Guest Editorial


Who owns Cave Creek?

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It seems to me that the town of Cave Creek is at a crossroads where the citizens must decide just how they want the town to develop. I came here forty years ago when it was just a quiet desert area in Maricopa County and home to a diverse group of artists, ranchers, suburbanites, a few bars, coffee shops, merchants and some old-timers. Since historic Cave Creek wasn't a legal town, the residents were on their own after they recognized the need for some community services. To provide for this need, they created the Cave Creek Improvement Association. People participated who lived in areas scattered around Black Mountain.

By the time I joined the group's board, they had created or planned a library, an ambulance service, a fire-fighting group, a cemetery, and various working committees. The point I want to underline is that this was a totally volunteer group consisting of a variety of people with different life styles but all with a love of the desert. They also had the skill and desire to make things work as a residential community. Even when the town was formed, this spirit of cooperation continued. There have been bumps along the way, but with civility were smoothed out.

Now there seems to be a threat to this spirit of cooperation (a respect for our varying life styles). A group of restaurant/bar owners seem to see Cave Creek as only a vehicle for the profit produced by increasing tourism. They want the image of our town to suggest a movie version of the West (in a very crude way). To promote this myth, we now have corrals along Cave Creek Road that facilitate bull riding, a fake Spanish Bull Run, and a promise of more rodeo-like events. The real Cave Creek rodeo grounds are in the desert outside of town.

Added to these events, they have encouraged hundreds of motorcycles with no place to park. So to assist this lock of hog parking, the town's staff generously closes off half of Cave Creek Road for their special events. Civic events I can understand, but commercial use is a different issue. Last year we even had an old car bashing event involving sport teams preferences. And today as I write this rant, the town is being decorated with hundreds of beer ads and even a huge tiger blow-up thing on a rooftop.

In regard to all signs and advertisements, the town some years ago gutted the then strong sign ordinance and did not enforce what was left. Even a strange advertisement was allowed where the feed of a proud buffalo and a longhorn steer is placed on top of a pink horse trailer (accessed by a ramp).

It is obvious that I am unhappy with the way the town core has been allowed to develop and hope that the majority of residents agree with me - and do something about it. But it won't be easy. Since I couldn't believe that the town's staff and council would allow the above activities and facilities, I studied both the previous and latest Town of Cave Creek Zoning Code for the facts. Much to my surprise I found the majority of what I am objecting to (in my non-legal view) is O.K. That is, facilities for animals was allowed in the commercial town core and the strict square footage limits on signs (sometime in the past) was quietly deleted. If you combine these significant leniencies along with the lack of sign enforcement, you get the anything goes carnival we have today. Again, it won't be easy to return to the balance of life styles that our residential area has always enjoyed. I would suggest that we can't keep expanding this present carnival area without a traffic and parking gridlock on Cave Creek Road. And further creating a negative image for the town. We have put what most towns have in their backyard in our front yard.

I have my point of view but a more democratic process needs to be initiated to find out how all the residents of Cave Creek would like to see the town evolve. Let's also find out from the new town manager, the mayor, and any council members existing or newly elected, to state publicly their view on growth and any ordinance changes necessary to create that future.

Fred Osman is a retired architect who designed our first area library, medical clinic, bowling alley (now Cartwright's) and other buildings and houses. He is also a former college professor and a military veteran.