfall feature that people would walk behind to get to the lobby, taking its cue from the existing water feature in the Carefree Gardens.

After ascertaining this would be the tallest building in the core area, Councilman Stephen Hatcher questioned if rooftop space could be used by the town for communications equipment. Dewitt was open to exploring that possibility.

The council unanimously approved authorizing the Mayor to execute the Easy Street North Amended Development Agreement. The final site plan would still have to be approved by the Carefree Development Review Board and the Town Council before construction can begin.

Gina Kaegi, the town’s Director of Marketing & Communications recapping the results of the 2017 Christmas in Carefree. This year was the tenth anniversary of Carefree Christmas celebrations and the event was increased from a 3 day event into a nearly month long celebration. Highlights included the addition of the Christmas tree which was used as a backdrop for photos throughout the event. Chanukah events were well received. There was a sense of community as a great number of local groups and individuals took part in the various parts of the celebration.

Patty Villeneuve, President and CEO of Carefree and Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce, addressed the council in regards to the Christmas Parade. The Chamber has run the parade for all ten years, but will no longer be able to run the parade, saying, “It’s time to hand over the reins to another group.” She has created a guide book that she will give to the next organizers that give guidelines of how the Chamber got the parade together, including who to call and when to call them. Citing the growth in Chamber membership and programs and that members expect more and more for their investment, she said the Chamber will no longer have the resources to put the parade together. The council praised the Chamber for work on past decade’s parades.

Council then conducted the remainder of the meeting in executive session to discuss items with the Town Attorney.