04/05/17 Other People's Money: It never ceases to amaze me how generous certain folks are with other people's money. Really. In a recent Council meeting, and again this week in a letter to another newsletter, one opinionated resident just bubbled forth with their misguided rationalizations of why we (all the other residents) should pay for the huge miscalculation and blunder Carefree Town government made over a decade ago. Instead of proposing that we all pay a "fee", which that person suggests would be tax deductible [it would not be], I suggest they make a very generous annual donation to the Town of Carefree, which might be a legitimate tax deduction, or not. Charity should begin in their home.
I don't publish letters. It is rare, but I sometimes pass on redacted letters to town officials, if appropriate or if they relate to public safety issues. I occasionally do insert my editorial comments, clearly [bracketed and/or highlighted], a fact I disclosed in Newsletters past. I don't pretend those comments are news. I sometimes publish a portion of comments I receive from readers who express their concerns. Today is such a time. The comment below fits because there seems to be a concerted and growing effort to desensitize our residents to the potential of a Property Tax, or some other reach into their pocket. The more our public officials and/or their shills mention "Property Tax" the more you should be concerned. It doesn't matter if they say, "I'm not proposing a Property Tax" or "I'm not in favor of a Property Tax" or we do all thee wonderful things without a Property Tax, you keep hearing about a Property Tax! The following was from a reader today:
"A few minor details not mentioned by a reader of that other publication. The voters of Carefree were never asked if THEY wanted the Town to pay for their fire coverage PLUS the fact the 1% sales tax increase would not cover the cost in future years was downplayed intentionally because “free” would not have been free. Secondly, ambulance service in a town of 55+ year old residents has proven to be much more important than fire protection and was the first thing eliminated in the fire contract extension. A friend said many years ago that the town would have been better off by paying for the re build of any house that burned. BTW, how many have over 10 years? I do not count Alberto’s because that fire was deemed to have been the result of owner modifications performed without required permits. Thankfully no one was injured."
"The whole fire protection blunder had the scent of a mayor taking care of a few buddies by paying for their fire coverage because they live or own property in poorly serviced areas. Then compounding one mistake with another, the Town buys a fire truck that is designed for urban use. MAMA MIA!"
For the record, this post does contain personal opinion. Like I said, I'm not claiming it is news.
03/07/17 Town Council meeting summary: This meeting featured a presentation by Dr. Debbie Burdick on the status of CCUSD followed by an abbreviated summary of the February 28th Council Workshop presented by Mayor Peterson. The meeting summaries are available in the Archives, for 2/28/17 as well as 03/07/17.
02/28/17 Special Council Meeting on Economic Issues: As noted in the Newsletter sent out yesterday afternoon, Mayor Les Peterson has called a Special Council Meeting (open to the public) on Tuesday, February 28th, 6PM at the Holland Center, in the Mesquite Room. According to the posted agenda the topics of note are as follows:
* Review and discussion regarding short and long range financial planning & economic development and strategy.
* Review and discussion regarding future fair and festival strategy.
This will be an important meeting for all who have an interest in Carefree’s economic future. As members of the Long Rang Financial Planning Committee, I and the others have heard a great deal about Carefree’s current economic situation as well as numerous activities and actions which may come to fruition in the not too distant future. The mayor and staff will be presenting information, on the topics noted, to the full Council and public.
I’m certain you have heard, many times over, the truism that “change is inevitable.” Only time and history can help us determine the relative value of any given change. However, knowledge and awareness are the best preparations for change, or to guide it.
Presentation materials provided last evening by Gina Kaegi can be found in the Archives, in the Slides and Charts folder; click here for the Economic slides, or here for the Marketing slides. Please note, the PowerPoint materials will have to be downloaded to your computer as a .ppsx type file and you will need Microsoft PowerPoint or their free PowerPoint Viewer to view the materials. The free Microsoft PowerPoint Viewer can be downloaded from Microsoft by clicking here. After clicking the Download button click the file to install it.
This morning the Mayor sent out a note to the Council members and the LRFP committee members which defined parameters of the meeting. Since that note did not contain privileged or confidential information I'll share it with you:
The purpose of the Special Carefree Town Council Workshop scheduled for this evening, Tuesday, 2/28, is to:
- Follow up upon the financial analysis provided to you previously and communicate the recommendations of the Long Range Financial Planning Committee, including John Crane, Gary Neiss, Michael Krahe and myself representing the Town, and outside members John Traynor, Jerry Wedda, Gary Hayward, Leslie Hine and Stephen Hatcher, regarding the business strategy and approach that we believe that the Town of Carefree should follow in the future, and
- Gina Kaegi will provide an overview of the marketing approach which the Town Staff, supported by Cheryl Kroyer and me, believe will best serve the interest of the Town for the future.
Please note that:
- This will be a Special Town Council Workshop, and only members of the Town Council and Town Staff will be permitted to participate in the discussion. The one exception here might be where a Town Council member calls upon one or more of the outside members of the Long Range Financial Planning Committee to provide their input on the overall Town strategy. Members of the public are invited to attend to hear these discussions, but they may not participate at this Special Workshop. If they have questions or comments they may address these at the next scheduled Regular Carefree Town Council Meeting on Tuesday night, March 7th.
- The discussion will be at a 30,000 foot level, and will not get into individual line-item budgets or other specifics. The purpose of this Special Workshop is for the Town Council to discuss and debate the strategies for the Town of Carefree in these two important areas, not to become mired down in specifics. Those topics are better left for discussions during the Budget Workshops which will be commencing shortly
I look forward to discussing these two important topics and gaining the insight and hearing the experience of each of you.
Mayor Les Peterson
02/08/17 Town Council Meeting Summary: On Tuesday the Council held their February meeting in addition to an Executive Session following that meeting. Heather Burgett was chosen to fill the P&Z vacancy and Joseph DeVito was selected to be an alternate. An architect was selected to develop plans for modifying the main level of 33 Easy Street to be used as the Carefree's Council Chambers. You can see the preliminary layout here, and you can find the full meeting summary in the Archives.
01/16/17 Updates since the January Newsletter: A number of other inquires were received regarding the question posed by a reader who wanted to know
“How much money is the Town out as a result of the Easy Street Condo project, if any? Direct and indirect, if you know or can find out.” I didn't have that information but Vice Mayor Crane was able to provide some insight in response to an email exchange between us. Since he said I was free share the information, I'm providing his response which I received January 9th:
As you noted, the figure of a $34,000 is simply the surplus of plan review fees paid by the Easy Street Condo project less the Town’s review costs. Over the years, in the Town’s dealings with Ed Lewis, inarguably much Town energy and time were expended. Like any business deal that does not come to fruition, those related expenses might be considered a loss, but in this situation, the Town, fortunately, received several monetary pluses, in addition to permit fees, to mitigate those expenses. To address, the below points you raised:
- During the one year lease of Easy Street, the Easy Street Condo project paid to the Town $32,160, plus utilities and rental tax. During the lease year, the Town paid the Holland Center $4,000 in lease payments.
- There were no expenses covered by the Town which were to be reimbursed by Ed Lewis which were not reimbursed.
- Yes, the Town incurred staff research time to purchase and conduct due diligence prior to engaging into a lease at the Holland Center. These costs were modest and not itemized and certainly a fraction of the delta in rent between Ed Lewis’ lease payments to the Town and the Town’s lease payments to the Holland Center
- Prior to acquiring 33 Easy Street, the Town hired an architect to review the feasibility of converting 33 Easy Street into a Town Council Chamber. This expense was part of the due diligence required when the Town considered purchasing 33 Easy Street and had nothing to do with leasing 33 Easy Street to Ed Lewis. Prior to the Easy Street Condo project occupying 33 Easy Street, the Town performed several repairs / modifications – roof repair, landscaping, front access – all expenses that the Town would have incurred had we immediately occupied 33 Easy Street.
- Upon vacating 33 Easy Street, the Easy Street Project donated several pieces of office furniture to the Town valued at several thousand dollars.
While we do not have a detailed spreadsheet itemizing each Easy Street Condo project expense incurred over the years, the above figures show that some revenue and benefit were generated to offset those expenses.
On a different subject, I have been somewhat remiss in not posting a link to audio from the Council meeting, Agenda Item 10, Carefree 2017 Fair & Festival Strategy. The Mayor's presentation comments begin at approximately 56 minutes and 33 seconds (56:33) into the recording on the Town website. Unfortunately the recording is available for download only at that location.
01/03/17 Council Meeting Summary: The first Council meeting of this New Year was held Tuesday evening at the Holland Center. I didn't think to ask, but there was no mention of when the meetings would be moved back to Carefree in the Town owned 33 Easy Street Building. The Ed Lewis sales office has been shutdown so that space is essentially available for redesign and use as the new Council chambers. I'll check on the status and post back here with an update.
Although there were just a few items on the agenda, the meeting was one of the longest since meetings have been moved to Holland center, ending at 6:38PM. The Garden Seminar presentation, the report on the Pumpkin Festival, and the 2017 Fairs & Festivals Strategy took up most of the meeting time. The Health & Resources Expo info is here, and the Fairs & Festival Strategy is here.
You will find the meeting recap in our Archives. Posted 01/05/17.
12/24/16 Merry Christmas! Friends of Carefree, although Jim Van Allen is no longer associated with this newsletter, [while he is a member of the Carefree Town Council] I’m certain he would join me in wishing you, and your entire family, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Whatever Holiday you celebrate, and how ever you celebrate it, I think we can agree that this is indeed the time of year for family, friends, and neighbors to share a common joy for all of our blessings.
I sincerely wish you the best life has to offer and pray that your New Year will be filled with Health, Happiness, and Prosperity.
12/07/16 Council Meeting Summary: The Mayor and Council members took the Oath of Office at the very start of the meeting. The highlight of this meeting was the announcement that the Easy Street Condo Project has been terminated by Ed Lewis and his two properties will be put up for sale. The reason cited was that Mr. Lewis has been unable to obtain construction financing, which he attributed to the stringent Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The entire meeting summary can be found in the Archives.
12/05/16 Some General News: As you probably know, Jim Van Allen has partnered with me to produce the CFM Newsletter since our inception. Because Jim will be sworn in as a Town Council member at the December Council meeting on Tuesday, 12/06, he will end his role in CFM for the duration of his Council service. Jim does not believe it is appropriate for elected or appointed Town officials to send newsletters or operate websites related to Town matters. The Sonoran News recently published his letter on this subject. Jim has provided me with a copy of the letter for republication in the next Newsletter.
Contrary to recent rumors, Cafe Bink will not be closing anytime soon. There were reports that the restaurant would close sometime early in 2017. My wife and I had the pleasure of attending the reopening of Kevin Binkley's midtown restaurant on Saturday evening. The 4 hour exquisite dining experience, with only 18 guests, was unrivaled in my personal and professional business travel experience. For a look at Saturday's menu, click here.
Shortly after we arrived Kevin came out to the patio to welcome us. We’ve known Kevin & Amy since the early days at ‘Crew’ in El Pedregal, when our son AJ was just a 1st grader. We’ve been fans and customers of Binkley’s ever since. During our conversation I asked Kevin about the rumors. He said that closing Café Bink was not a consideration. However he did need to free himself of the growing business responsibilities of running four restaurants in order to focus on his true passion, the food, and providing a unique dining experience. He sold his Scottsdale restaurant and closed the original Binkley’s in Cave Creek. He hired Christian Giles, a 16 year veteran and the 7 year general manager of Charlie Trotters in Chicago, to handle the ‘front-office’ business. He decided against selling the Café Bink business and instead has hired a top notch chef, one he originally trained and who had worked at Binkley’s in Cave Creek. The new chef (sorry, I forgot his name) is already at work and will have a free hand to run Café Bink. Kevin indicated that substantial changes there will be forthcoming soon. So Café Bink isn’t going anywhere.
11/02/16 November Council Meeting Summary: Our Town Council meeting summary is online in the Archives.
10/31/16 Council Meeting Tuesday, 11/01 @5PM: The meeting will again be held at the Holland center. There will be an important discussion regarding a Text Amendment to our Zoning regulations, Case #16-07-TA, which addresses Senate Bill 1350 (SB1350). That Bill restricts local cities and towns from being able to regulate or limit the use of vacation rentals or short-term rentals within municipal boundaries.
On an election related matter, Carefree Mayor Les Peterson has passed along the following information: Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery presented a very compelling case, at the Kiwanis meeting on 10/26, to vote against Prop 205 which would legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona. Attorney Montgomery referenced the negative experience of legalizing recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington as support for his point of view, and the far less restrictive provisions of the proposed Arizona Prop 205 when compared to those passed by residents of the two states just mentioned.
Mr. Montgomery suggested the website www.ARDP.org to learn more about the reasons not to support Prop 205. I would suggest a thorough review of this website to anyone interested.
10/10/16 P&Z and Development Review Board Meetings: Both meetings were quick affairs. SB 1350 applies to Municipalities, yet HOAs, as 3rd party agreements, appear to be outside the scope of the SB 1350. After some discussion by the Commissioners, I asked if our Town Attorney had given an opinion on the subject. Discussion ensued, resulting in agreement that the Attorney would be consulted. The proposed Text Amendment was approved 7 - 0, and will now be forwarded to the Town Council. A copy of the Text Amendment is in our Archives. The meeting adjourned at 5:25PM.
The Development Review Board met to consider a requested change to the perimeter wall material for the Eastwood Development. Staff explained the change was an enhancement to the plan, replacing one finish for another more aesthetic one. The developer explained that the change was a more expensive upgrade, in keeping with their Arizona Ranch theme. Because of wording in the Staff report resident Bob Schenkel inquired if other changes had been allowed without public review. He was assured that the progress of the development followed normal procedures. I asked the developer how a 3 step labor intensive block wall, stucco, and paint finish was less expensive than a one step slump block material. He responded that the custom block material was more expensive. The request was approved 7 - 0, and the meeting adjourned at 5:45PM.
10/10/16 Important Planning & Zoning Meeting Today: The meeting will be held this afternoon at 5PM at the Holland center. It will address a Text Amendment to our code in order to bring it into compliance with S.B. 1350. Governor Ducey signed S.B. 1350 in May. It prevents cities and counties from banning short-term rentals. The bill could have an impact on HOAs as well, depending on their pre-existing CC&Rs. If you have an interest in this matter you are encouraged to attend. See more in the Special Archives.
10/04/16 October Town Council Meeting: The agenda was a brief one. Please see the meeting summary in our Archives.
October Updates: Don’t miss the upcoming Carefree Enchanted Pumpkin Garden Festival (Oct. 17–31). Creator/Artist Ray Villafane will once again host live pumpkin carving demonstrations in the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion. Last year’s event was a huge success, so don’t miss this opportunity to participate and enjoy an even bigger spectacle. A special thanks is due Ray, as well as to Gina Kaegi, Carefree Marketing Director, for her hard work and commitment to this event.
See more on the event at Carefreepumpkingarden.com
Back in May Governor Ducey signed S.B. 1350 which prevents cities and counties from banning short-term rentals. It allows companies, such as Airbnb, Homeaway, and VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) to collect lodging taxes on behalf of property owners while also keeping the properties classified as residential for tax purposes. On September 20th the Carefree P&Z Commission met to initiate a Zoning Ordinance text amendment related to short-term vacation rentals. This is necessary in order for Carefree to comply with new state regulations, effective December 31, 2016.
The October Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, October 4th at 5PM.
09/14/16 Special Council Meeting to Canvass the Vote: You can find a 'web only' version of our Newsletter in the Special Meetings section of the Archives.
09/12/16 Primary Election Results Update: The final and Official results, which will be canvassed at a Special Council meeting at 4:30 PM on 9/13 at the Firehouse, are as follows:
MAYOR - TOWN OF CAREFREE 100% precincts reporting
EV TOTAL %
VOTES VOTES VOTES
PETERSON, LES* 874 970 100.00
COUNCILMEMBER TOWN OF CAREFREE 100% precincts reporting
CRANE, JOHN* 753 833 17.35
KROYER, CHERYL* 751 829 17.27
VAN ALLEN, JIM* 706 788 16.41
FARRAR, MIKE* 711 787 16.39
ORRICO, GENE* 714 787 16.39
KRAHE, MICHAEL* 705 777 16.18
Results obtained from: http://recorder.maricopa.gov/electionresults/eresults.aspx
09/07/16 September Town Council Meeting: The meeting on 09/06/16 was a fairly quick one. There were no unusually important issues covered. You can find the meeting recap in the Archives. The recap also includes the final Primary Election results.
08/31/16 Primary Election Results: Congrats to all the Candidates and thank You Carefree Voters! The returns as of this morning are as follows:
MAYOR - TOWN OF CAREFREE 100% precincts reporting
PETERSON, LES* 729 824 100.00
COUNCILMEMBER TOWN OF CAREFREE 100% precincts reporting
CRANE, JOHN* 628 706 17.35
FARRAR, MIKE* 592 666 16.36
KRAHE, MICHAEL* 587 657 16.14
KROYER, CHERYL* 627 703 17.27
ORRICO, GENE* 593 664 16.31
VAN ALLEN, JIM* 594 674 16.56
Results obtained from: http://recorder.maricopa.gov/electionresults/eresults.aspx
08/17/16 Economic Development Celebration: [This may be a bit of an editorial but some things just need to be said.] At the end of July a rumor was circulating that Councilwoman Price had organized a party for Council members, some staff, contractors, and possibly others who had 'donated' to the economic development projects (Splash Pad, Fireplaces, Gateways, Lights, etc.) since last summer. The 'outsiders' had been invited, and arrangements made, but prior authorization to spend town funds on the party at Venues (upstairs) may not have been obtained. If true, then a number of clear public service and ethical lines were crossed.
It is now confirmed on the Town Website in the document captioned 'Meetings with Possible Quorums in Attendance-August 2016' that there will be an "Economic Development Project Celebration 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. at Venue’s Café, Upper Level", Thursday, August 18th. The subsequent buzz suggests that several, more conservative, Council members were not pleased by yet another step over the line and they may pay their own way. If they do they are to be congratulated for their integrity and commitment to public service.
It would seem that a more appropriate time for a Celebration Party would be when the town commercial vacancy rate is down below 15%, when exciting new businesses are thriving, and when robust sales tax revenue is streaming into the town treasury. Until such time, this 'Economic Development Celebration' is premature. It appears to be more of a self-anointed pat on the back, and goodbye party for departing Council members, after spending over $1 Million on ‘projects’ and just prior to the Town Election.
08/08/16 A Message from Mayor Peterson: Starting today you will probably be receiving another mailer from Les Peterson. It contains his message regarding the upcoming Primary Election and his endorsement of the six individuals running for Council. See the sneak peak he provided here.
08/03/16 Candidate Forum Edition: The Carefree Resort & Conference Center Candidate forum was held this evening. To a certain degree I was surprised by the low turnout. The meeting started at 6:20 with an audience of approximately 35, and ran until about 8:10; 2 additional folks had arrived at 6:45; there were 28 remaining after the break. No fireworks ignited and all those running for office seemed to be in general agreement on just about every topic and question. My takeaways, which mirror my personal beliefs, were as follows: "local government is the only government that works" - John Crane [or should work - John Traynor]; and [regarding development] ... "this is a balancing act" - Michael Krahe. A CFM Newsletter recap will follow tomorrow and then it will be available in our Archives.
08/02/16 August Council Meeting: This was the first meeting to be held at the Holland Center rather than in Carefree. The town no longer leases space in the P.O. building and will need to use the Holland Center until the Lewis sales office vacates the town's new building at 33 Easy Street. The meeting was brief and
attended by very few residents. Our summary can be found in the Archives.
The Carefree Candidate forum is scheduled for Wednesday evening at 6PM in the Carefree Resort & Conference Center, Cholla Room. The Mayoral and Council candidates are unopposed in the upcoming August 30th election but your votes will matter. If all candidates receive 50% +1 of the total votes cast the town will be able to avoid funding ($7 - $10K) a 'local' election in November.
07/28/16 Special Edition Information: We had a few things to tell you, hence Carefree’s Future Matters VII, E11 V1 is now available in the Special Archives. Your voice and opinion can make a difference; the dangerous roundabout changes appear to be under corrective action. Also, see the details regarding the Carefree Candidate Forum on 8/3, and review the Personal/Professional Bio of Council candidate Jim Van Allen. Stay cool and hydrated...
07/08/16 Arches 'R' Us: The 2nd Gateway Arch was hoisted early Friday morning at the Tom Darlington Drive Gateway location while soil and boulders were delivered to the median at the site of the Cave Creek Road Gateway. See more photos here.
Special Notice: Effective Friday afternoon at approximately 5:15PM our website menu structure was changed. The 'Home, Archives, and Photos' pages now have sub-menus. Hovering your mouse pointer over any of the menu choices will now expose the sub-menu. Click on a sub-menu choice to view that content.
07/05/16 July Council Meeting: The meeting of July 5th was a quickie. For the meeting recap and other news please visit the Archives. Also check Photos. Twenty years of Council meetings in the P.O. building Council Chambers came to and end. The next meeting on August 2nd will be held at the Holland Center, see our meeting recap for the address.
06/29/16 Unconfirmed Reports from NASA: Earlier today reports began to stream in that something was amiss. Although officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration declined to confirm those early reports, an unofficial source has confirmed that the crew of the International Space Station finally found Carefree. During an orbit shortly after noon MST, the crew leader reported that they had clearly found Carefree, no bout a doubt it. Another crew member repeated, "we can see you now, we can see you now." Using their super hi-res camera they provided an early glimpse (see photos of 6/29 & 7/8).
Should aliens choose to visit, they'll discover 2 important things about Carefree from their orbital view, 1st this is America by virtue of the flag someone chose to strategically place atop the east tower, and 2nd, Palm Desert Reality can find a suitable property for them in town. If nothing else, the Spirit of Carefree is opportunistic. God Bless America!
06/07/16 Meetings, Meetings, Meetings: A Water Company Board meeting was followed by a Special Council meeting to approve Carefree's 2017 Fiscal Year Budget (effective 7/1), which in turn was followed by the monthly Council meeting. Quick highlights:
- Water rates, base charge and usage to rise by 2%
- Carefree approved Fiscal Year 17 Town Budget, $6.2M
- Town Core Median Revegetation, $99,707
- Commercial Building Height raised from 24 feet to 30 feet
See general news and the full meeting recap in our Archives and check Photos.
05/03/16 May Town Council Meeting: This meeting was another quick one, and there was no Executive session for the first time this year. The 2015 Spirit of Carefree Award was presented to Harry Vardakis. See award photos here.
The fiscal year budget for 2017 of $6.2M was tentatively adopted. Final approval is expected at a special meeting on June 7th, prior to the regular Council meeting. Our complete Council Meeting summary can be found in the Archives.
04/19/16 Council Budget Workshop Meeting #2: The meeting will be held on Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 PM in the Council Chambers at 100 Easy Street (P.O. Building). Refinements made to the initial proposed budget for fiscal year 2016-17 will be presented and discussed.
04/13/16 Meetings this week: Two public meetings were held. The Board of Adjustment (consisting of P&Z members) met on Monday to consider a request for a variance to the Zoning Ordinance standards to allow construction of a new single-family residence and hangar in Sky Ranch, submitted by Marty Holmes. The specifics involved issues relating to disturbance of a Wash and the subsequent quantities of fill materials to be permitted. After insightful discussion the variance was approved 7 - 0. Earlier in the meeting the Board also addressed the Town Code of Conduct.
The first Town Budget Workshop of this new budget season was held on Tuesday. Town Administrator Neiss presented material that he and staff had prepared for Council consideration [A copy of the presentation slides is now available in our Archives.] As has been the case now for several years, Mr. Neiss could not contain his irresistible desire to emphasize that Carefree does not impose a Property Tax, something most residents consider a blessing, rather than the challenge Mr. Neiss portrays it to be. Nevertheless, he went on to highlight all the things Carefree is able to provide for residents without that Property Tax. Moving on, the discussion focused on a high level overview of the budget and budget process. An initial cut at the line item budget may be available Friday. It too will be available, at some point, in our Archives.
Things that haven't surfaced yet are the potential $$$ for economic development ($1.5M in the current year's budget), the size and possible use for the typical $200,000 'Contingency fund', and the outline for any large Capital projects being considered, like the Gateway(s) construction which will begin shortly.
Upcoming public Budget Workshops are scheduled for April 19th and 26th, when additional information and refinements are expected to be discussed.
04/05/16 April Town Council Meeting: There had been an Executive Session at 4PM prior to the regular Council meeting. As has become the disturbing custom since last year, the public never obtains any details from these frequent and closed meetings. Once again this month, the regular Council meeting was a relatively brief one. You may view our meeting summary in here.
03/19/16 Voting in the March 22nd Presidential Preference Election: If you received the COINS notice you should be aware of two important items it contained relating to the election. Ballots are for the March22nd election, not March 8th. The other important item relates to the election day polling locations. If you do not use early voting in the "Presidential Preference Election" and you wish to vote in person Carefree and Cave Creek will only be able to vote in Cave Creek Town Hall. Carefree post office building will not have a polling station.
03/14/16 Planning & Zoning Meeting: The intent of this work session was to "conclude the conversation concerning definitions and requirements regarding building heights for residential and commercial structures.” In contrast to the 3 prior “workshops” no 70 foot height, 50 foot height, or form based code was being considered at this time. However, “The current proposal is designed to simplify how residential building height will be measured and returns commercial building heights to the original maximum building height of thirty feet.” Our full meeting summary is available in the Archives.
03/06/16 Editorial Content: In recent weeks there have been press releases by the town, editorials by the Mayor and the usual flim-flam from the town's P&Z blogger. The thing I find most laughable are the complaints, some veiled, others more direct, contained in that collective heap suggesting that Jim & I are misinformed, or worse. That notorious blogger recklessly throws around accusations that our CFM Newsletter is biased, inflammatory, and bunch of other bull droppings. Her very own newsletter is extraordinarily biased toward the town and often laced with deliberate inaccuracy. All the while, our roads continue to be ripped up and medians savaged for the sake of Bike lanes. To address some of the nonsense, I submitted an Editorial of my own which appeared in the February 17th print edition of Sonoran News. Needless to say, more nasty-grams ensued. I often wonder who would be in her cross hairs if Jim Van Allen and I were not available. Former long-time Councilman Bob Coady took the brunt of her garbage for years for daring to raise questions, but he and his wife Sue moved closer to their son. Obviously the blogger needs someone to fill that void in her public life, so I assume we are it. In light of her recent blog misinformation / inaccuracies I feel compelled to provide a reprint of my editorial below for those who may have missed it. Rest assured that more will follow until real transparency takes hold in Carefree Town government.
I was utterly amazed to discover that this Carefree Mayor has tripped to the level of the Town’s P&Z Commission blogger in attacking those who disagree with the new party line. Is it possible that paid outside opinion is advising that the only way to prevent people from questioning certain new initiatives, and their cost, is to label those raising awareness as ill-informed crackpots, and then accuse them of “manufacturing facts”. No Mayor Peterson, the facts stand. If the P&Z ‘workshops’ were intended to begin a series of dialogues with residents on building height, why then are they not given greater visibility, and why not do a much better job disclosing content well before scheduled meetings?
No one you know is considering 70 foot building height? I assume you are acquainted with the town administrator and town planner. A term you used in your editorial, ”balderdash” (1590-1600 AD, origin unknown), would be a gross understatement to describe your denial. Perhaps you did not read the briefing materials town staff prepared for presentation to the P&Z on 10/19. It surely must have been available to you, even if not easily accessible by the public. The P&Z meeting packet we eventually obtained, clearly shows two options being considered. Sorry, I meant ‘workshopped’. Option A, Less Intense (also presented at the January meeting after residents were alerted and about 40 attended) and Option B, More Intense (not discussed at the January meeting but presented on 10/19 to an almost empty room – the key here is almost). Option A shows commercial building height up to 50 feet, with the possibility of taller structures (note the *). No rational person would believe a height increase from the present 24 feet to 50 or 70 feet is “modest.” “Form based zoning” does not change the laws of physics; in this reality a foot is still a foot. Option B cleverly switches from a description in height to a description in ‘floors’; listing from 2 to 5 floors to be precise. The Easy Street Condos will be 3 floors, well in excess of 40 feet thanks to a previous zoning text amendment for the developer. Care to estimate how many feet 5 floors would be?
For the record, I most certainly did attend the October 19th Planning & Zoning Commission meeting in Carefree, as well as the January meeting. Interestingly, and contrary to absurd assertions by the Town’s P&Z Commission blogger, I saw no one in “an emotional tizzy” nor did I subsequently attempt to manipulate anyone into that state, although your blogger appears to have arrived there. Carefree residents seem to be intelligent, sensible people who love their town. The Commissioner herself may be living in a distorted state of reality which has apparently rubbed off in town hall. Why criticize residents who express legitimate concern over discussions which can potentially lead to altering the character and charm of a town they love? Given this commissioner’s penchant for howling, that is a rhetorical question. Also for the record Lyn, this is not a rodeo circuit, it’s about the character of our town.
The P&Z Agenda, when posted before meetings, has not contained any detail or supporting material for their meetings to date. No audio of those meetings is posted on the Town website, as is customary for Council meetings, and there is no notice that such recordings are even available. Jim Van Allen was present for the ‘workshop’ discussion of building height and also addressed the commission on that topic. He spoke at length about the problem with 70 foot heights. He advised that they should expect large crowds to object and those residents will want to vote on the issue. Jim, with many years of experience as an executive in the hotel industry, and in hotel construction, has explained that 5 floors basically equates to approximately a 70 foot structure. Perhaps the commissioner fancies herself a hotel construction savant. Or, perhaps she didn’t read the material before that meeting or even after Herbert posted it. If Commissioner Hitchon and her mentor, Town Administrator Neiss, ever choose to actually be honest, perhaps they will finally admit that this entire notion of raising commercial building height is driven by the presumptive need to give a developer more incentive to build a hotel in the Town Core. That is called ‘greasing the skids’. The Administrator is correct on one score; this is “not an ending point” - far from it. For folks who freely toss around the word ‘transparency’, they are actually very transparent. They don’t enjoy the light and so the howling...
People see the destruction being wrought on our roadways and those of our neighboring town. Mayor Peterson, the ‘Public Safety’ card has been played by numerous administrations when other ploys have failed to convince the public. Everyone supports Public Safety, right? But you know there are no Federal or State regulations mandating bike lanes, none. Carefree has done without them for over 30 years, we could survive without them going forward. With only a 24 inch addition to the shoulder, it doesn’t take a doctorate to comprehend where the remaining 3 feet for the bike lanes will be obtained. Narrower road lanes do not enhance Public Safety. Oh, and Carefree only lost 6 plants, really? Who counted them? When Jim Van Allen urged the council, on several occasions, to save the plants and trees, the response was always the same; there is no money in the budget for vegetation. Perhaps you listen to advisors more than to common sense. But who cares, it’s all about getting free money, right?
Bike lane construction and median destruction are a good example of waiting too long to react. I believe it is far better to raise awareness and raise questions before the bulldozers arrive than afterward. Jim and I will strive to keep residents informed. How those residents respond may cause additional howling from town hall.
John Traynor, Carefree
03/01/16 March Council Meeting: The meeting was a relatively quick one. The significant items were approval of the Eastwood Final Plat for 39 homes on a buildable 5.3 acre area recently rezoned, the final reading of revisions to the Town Code and its adoption, and the adoption of a Code of Conduct for Elected and Appointed Town Officials. You can read our summary in theArchives.
02/11/16 Special Council Meeting Summary: The council approved spending a combined $566,000 for 2 Gateways into Town Center. Donations of time and/or materials will offset $112,000 of that total. You can read the complete meeting summary in ourArchives. [Due to an editing oversight, the date in the meeting caption line of our VII.E4.V1 summary incorrectly listed February 2nd as the meeting date. Our Archives now contains an updated V2 version.]
P&Z Meeting for February 8 was cancelled: Next meeting is currently scheduled for March 14th.
Special Council Meeting Update: Although the February 12th, Special meeting on 'Gateways' was set during the regular Council meeting on Tuesday, that date seems to have changed. Council members had scheduling conflicts.
02/02/16 Council Meeting: The meeting Tuesday was a long one. Significant items included: a proposal for Carefree's future involvement with Ray Villafane for the Pumpkin Festival and other events, the 1st reading of changes to the Carefree Town Code (Chapters 2, 3, and 4), implementing a Code of Conduct for Elected and Appointed Officials of the Town of Carefree, and a new procedure to control access to town owned and leased properties. You will find the meeting summary in our Archives.
Minor Website Changes - With the approach of our 1 year anniversary on February 3rd, we are making a small change to our site navigation menus. You will notice the addition of a Photos page. Existing photos and new arrivals will now appear on that page instead of the Archives page.
Planning & Zoning Meeting - 01/11/16 - Jim and I want to thank all of you who attended the Planning & Zoning meeting Monday evening on such short notice (Jim counted about 40), as well as those who sent notes expressing their objection to the proposed dramatic commercial building height increase in the Town Core. No one in the audience spoke in favor of, or expressed support in any other way for, increasing commercial building heights. See the Town Center / Town Core map on our Archivespage.
For the record, we do generally try to keep the material in CFM Newsletters as unbiased and factual as we can manage. On occasion, or under special circumstances, that may not be possible. The Special Alert sent on Sunday was an example of a departure from the norm, but we felt it important because the essence and character of Carefree was being placed under duress, clearly our opinion. However, the meeting spectators seemed to strongly agree with our assessment, as expressed in their heartfelt comments. Their love of Carefree and their reasons for living in Carefree were evident in each and every word they spoke. And for the skeptics out there, who may obtain a copy of this communication and conclude the audience was stacked, I can say without reservation that neither Jim nor I knew the majority of those in attendance. Over time we sincerely hope to expand new acquaintances and build upon friendships, new and old.
In other instances, we try to separate the unbiased from what might be considered editorial comment by bracketing such comment [in this fashion]. You will see a fair amount of that in the meeting summary CFM Newsletter, which has been posted to our Archivespage.
Special Notice - 01/10/16 - Carefree’s Future Does Matter - Folks if you look beyond the festivals and concerts, you can now see what happens when we don't come together to fight some of the crazy ideas emanating from Town Hall. We already see the Bike lane project destroying our medians and landscaping in Cave Creek; Carefree is scheduled next. Soon you will see huge Gateway Monuments in Carefree. Last month they approved adding another 26 bright faux gas lamps to further destroy our beautiful night sky in Carefree. There will soon be over 50 bright LED lights.
Town Hall is now circulating an idea to bypass the vote of the citizens and use a method called a ‘text amendment’ to the General Plan to enact a major overhaul of building height limits in Carefree. If they are successful a new 70 foot high multi story Skyscraper [by local standards] will likely be built in downtown Carefree right next to the sundial. Many sly rumors are circulating around town about constructing a tall hotel next to the Post Office building. We have already witnessed a number of ‘giveaways’ to Ed Lewis to help him build on his two empty lots. It is time to say "NO MORE". 70 foot buildings in the town core, especially near the Sundial will change the character of Carefree forever.
None of us moved to Carefree because we wanted huge buildings in our town. We don't need them, and most of us don't want them. We must all come to the meetings and be heard by saying "NO WAY, not in our town.” Monday night, January 11th, 5:00 PM in the Post Office building Council Chambers during the Carefree Planning & Zoning meeting is your next chance. For years we have heard Town Administration supporters chanting “Keep Carefree, Carefree”. There may not be many more opportunities to stop the destruction of Carefree. Now is the time to step up, not after more bulldozers begin work.
Will we see you there??? Jim and John
Happy New Year, 2016 - We hope you had a great Christmas and that you were welcomed into the New Year with health and happiness. The Town Council will hold another Executive session at 4 PM on January 5th, followed at 5 PM by the regular monthly Council meeting. As of 4:55 PM on January 4th there were no significant items noted on the agenda, although a complete Council meeting packet was not yet posted. Our summary of the Jaunary 5th Council meeting is located on ourArchivepage.
Christmas 2015 - Although the start of the Carefree Christmas festival was hampered a bit by weather, in the end it was another success thanks to the tireless efforts of Jo Gemmill and the many volunteers and sponsors who contributed throughout the year to bring it to fruition.
It is truly amazing that the thousands of people who visited the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden in October, and then the Christmas Festival in December, were able to locate Carefree without benefit of Gateway Monuments, or the 26 additional faux Gas Lights to be installed early in 2016 predominantly on the north and east side of the core with a heavy concentration around the Lewis properties. Visitors even endured the Bike Lane Project construction disruption that will now be with us until late spring. Had that project begun as originally advertised in July major disruptions would be wrapped up by now. You gotta love government, or not. You can view the full sized ADOT Bike Lane Project Construction Schedule and Area Map in our Archives.
11/30/15 - Council Meeting Recordings -Because of ongoing technical difficulties, official recordings from the past 3 Council meetings had not been available. On 11/12, Jim Keen advised me that he had been able to salvage the recording from the November meeting and would be making it available on the Town website. Depending on your Browser settings, selecting that link causes it to download instead of playing. I'll make it available on our Archivepage for your convenience. During that meeting Mayor Peterson provided a detail recap of the ongoing situation with Liberty/Black Mount Sewer Company and a potential agreement which had been reached. It was very informative and well done so you may want to listen to that segment, which begins at 13 minutes into the recording.
11/10/15 - Town Council Meeting - There were two highlights in the meeting. First, the Keystone Homes 'Eastwood' project builder had requested a continuance until the December 1st meeting. General Plan and Zoning changes recommended by the P&Z will be discussed at that time. The second involved an important development in the ongoing Liberty Utilities – BMSC situation. The Council authorized the Mayor to sign a collaborative agreement by the Arizona Corporation Commission, Liberty Utilities, the Boulders Resort, the Boulders HOA, and the Town of Carefree. The agreement is subject to final approval by the ACC and the withdrawal of an existing action pending in the AZ Court of Appeals. Approval will facilitate (over a 3 year period) the removal of a waste processing facility in the Boulders and allow the pending Rate Case to move forward, thus providing both commercial and residential customers with a more equitable rate structure. The meeting recap can be found in our Archives.
Special note: Although not mentioned during this meeting, signs along our major roadways have been indicating that the ADOT Bike Lane project was to commence on November 9th. Construction will continue into April. The project was originally expected to begin in July. With our Festival season already underway, residents and visitors will encounter some travel disruption into and out of Carefree along major roadways throughout our high season. Construction of Gateways may add to the disruption of normal traffic flow.
10/19/15 - Planning and Zoning Changes - Depending on your perspective, the recent meeting of the P&Z Commission was either good news or distressing news. The commission approved (5 - 0) a change to the General Plan and 2 zoning changes which will alter the character of Carefree's east end. The combined effect of those changes will now permit the construction of much higher density housing in an area that had essentially been zoned as Low Density Residential. Instead of 1 home/unit per acre, the 9.5 acre parcel will now be permitted up to 9 units per acre, although the builder has stated his plan calls for 4.2 units per acre. By setting this precedent, the commission opens the door to the question of what will become of the two larger parcels to the west of Pima & Cave Creek Road (across from Sky Ranch airport). The P&Z recommendations must now be presented to the Town Council for their consideration and approval, perhaps as soon as the November 10th meeting.
Additional 'discussions' centered around amending the codes to allow for greater building heights in Carefree. Under consideration is raising the height for commercial properties outside of the Town core from 24 to 30 feet, and within the core to 70 feet for commercial structures. That would be a substantial change in character for the town and a major adjustment to the General Plan approved by voters a short while ago. Read the meeting summary in ourArchives.
10/16/15 - 10/31/15 - Enchanted Pumpkin Garden -Congratulations to all those involved in this amazing event! The artistic content and high-spirited atmosphere made for a delightful experience. Many new visitors were introduced to the tranquil allure of the Carefree Gardens. This experience, in concert with other events during the same period brought many visitors of all ages to the Gardens. Whether or not those visitors took advantage of our restaurants and shops remains to be seen. Apparently a few of our guests did take advantage of the new Fireplace furniture, as a number of the 'Carefree' cushions have gone missing!
10/06/15 - Regular Council meeting - As of this meeting there was no update on the ADOT Bike Lane project. Construction was originally expected to commence in July but that date kept slipping. Mr. Neiss said there was a meeting scheduled for Thursday (10/08) but no start date is currently known. With our Festival season already about to begin, residents and visitors can expect some travel disruption into and out of Carefree along major roadways throughout our high season.
Highlights of the Council meeting [more details here] included an extended Call to the Public session during which the primary focus involved the Bodega 13/Cellar 13 venture. Differences between the venture's principals and the Building department have delayed the reopening of this Carefree favorite. All parties have agreed to meet as soon as practical to iron out the issues.
The Town will lease the 1st floor of the newly acquired 33 Easy Street Building to Ed Lewis for use as the pre-sales center for his luxury condominium project. The lease will run for 1 year with a possible 1 year extension.
The town has requested APS to bury the overhead power cables which cross Carefree Drive on the south side of Cave Creek Road. The cost will be $98,000 to $118,000 with completion expected by the end of October. This in preparation for Gateway construction at that location.
Vice Mayor Crane reminded everyone that the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden will be open on October 16th through October 31st and that the grand opening and dedication of the Kiwanis Splash Park is scheduled for Sunday, October 18th at 1:30PM.
10/03/15 - Thoughts from Jim Van Allen - Living things are special, Save the Trees! I applaud the job that Mayor Peterson, Vice Mayor Crane, and Councilman Farrar did to win approval for only two primary Gateways in Carefree as opposed to the four or more proposed by the ‘spend it until its gone‘ crowd. At the September Council meeting, when the discussion of the Gateway proposals was open for comment, I urged that the site on Cave Creek Road be at Hum Road instead of Carefree Drive. Here were my reasons:
1) There are only 5 trees between Elbow Bend and Tom Darlington;
2) If the Gateway goes up on Carefree Drive the two trees to the East will most likely be destroyed as they might block the west bound view of the Gateway;
3) Then when Ms. Price and her gang gets the huge artwork approved for the middle of that roundabout, another great tree will be destroyed;
4) When east bound traffic cannot see the new art work, the two trees to the west of the roundabout will be targeted for destruction.
The Town Council and staff keep talking about the feel of a "village", as in Carefree Village. A village is often defined as “a group of houses and associated buildings, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town, situated in a rural area.” Or “a self-contained district or community within a town or city, regarded as having features characteristic of village life” – implying comfort, familiarity, convenient shops, trees, and landscaping that all work in harmony to provide the feeling of peace and tranquility. If we destroy all of the trees in this 3 block area, in addition to all the trees and landscaping already destroyed because of moving the Gila slide, building fireplaces, and a splash pad (in time for fall/winter) we sure would be doing the wrong thing for ‘our village’. Don’t forget about all the upset this coming season because of Bike lane construction.
In addition, the first thing anyone will see turning into the proposed Carefree Dive gateway from Cave Creek Road will be a large gravel parking lot on the left and an empty unkempt lot of desert flora on the right. That will be a fine ‘Welcome to Carefree Village’. I wish the Town would take another good look at Hum Road as a far better alternative. It presents resident or visitor alike with the immediate sensation they have entered a village instead of an empty festival parking area. You can see photos of the fine trees mentioned above on the lower section of ourArchives page. Take a look at the photos, or drive by soon and see for yourself, because those trees may not be there long if town government has its way.
Often times 'the second right answer' is the best one.
09/04/15 - Regular Council Meeting of 09/01/15 Update - Due to technical difficulties with the audio system there was no official audio recording of the meeting. That is a sad outcome considering all the earnest comments by both Council members and the public. Further, due to bad hearing and obviously poor eyesight, I reported the two Gateway proposals as the 'Core' proposal and the 'Fencing' proposal. Core was correct but 'Framing' was the other proposal. My apologies for the mistake on my part. Carefree’s Future Matters VI, E18, V2 will replace Carefree’s Future Matters VI, E18, V1 with corrections in our Archives.
09/02/15 - Gateway Update - At the regular meeting of the Town Council last evening, the Council approved the 'Core' proposal, which calls for 2 Primary Gateways instead of the 4 suggested in the other proposal. See the current Newsletter in our Archives
Hotter Flash - At a Special Council meeting on 8/27, with no notice from COINS, the Council addressed two items which apparently could not wait until the regular meeting on Tuesday. First they approved the additional expenditure of $77,005 for the bike lane project (see Hot Flash below). Then they reviewed options for placement of the Primary Town Gateways on our arterial roadways. Seven possible locations were evaluated against a set of 10 criteria. [One would typically assume that this discussion should take place in front of residents at a normal council meeting. Instead you can probably bet that Gateways will be on the agenda Tuesday, for approval.] Each primary Gateway is estimated to cost $100,000. So you may wonder, how many Gateways does it take for visitors to realize they are in Carefree??? You can find the possible locationsand theevaluation matrixin theArchives.
Hot Flash - No, not more August heat just more Bike Lane news and not good news either. First the money news. The project will cost $127,635 more than planned/budgeted by both towns. Carefree will have to pony up another $77,005 and Cave Creek another $50,630 before any contract(s) can be awarded. The timing is also not good news. Although Carefree had requested a quick start (18 days after the contract(s) being awarded), because additional funds have to be collected the project won’t be presented until the Sept. 18 State Transportation Board meeting. That means the earliest start date is now into October. Some in Cave Creek are already calling for a delay until after the season, in May. Welcome visitors!
Friends of Carefree, there is a great deal happening in Carefree, and we don’t just mean the seasonal shows or festivals. Important decisions are being made which will affect the town financially and structurally well into the future. Because we know you realize that the voices of a few should never dominate the majority, we encourage you to stay informed, engaged, and ready to voice your very important opinion about our future.
August 13th Special Council meeting: Council approved a Resolution authorizing the Mayor to execute a mortgage loan agreement for the purchase of the 33 Easy Street property. See our Archives for detail.
August 4th Key Council Meeting topics: There were 4 important items on the agenda: An agreement to proceed with the revised Easy Street Project, the Town's purchase of the building/property at 33 Easy Street for Council Chambers/Meeting facility, an update on Town Marketing, and revisions to Dust Control Ordinances. You will find more details of the August 4th meeting in the Archives section.
July 7th Key Council Meeting topics: There were essentially only 4 items on the agenda: the town attorney presented information regarding the permitted uses for Executive Sessions; there was discussion relating to the procedure to be used to fill a vacancy on the P & Z commission; the council approved a contract to upgrade the audio / video equipment in the Council Chambers; and the council approved the design for both the primary (large) and secondary (smaller 8' x 4') gateways. The gateways will be used to identify key access points into the town core. You will find more details of the July 7th meeting and a rendering of the design, in the Archives section.
The Cave Creek/Carefree ADOT Bike Lane Project Update: No updates were provided at the July or August Council meetings.
Final discussion was held during the May 5th council meeting. The Inter-Government Agreement (IGA) with Cave Creek was approved and payment of $140,158.85 will be made to them. This step finalizes the process and locks in the Federal/State funds which account for 94% of project costs. Construction start date was updated to September. A copy of the May 5th update to the Town Council is posted in our Archives. You should take a look, as the project will impact you during construction through early 2016, and then going forward. Many residents still remain unaware of specific details. During the discussion the Mayor directed the staff to provide more information to residents prior to construction.
This update clarified information regarding Median work, lane width, and the T.D. southbound bike lane endpoint at Leisure Lane. In the near term the bike lane will not continue to Carefree Highway. All details should be finalized by the end of May.
Traffic lanes on T.D. & CCR will be 11 feet wide. When asked if Rural/Metro had participated in the plan, Chief Kratz said they had not but indicated that 11 foot lanes would not be a problem for R/M. Other vehicles could pull over and stop in the bike lanes to allow R/M vehicles to pass. Councilman Miller added that R/M would be shown the final construction timeline documents once they were available.
Although the 2008 traffic study is now somewhat dated, 7,000 vehicles a day passed through the intersection of Tom Darlington and Cave Creek Road and another 15,000 vehicles a day used the intersection at Tom Darlington and Carefree Highway. No matter how you look at this, those numbers are substantial and have likely grown since that time.
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