Councilman’s Illegal Home Occupation Permit Revoked by Town

john hoeppner

The right decision for all the wrong reasons

Councilman Paul Diefenderfer’s “Home Occupation” permit for his Desert Rat Forge welding business was revoked by the Town of Cave Creek on September 24, 2019. The apparent malfeasance leading up to this revocation was based on an investigation by the nearly 30 neighbors that filed the official complaint in the first week of September.

The six-page memorandum produced by the Town is incomplete in addressing the complaint. Here is a summary of the Town’s response – I refer to this memo as the “Fourth Wall” response.

Page 1: Luke Kautzman, Planning Director – One paragraph cover memo

Page 2-3: Mike Baxley, Chief Building & Fire Official – Two pages verifying the property was visited by Town inspectors 19 times. Confirmed the ongoing illegal use of APS services as the permit only allowed power to the well and travel trailer – not to run a commercial blacksmith business.

Page 4-5: Luke Kautzman, Planning Director – Memo of findings that appears to have originated in Disneyland. The language is duplicitous, misleading and omits the foundation of the complaint. Just add a “Fourth Wall” to the three-walled tin shed and you’re back in business.

Page 6: “The Whopper” – Letter of Revocation of Home Occupation Permit HO-18-04 – Followed by this – “You may then re-apply for a Home Occupation Permit.”

A theorist may ponder that the Councilman’s incestuous relationships with various individuals at the Town may have been a salient factor in allowing the illegal operation of a commercial business in a residential neighborhood to continue for nearly a year unchallenged.

First, the Town knowingly allowed Councilman Diefenderfer to operate the unlicensed Desert Rat Forge in Cave Creek illegally for nearly three years – Then tipped the Councilman off a couple of weeks ago and allowed him to “catch-up” without any penalty. Secondly, in December 2018, the Town violated their own zoning code by knowingly issuing an illegal home occupation permit without having a business license or a home – just a stack of cargo containers.

The Town visited the property 19 times for inspections between January 2018 and September 2019. Astonishingly, the Town’s inspectors did not notice that the property did not actually qualify to have a home occupation permit.

Despite all the rope-a-dope coming out of Town Hall, the material issue is the potential for a community-wide destructive wildfire. The daily activity of welding, grinding metal and open-flame torching in a desert rural area places all of us in harm’s way. This should not be allowed and cannot be allowed in residential areas.

Because Councilwoman Susan Clancy has been supportive in representing our Town and our neighborhood, I have respectfully requested that she initiate the following action as soon as possible.

Maricopa County has produced a document regarding home occupations. Based on this document, a business such as Desert Rat Forge would not be allowed in any of our neighboring communities. We need leadership on the Council for the following:

  1. Moratorium on all “Home Occupation” permits – Effective immediately – This will prevent the issuance of illegitimate permits based on staff connection or favoritism as has happened in the past.
  2. Review the list of current “Home Occupation” permits and the total number of permits in Cave Creek and the type of business operated – This will provide an understanding as to what is going on in the community.
  3. Cave Creek needs to “clarify” the definition of home occupation in the code using similar language as our neighboring communities – This will eliminate current and future problems for the Town going forward.

Of course, all of this will not make a difference in the final analysis. The Town will provide the Councilman guidance, favoritism and the means to reacquire another illegitimate home occupation permit as they have done in the past – That is as long as he has a vote that influences their employment prospects. Perhaps a resignation or recall is in order.

John Hoeppner served on the 1985-86 Cave Creek Incorporating Committee On FaceBook at Cave Creek The Town Too Tough To Govern