VOL. 17 ISSUE NO. 48   |   NOVEMBER 30 – DECEMBER 6, 2011


Council votes against amending special events ordinance, for now

‘By voting no, I am not saying there are not problems that need to be resolved, I am voting no to the approach’

cave creek council meetingThe notion that council might make changes to Cave Creek’s special events ordinance without input from the business community brought a standing-room only crowd to the Nov. 21 council meeting.        Photo by Don Sorchych

CAVE CREEK – Following a town core visioning workshop, the Nov. 21 regular session of the Cave Creek Town Council drew a standing-room-only crowd for the first reading of an ordinance to modify Cave Creek Town Code, Chapter 114: Special Events.

The changes to the ordinance were compiled and presented by Town Attorney Marlene Pontrelli based on issues raised during a recent workshop.

The running theme echoed by those who spoke in opposition to the proposed changes was a concern that the business community was not asked, involved or offered an opportunity to provide their input.

Terry Smith spoke during Call to the Public to say he and Todd Newman put their names out there to get the business community behind Walmart and it now looks bad that the town is seeking to crack down on its sign ordinance.

He said it appeared now that Walmart was bringing in a new source of revenue the town was turning its back on the business community.

mayor vincent franciaCorrectly sensing the crowd was there primarily for agenda item number seven, amendments to the special events ordinance, Mayor Vincent Francia (r) moved it up toward the front of the agenda.

Pontrelli told council the workshop produced a “fairly exhaustive list,” detailing a host of concerns, and what she was bringing forward was an attempt to address them.

She detailed council’s concerns over insurance and suggested leaving it at $1 million with provisions for requiring higher levels if council felt the proposed event was more dangerous.

For events with outdoor music, a special outdoor music permit would be required that included enlisting a sound engineer to mitigate sound.

With respect to parking, Pontrelli said the revised ordinance would not permit the special event to encroach on existing parking and must be located somewhere else on the property.

Councilman Steve LaMar said the parking issue goes back to the plot plan that requires adequate parking for whatever type of business is going in and using parking for special events pushes parking out onto other businesses, restricting their ability to conduct business.

Councilwoman Shelley Anderson asked if the ordinance couldn’t include insurance standards ranging from $1 million to $5 million depending on the type of event.

Pontrelli said that places a lot of discretion on the town manager and staff.

LaMar asked if there was any limit to the number of special events.

Pontrelli said there was not, adding the town has a right to limit the number of special events on a given weekend if it feels it would generate too much traffic but there was no set limit.

During public comment, Evelyn Johnson, executive director of the Cave Creek Museum, quoted Francia from a recent film, “Cave Creek is not lacking character” and told the story of Katherine Jones, otherwise known as “Pistol Kate” who would shoot the ear off of moonshiners caught trespassing on her property.

Johnson said, “History is not quiet and not forgotten.”

Dave Smith, who operates the bull riding events at the Buffalo Chip Saloon on Wednesdays and Fridays, said he learned what council was reviewing had nothing to do with the bull riding and said, “I don’t know why we’re here.”

However, Smith said if council was thinking about eliminating bull riding or if it was a noise ordinance issue he suggested council “take a long, hard think about it.”

Francia reminded the audience council was reviewing special events and said, “This is not about bull riding at the Buffalo Chip.”

Crystal Ray Coddington, a Scottsdale resident, offered, “If businesses are closed on a Sunday afternoon, who cares if their parking lot is being parked on or not?”

Mark Peagler, owner of Frontier Town, told council this was the first time the town has considered changing the special event ordinance without input from the business community. He said, "Our input is important to this."

Todd Flickinger, a Cave Creek business owner for over 15 years, said because the economy is so bad, “We do depend on these special events.”

Touching on the sign ordinance, Flickinger said signs have become more popular over the past four years because advertising is too expensive. He said, “If you take away these signs, you will put more retailers out of business.”

Adam Trenk said he was a “little shocked” council was going to be “shackling businesses” when they can least afford it.

He said, introducing these changes after the opening of Walmart “sounds like the town will now be turning its back on local businesses.”

Larry Wendt, owner of the Buffalo Chip told a story about when he was a Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputy back in 1977, responding to a call about a citizen who had started a fire in the parking lot of the Maverick Saloon, which is now the Buffalo Chip.

He said he found a cowboy with his horse heating a can of pork and beans over a small fire.

Wendt said the man’s name was Hank Grissom. Grissom told Wendt he couldn’t afford to pay his bar tab so they took his boots so he wouldn’t drive off.

Not knowing what to do, Wendt said he called his Sergeant Jerry Hill, who later became the Maricopa County Sheriff. Hill told him he knew all about Hank, who never caused anyone any problems and would go in the next day and pay his bar tab.

Wendt said Hill told him, “Get in your car and catch a burglar. Leave Cave Creek and leave Hank alone.”

Wendt said he never forgot Hank and never forgot Cave Creek, pointing out there is nothing like Cave Creek throughout the country.

He said he determined things were changing 15 summers ago and, in 2008, he found it was cheaper to buy a six pack at the Circle K and watch TV at home on a big screen TV and not have to put up with no-smoking regulations.

Wendt stated, “For two hours on Wednesday and three hours on Friday, we run bull riding,” and said he has 41 employees and their families that depend on it.

“We chased old Hank away,” said Wendt and cited all the laws that he and the Maverick would be in violation of today, including Hank not having any ID, lighting a fire without a permit, the prohibition against running bar tabs and would probably go as far as installing a hitching post without a building permit.

Wendt said, “Let’s not pile more laws on financially strapped businesses. I’m asking you; do not pass any of these ordinances without asking me, the business owner, for my input.”

Several more spoke to tell council this was not something to be discussed without the input from the business community.

Francia said, “I am going to make a motion to approve,” pointing out that is how motions are made, “but I am going to vote no.”

He said he was voting no for any number of reasons but primarily due to the absence of business leaders’ input.

Vice Mayor Ernie Bunch seconded the motion and said, “There are some real issues in town,” but hoped other council members would also vote no.

Anderson said, “If this hadn’t come to our attention, it wouldn’t have been on the agenda.”

Councilman Thomas McGuire called the ordinance a “knee-jerk reaction” and said, “A good cowboy doesn’t shoot himself in the foot.”

Councilman Dick Esser said, “Parking was an issue,” but he was pleased to see council chambers “full of people who care.”

Councilman Jim Bruce joked he was almost tempted to vote yes, just to see how high the dB level would go and said, “It’s a matter of getting the right information from us and the right information from you.”

He went on to say, “It’s never been a lack of ordinances that has caused problems. It’s been a lack of enforcement. I don’t know that a new ordinance is needed.”

LaMar, stating he supports the rodeo and western days and council thought there were problems with noise and parking.

“Now, we have businesses complaining they cannot conduct their businesses because special events have encroached on their parking,” said LaMar, adding, “There has to be fairness and balance.”

He said the only reason he was going to vote no was because the community didn’t have a chance to provide input.

In calling for a vote, Francia said, “By voting no, I am not saying there are not problems that need to be resolved, I am voting no to the approach.”

Council voted unanimously against the ordinance.