Plenty of action and public participation set the tone for the regular meeting of the Cave Creek Town Council Monday night, Sept. 21. (Editor’s note: thank you to the responsible parties for providing outdoor seating and 2 flat screens for the overflow audience and social distancing.)
A busy evening included:
Prior to General Agenda items, during Call to the Public, a resident strongly voiced her displeasure with the water rate increase, specifically in the Desert Hills area. While response during Calls to Public are not allowed, it was agreed that there could be a meeting arranged or even “sit down with a local newspaper and air out the story.” In the meantime, this statement was issued by the Town:
Cave Creek Increases Water and Wastewater Rates for the First Time in 11 Years
“CAVE CREEK – On June 15, 2020, the Cave Creek Town Council voted to approve an increase in water and wastewater rates for the first time in over a decade. This was based on recommendations from a three-year professional rate study, the Town’s Water Advisory Committee and the Town Manager’s Rate Advisory Committee. The new rates went into effect on July 16, 2020, and customers have seen the increases beginning in their August bills.
Why does the Town need to increase water and wastewater rates?
Water and wastewater rates are based on the cost to maintain and operate these vital systems. Since the Town last adjusted the rates in 2009, the operational cost of running the systems has increased greatly. Just the cost for the Town’s raw water from Central Arizona Project (CAP) has increased 135 percent between 2008 and 2018.
In general, the Town’s water and wastewater systems also have extra operational challenges not seen in other utility systems.
• We pump our CAP water supply 12 miles uphill to our water treatment plant
• Our systems have a small number of connections and large service areas.
• Due to our topography, we must repump the water into multiple pressure zones
In addition, the town’s water and wastewater infrastructure is aging and requires preventative maintenance funding to ensure reliability. There are several large capital projects underway, such as upgrades to the four booster stations on the Town’s CAP pipeline and improvements to our water treatment plant that will cost millions of dollars to complete.
The existing water and wastewater rates did not fully cover operational expenses, capital expenditures or debt services on the systems. For several years, the Town has been subsidizing the operational expenses of the Cave Creek and Desert Hills’ Water Systems.
The new rates will start to fix the need to subsidize the operational expenses, but it will not totally correct the issue. In 2020-2021 budget, Cave Creek is still contributing
$1.25 million to the Cave Creek Water System to help reduce the impact of the rate increase on customers.
The new rates will have the same five usage tiers for all meter type and sizes. To further encourage water conservation and to help offset operational expenses, the cost steps have increased between the usage tiers. That means the more water you use the more expensive it becomes. Customers using less than 10,000 gallons per month should only see a minor increase in their water bills.
Now that the rate increases are in effect, the Town will continue to assess options for revenue and expenses in future years for both of the water and wastewater systems. Staff will continue to look for ways to reduce costs and make the utility systems more reliable.
To view the new water rates please visit the Town’s website. The Town also encourages its customers to subscribe to its utility alerts and email lists.”
– A motion ratifying the Mayor’s signature on behalf of Cave Creek on the AZCares Fund Program Grant Agreement was unanimously approved. The funds, already in the town’s account, was announced at just a little over $670,000.00. When asked what the funds were dedicated towards, the Town Manager mentioned recouping costs related to “public safety and firefighters.” There were no other comments nor discussion.
– A Special Event application for Cave Creek Bike Week (April 2-11, 2021) was unanimously approved.
– Council unanimously approved payments of $7,635.00 (City of Glendale, Mutual Aid Fire Service) and $33,032.50 (Arizona Fire & Medical Authority) to cover the East Desert Fire and the Ocotillo Fire. Contingency funds were transferred.
– Cave Creek Distillery’s request for a Special Use Permit to allow distillation of American White Whiskey within an existing structure was unanimously approved after addressing primarily safety issues.
– A motion to approve a resolution that involved amending adopted text within the Carefree Highway Specific Area Plan (SAP) was met with considerable resistance from the public as nearly 15 opposition opinions were read to the Council. At the eye of the storm was egress and ingress issues on 48th St that were not in the original plan. While compelling aguments by the developer and the residents were made, including tax revenues, public safety, traffic, etc., in the end, it all boiled down to a phrase echoed by several council members: “Promises made, promises kept.” The motion failed to be approved by 5-2 vote, with Clancy and Bunch being the only “Yeas.”
Hold on a moment!……..
48 hours later, the Town of Cave Creek issued the following statement:
“Town Council Will Reconsider Resolution Amending Carefree Highway Specific Area Plan
CAVE CREEK – At its regular meeting on Monday, September 21, 2020, the Cave Creek Town Council voted against approving Resolution R2020-22that would have amended the Carefree Highway Specific Area Plan in a 5-2 vote.
Directly after the vote, and after additional information on the site plan had been presented to one council member, a majority of the Council agreed to reconsider the resolution at its next meeting on October 5. Before the October 5 meeting the Council requested that additional meetings be held with homeowners in the neighboring subdivision.
Another public hearing will be held at the October 5, Town Council meeting, where there will be an opportunity to provide public comment.
The North Carefree Highway Specific Area Plan (SAP) currently regulates the land use of 17 parcels, including a parcel at the northwest corner of 48th Street and Carefree Highway that was rezoned to a commercial buffer. The applicant which owns this parcel, Park West Partners, is requesting an amendment to the SAP to deal with site access issues, seeking to add mid-block access to the site from the highway and additional points of ingress and egress closer to the highway.
The Cave Creek Planning Commission voted 4-3 to recommend approval of the text amendments to the SAP at its meeting on July 23, 2020. The applicant held community meetings and has been communicating with homeowners in the neighboring subdivision, Estado de Cholla, to create an optimal site plan that meets with the neighborhood’s expectations.
To find out more information about this item, please view the meeting on the Town’s YouTube Channel, or read a copy of the resolution and associated documents pertaining to R2020-22 in the Town Council’s Agenda for September 21.”