By Gary Schmitt Founder/President Friends of Spur Cross Coalition
Well, on the threshold of the election on June 22, the Cave Creek (CC) Council unanimously passed a whopping $37.748 million dollar budget with virtually no debate. Among the highly questionable expenditures, the $2 million for portable water filtration systems. Which purportedly they say the have “NO” test results on whether it works or not. Even the test results from July 2019 have not been released. Why in the world would that be? Yet, they are willing to dump $2 million into a filtration system they don’t even know works, or does the town know the results and just not saying publicly? Do they in fact know the Town Water Filtration Morass is continuing to produce carcinogenic water? When I connect these dots, that may be the likely answer.
On June 15, the CC Council unanimously approved two Zoning Amendment changes, at the urging of Cave Creek Dark Skies Initiative, which theoretically lowers the outdoor lighting caps for both residential and commercial sectors. Importantly, there is no enforcement provision in the Zoning Amendment. In April, I wrote that it might be best to do it as a voluntary community education program, rather than going through the town and the IDA. Neither the Town nor the IDA enforce anything anyway, which Bruce Arlen admitted on June 15.
This Council did the same dang thing with the modified Sandwich Sign Ordinance. The upshot is that business’s can put out as many sandwich signs as they wish, because the town has no legal authority to do anything about it. They actually deleted the Enforcement Language out of the Amended Zoning Ordinance Clause they passed. They knew they were deleting it. So, now we have the same exact thing with exterior lighting. Two more FAKE laws, fake because there is no enforcement. Even Councilman McGuire commented about a neighbor who had bright exterior lights. He advised his neighbor, we have lighting laws and urged him to “voluntarily comply” which he said, “the neighbor did not.” This is ridiculous, they are not laws, they are simply voluntary guidelines.
Mayor Bunch aptly addressed the elephant in the room, by asking the IDA folks, “What is the advantage of getting IDA Certified over the town just doing it on its own?” I did not observed a cogent response and neither did others. CC IDA is hosting another lighting forum at the library in July; maybe more details will come to light.
So, it is great election year fodder and fake new laws! Neither the new outdoor lighting amendments nor the sandwich sign ordinances are enforceable! So it begs the question, why is it any big deal, other than to make it “look like” the council is doing something? Highly likely!
Any ordinance without enforcement provisions/language is worthless. That’s the entire point of passing a law! So, with respect to the Dark Skies Initiative, I think the factual results verify and validate my suggestion on April 1 in Sonoran News, that the entire program should be operated outside of Cave Creek Town Government and as a voluntary educational program which was the case in the 1990s with the Desert Awareness Committee. In doing so, it is truly voluntary and as such people will take it much more seriously in correcting and adapting their lighting practices regarding proper types of light bulbs, shielding and if they wish, a recommended time to turn down or off exterior lights. Wow, what a concept, the Power of the People! Self Destiny, Freedom, adult choices, not government mandates with the sheeple masking up!
This entire methodology engenders and sows an amazing Spirit of Community Cooperation. Who doesn’t love such an approach to solving a community issue?
In my opinion, I think Bruce Arlen and Bob Hughes have it correct, the real”obvious” issue with overly bright skies is in the commercial core. Interestingly, two of the three “biggest” offenders, after the Cave Creek IDA Kelvin detector survey on 6/15 are the Library, Town Hall, and 3rd “The Creamery.” Luke is now forcibly going to “go right over tomorrow” and make “The Creamery” correct it. More bravado and bunk! Enforce a lighting ordinance which has no enforcement provision. He didn’t happen to say he would correct the issues at Town Hall. He didn’t say he would go to the library and force them to correct their lighting overage, just a small private business. This is selective enforcement, an enforcement which has no basis in law.
Fired Budget Director
Is there something to be observed about the fact that longtime Budget Director of Cave Creek, Robert Weddingon, was fired and immediately after that the town raised its budget $7 million over the preceding year? Did Weddingon object or recommend they not raise it because they don’t have the revenues? When I spoke with Weddingon, he was vague and very noncommittal. He needs a good recommendation and certainly would not want to stir the kettle.
RECAP: Let’s summarize recent CC Council Actions and Votes.
A. They unanimously passed outdoor lighting standard reductions, which have no enforcement.
B. They passed the new Sandwich Sign Ordinance, which the Town Attorneys were paid $60,000 to “reword,” again, with no enforcement provisions, so anybody who reads and pays attention will know they can put out however many signs they wish.
C. Monday 6/22, they passed a $37.748 million budget with virtually no public input, a nearly 25% increase over last year, and since the 2016 budget, which was $16 million, a 225% increase, OUCH!
D. They passed a water rate increase, a moderate one for this year, but more to come.
The passage of zoning amendments for exterior lighting is simply a feel good measure, with no spine and nothing else, because the council knows the Dark Skies issue is of concern to local residents in the upcoming election.
What has the council actually done? Well, nothing other than agree to spend up to $37.748 million on we’re not really sure what and pass 3 totally fake laws. Where is the Fire Mitigation plan, where is it that the Town is dealing with the REAL problems? Are there still carcinogens in the Cave Creek Kool-Aid? If anyone was awake at the 6/15 CC Council and heard the absolutely compelling testimonies of Fire victims like Greg Hunt and others, an observant person would walk away and say, “Where is the Captain of the Ship? Who is communicating between agencies?” The Testimony was more than coincidentally suggestive. Yet, the only response was the Town Manager’s feeble comment, “We are going to be working on that.” Really, that is your answer when nearly 2,000 acres burned? It took 4 years to get a water/sewer rate study done! As Hunt said, buy a generator!
Other important Cave Creek issues
The mayor posted on his site, 6/22, that the town has $20 million in the bank! I don’t believe it! Let’s see the bank statement! Further, Carefree has $10 million in the bank; they will show you their bank statement, and theirs is unencumbered by collateral pledges unlike the Cave Creek monies probably are if they have it. Let’s see the bank statement Ernie and Carrie! Plus, go ahead and disclose whatever collateral commitments you have made with your supposed cash in the savings account, with WIFA and other outstanding loans. Just remember in 2009/10, the town came on the threshold of bankruptcy and the lending agencies are aware of that very poor credit history, so they require collateral. In our case, we are told the town hold must hold cash in reserves. From what I hear, any money in the CC Town bank account is encumbered and what is put away can’t be touched.
A few things have been said by Harmony Hollow government purchase proponents since my June 15 editorial in Sonoran News. Much of my success and leadership in preserving Spur Cross Ranch was my God-given ability to connect the dots – discernment. I pointed out to the Harmony Hollow folks that unfortunately, Maricopa County Parks Board has already approved a 25,000 sq. ft. Visitor Center at Spur Cross Ranch. I doubt the county could place the structure on Spur Cross Ranch itself, so the only options are 3 other properties. 1. Harmony Hollow. 2. Man Cave. 3. Horse Stables and Rescue, whose tenants rent their facilities from the Town of CC. So, isn’t it really interesting that at this very moment the town is currently attempting to double/triple the rent at Spur Cross Stables and the Rescue as well. All in the midst of severe business hardship, COVID-19 shutdown, and our annual CC summer heat doldrums. The Town wouldn’t be trying to force the Stable to leave….would they? If Harmony Hollow is purchased, which lies within the jurisdiction of Cave Creek, the county would simply need to reach an IGA with the Town of Cave Creek to build the already approved visitor center. I now believe the real traffic numbers for such a massive visitor center with over 200 parking spaces could easily be 4500 to 5000 EXTRA car trips per WEEK, which means on top of whatever the local residents, along the Spur Cross corridor, already experience. Carrie Dyrek reported at a Council meeting in May 2019 that Spur Cross Preserve already had received 25,000 visitors in the preceding year. That’s a little over 4000 car trips (up/back) extra per MONTH on Spur Cross Rd. Incidentally, the payment of $4 into the “Donation box” at Spur Cross, if everybody paid, would be about $100,000 cash received by whom? Who records it?
I did not believe it is pie-in-the-sky anything, that the county could go ahead and build a massive visitor center. I’ve made it clear to the Harmony Hollow promoters I do not believe in the government purchase. In 2000, the residents of Cave Creek approved a one half cent sales tax for the Preservation of Spur Cross Ranch. However, since the sales tax initiative language was not properly drafted, the CC Town now uses those funds for many things other than Spur Cross and preservation of properties. Maybe they use it to fill-in the huge deficit budget of the $21 million money losing water company! The water company was purchased for $21 million by the town, but only appraised at $6 million. WHAT?
The county has recently expressed that they still want to totally modernize and install lighted bathrooms at Spur Cross Ranch. Why is that? It is an Archaeological Preserve which closes at sundown! Why not solar lighting? Still they intend to run power all the way out to the ranger station and either drill a well or run the water line all the way out from a mile south. Why modern bathrooms (other than Councilman McGuire would like them)?
Let’s not ever forget the county was fast tracking all the approvals to let Spur Cross Ranch become a 684 home subdivision and full 18 hole golf course. I convinced Senator McCain due to his high regard of Native American Tribes in Arizona to jump on and support preserving Spur Cross, which he did. The 1st order of business which McCain addressed was to get on the phone with every county supervisor, castigating them for fast tracking Spur Cross development approvals behind the backs of the CC Community.
The same thing is poised to happen all over again with this Visitor Center, unless, we CC Residents stand up and shout, “We don’t want it!”
Supervisor Chucri is running for re-election right now; tell him we don’t want it! Tell the CC Council, we don’t want it! If the CC Council knew how to move with a little chutzpah, and they really do not intend to build, then there are absolutely solid steps that can be taken. So, if the county or town wants to, the future of Spur Cross can be protected by solid agreements on deed restrictions that guarantee preservation and forbid construction.
Happy 4th of July! God Bless America.