By Maja Peirce
Bob Kite, Cave Creek resident and developer, is discussing with the Cave Creek planning commission a request to rezone three parcels of land located between N. Basin Rd. and N. School House Rd. from ‘Desert Rural Residential’ to ‘Higher Density Residential and Commercial’.
After hearing his plans the planning commission scheduled a hearing on August 20 to determine whether they will recommend the rezoning and new development to the town council.
On July 14, Kite held a neighborhood meeting in order to discuss with local residents what his plans were for rezoning the property. His proposed plan for the property once rezoned is to build 69 casitas and a corporate wellness retreat with a large vegetable garden. Kite is hoping the casitas will provide affordable housing for workers in town who cannot afford to live in town. However he did not comment on how much the projected rent price will be.
Some Cave Creek citizens have expressed concern about the planned development and do not feel it represents Cave Creek’s small town western image.
“People move out here to have their space and when they buy their property, they don’t expect a developer to come in and rezone something right next to them that is inappropriate for the area that it’s next to. That is not what zoning is about. Zoning protects people because rezoning has to make the case that it is compatible with the existing area. That basic tenant of zoning is being totally ignored with this current rezoning case on Galloway Wash,” said Katya Kincel, a Cave Creek resident and activist.
Two of the parcels run along Galloway Wash which is used by the community for walking, hiking and horseback riding.
“Having high density homes or commercial activity close to or alongside the wash would create severe noise pollution and cause all nearby landowners to lose enjoyment of their homes. Moreover, their views, privacy and the rural land use pattern would be destroyed,” wrote Steve Brechner, a landowner whose land abuts two of Bob Kite’s parcels.
Brechner’s land falls into the Desert Rural area as set forth in the Town General Plan. Desert Rural areas exist to encourage low-density development, continue to permit property owners to keep horses and other large animals on their property and encourage a significant percentage of undeveloped areas to be preserved. This helps ensure development is harmonious and sensitive to the natural environment according to the Goal of the Town. High Density Residential and Commercial do not permit property owners to keep horses and other large animals on their property quite as easily and allow for more development in areas where wildlife flourishes.
Due to the proximity of Galloway Wash, much of the land Kite plans on developing falls within a FEMA Floodway. According to Brechner, this makes the area “essentially not usable land for development.” It is this which makes Brechner skeptical if Kite plans to follow through with his plans to develop the casitas and resort, and leads him to think Kite may be rezoning the property in order to sell it for more money. Once the property is rezoned for higher density housing and commercial use, the property raises in value because of what is possible to develop there according to Brechner.
Other concerns have been raised concerning where the water would come from for this development, if the higher density housing will impact Cave Creek’s dark skies, if it impacts the environment and natural resources of the town, and if it causes more traffic for residents who live on School House Rd. or Basin Rd. Due to the fires that have been occurring, it is difficult for residents to evacuate. Increased traffic creates concern their chances of making it out on time would be impacted.
What is to come
“As residents of Cave Creek ourselves, we value our neighbors thoughts and opinions. And, from those thoughts and opinions we are confident we can create a project that will be embraced,” said Jeff Dunn, partner in the development.
The town’s general plan has to be amended in order to allow these parcels to be rezoned. Due to these parcels being in a Desert Rural area, it would require a Major Amendment to the General Plan. There is a hearing scheduled for August 20 to determine if the planning commission will recommend the rezoning to Town Council.