The residents are getting restless
Yes, the residents (voters) are getting restless. Cave Creek has changed, which was inevitable, but the changes contrast greatly with why we moved here and live here. Cave Creek was a sleepy western town and one of the last vestiges of the traditional West. Not incorporated until 1986, the town has experienced all the pains of having to create a government and infrastructure along with the strategies and plans to establish what we are and where we want to go. For many years and to this day, this struggle is evidenced by the inability to create a town plan amenable to residents.
Along the way, the town incurred debt to build infrastructure and was thereafter saddled with a debt service obligation and budgets to ensure town solvency. We operate with a town manager, who is overburdened with responsibilities, directed by a part time town council and mayor, who are in demanding, thankless positions, without compensation. We entrust our town to them, assuming they will prudently act on our behalf and we go on with our lives. Few residents attend council meetings and in fact, many don’t vote on council and mayoral elections. Given the lack of feedback, our mayor and council members make decisions using their own well intended, independent judgment.
A continuing struggle for our town is revenue. We rely on sales tax revenue to stay afloat, as property owners don’t pay any real estate taxes to the town. As a result, Cave Creek does everything possible to help businesses prosper, including some things unacceptable to residents. Recent issues include the signage ordinance, Bike Week, sewage problems, violation of the noise ordinance and code violations. While town council acts to draw more visitors to the town to bolster sales tax revenue, our infrastructure, safety, right to quiet enjoyment and traditional western atmosphere have all suffered.
Temporary signs, such as sandwich signs for retail businesses have grown to the point of cluttering the town and making it hard to navigate. We now look more like Quartzite than the West’s most western town. Some believe our Town Core looks like Nogales on one end and Sturgis on the other. As the number of businesses grow, with continuing construction, so will the temporary signs, which due to competition, breeds additional competing signs. There are currently over 125 businesses in town, all of whom may use temporary signs and the clutter continues to increase. Many towns including Carefree, Phoenix, New River and Desert Hills prohibit such signs. Now we have the addition of stop signs, warning of pedestrian crossings in the middle of Cave Creek Road, causing drivers (particularly visitors) to stop, as the pedestrian warning part is not easily recognized or understood.
Bike Week not only inconvenienced us by limiting access through town, but also taxed our sewage system, resulting in foul odors in the Rancho Manana neighborhood. Additionally, for two weekends and some weekdays, residents had to tolerate violations of our noise ordinance, as motorcycles not conforming to maximum decibel levels are ignored by town officials.
Certain, but not all of the businesses benefiting from the Bike Week windfall rent out their parking lots to increase revenue, directing bikers to park on our main thoroughfare, resulting in traffic jams residents don’t want. The Roadhouse still has their water tower sign on town property in violation of town code, which has been identified as a potential liability for Cave Creek.
So, what can we as residents do?
We should insist the town enforce existing ordinances. The town marshall is responsible for enforcement, but often has to wait for instruction from our part-time mayor and council. If an ordinance is in place the marshall should enforce it. If any ordinance requires modification, the process to do so is in place. Residents who agree should send an email to town council insisting on enforcement.
Next, we can help the town core by patronizing our local businesses. Some believe tourist season is the only way for businesses to thrive, but we have permanent residences here who need goods and services.
Next, we can get involved. We moved here because we liked the history, heritage and feel of the town, but we constantly see it all slipping away. Write to town council, attend council meetings or watch meetings live online and let elected officials know what you think, whether positive or negative.
Finally, and very importantly, we must VOTE! In the last election, approximately 1500 residents voted, which is too small a percentage of eligible voters. If we care about the future of our town, we have to listen to the candidates’ vision and vote. It’s up to resident voters to decide our future and it’s important that we have our say.