A Newsworthy Cause

 

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The High Cost of Low Price

The Following Column Has Been Submitted to the Bridle&Bit Newspaper


If you’re a customer of Cave Creek Water Company or Desert Hills Water Company, after the rate increases this summer, it’s a good bet you’re now wishing you lived in a home using well water, especially if you own horses. 

At the time of both water company purchases by Cave Creek, the town council assured citizens that both water companies were profitable and self-sustaining. Budget reports for FY ending 6/08, however, show losses for both water companies to be $3,922,020.00. The town council’s claim that the Cave Creek Water Company is “self-sustaining” is valid only if the water company is considered to be “self-sustaining” due to the recent 300+% water rate increase.

Members of the horse boarding community attended the town council meetings regarding the water rate increases and voiced their concerns not only of its direct effect on their business, but also their inability to pass these rate increases onto their boarding clients. There was no advisory study ordered by the town council prior to the water rate increases to determine whether or how the rate increases would affect the horse community–despite the fact that our horse-haven-community is a draw relied on by the town for needed tourism. 

The water rate increases have impacted the horse boarding community the most due to the fact that these businesses must conform to additional legal requirements which do not affect private residences, and those additional legal requirements involve water. While private residences have seen their monthly water bills double, triple–even quadruple, some boarding facilities, because of the size of their water lines and meters, are now paying $1,000, $2,000, even $3,000 and more a month just for water! With one horse consuming approximately fifteen gallons of water a day – more during our hot, humid summers – this town council-imposed financial hardship on the horse community could signal the end of our horse-haven-community. 

The water rate increases were necessary to provide Cave Creek with money to pay the town’s debt service (interest) on existing loans. Had you been in attendance at the town council meetings when the water rate increases were being discussed, you would know that another rate increase of similar proportion is planned within the next five years. In response to community outrage over the increases, Mayor Francia appointed Vice-Mayor Bunch as a “committee of one” to determine whether or not there could be a “tweaking” of the new water rates in order to give citizens some financial relief. Vice-Mayor Bunch reported back that nothing could be done; no “tweaking” of the rates was possible as the town needed all of the income garnered from the two water companies to help fund Cave Creek’s yearly budget. 

In closing his report, holding up what appeared to be a dot-matrix style computer print out, Vice-Mayor Bunch made the comment that the level of water usage by horse owners appeared to be out of proportion to what was really necessary. 

Ms. Jessica Marlow, Utilities Manager for the town of Cave Creek, concurred, stating that “horse owners would just have to cut back on their usage if they needed to save money.”! 

Water is required for every living thing on this earth. It is necessary for life itself. The water rate hikes imposed by the Cave Creek town council have put a price on our lives and our horses’ lives. In Arizona, it’s a class 6 felony not to provide potable water to our horses and other animals.

Horse owners and horse boarding facilities are hostage to the long-term financial mismanagement of the Cave Creek town council. When horse boarding facilities can’t charge enough in board fees to pay the water rate increases they will begin to sell off  their land for commercial development.

And, this brings us to another action taken by the Cave Creek town council impacting our horse-haven-community. The Cave Creek town council’s July 20, 2009 Major General Plan amendment, known as the “1 & 20 Amendment,” poses an equal or greater threat to the horse community.

First, a brief history. Prior to July 20, 2009, Cave Creek’s Major General Plan Amendment process involved parcels of “over one acre.” This parcel-size safeguard assured that any significant land use change, i.e., up-zoning residential property to commercial property, would be subjected to the statutory one-day-per-year meeting law and a super-majority vote of the Cave Creek town council. On July 20, 2009, the town council amended the Major General Plan Amendment process by changing the statutory one-day-per-year meeting date from November to July, a time when many citizens are out of town, and by increasing the size of qualifying parcels from one acre to 20+ acres. This action removed the existing parcel size qualification and removed the safeguard assuring that significant land use changes (re-zonings) be subjected to the one-day-per-year meeting law and super-majority vote of the Cave Creek town council. 

The 1 & 20 Amendment was initiated by the town and benefits no one but developers. The 1 & 20 Amendment allows anyone with a parcel of 20 acres or less to go before town council for an up-zoning at any time during the year. This amendment expedites the rezoning process and allows commercial developers a speedy resolution to their application. A super-majority vote by the town council  is not required. 

Rather than the town continuing to regulate its commercial development process, the town council’s 1 & 20 Amendment facilitates developers in the commercial development process. 

This summer the Cave Creek town council adopted a “White Paper” as its new economic model. This “White Paper” was written by a committee selected and appointed by the mayor. On p. 8, the White Paper states: “The Town is changing, both demographically and commercially. How we adapt to and influence that change will determine the type of Town in which we wish to live.” The White Paper provided the town council the solution it was seeking to solve the town’s economic crisis resulting from its long-term financial mismanagement: rampant commercial development without respect to residential private property rights. If the town council’s rezoning of residential property to accommodate WalMart Corporation is approved by the voters on November 3rd, the south wall of the Walmart store – not the perimeter wall – will be a mere 150-feet from the Olesen neighborhood’s north-facing property boundary. 

Without sound financial management – which is missing from the equation – rampant commercial development without respect to residential private property rights will result in Cave Creek looking like Scottsdale or Phoenix in the not too distant future. And, there are those who will gladly sell their property in order not to live in a Scottsdale or a Phoenix. 

Those large parcels of property at which your horse is now boarded are at the greatest risk of succumbing to the town’s new economic model because of the crushing water rate increases. With commercial up-zonings now possible to complete in a matter of weeks under the 1 & 20 Amendment process, commercial investors will be driving the streets of Cave Creek looking for “For Sale” signs in residential neighborhoods. 

Despite the fact that there is a 240-acre parcel of commercially-zoned property in Cave Creek, Walmart purchased 20-acres of residentially-zoned property on which to build their store. When the Cave Creek town council up-zoned the property Walmart purchased from residential to general commercial, it handed the WalMart Corporation an $8 million dollar corporate profit and significantly dropped the value of the homes of our Cave Creek neighbors living along Olesen Road.

At the same time the town council was increasing Walmart’s corporate profits, the town council was telling its citizens that no “tweaking” of our water rates was possible as the town needs all of the income garnered from the two water companies to help fund Cave Creek’s yearly budget requirements.

On November 3rd the citizens of Cave Creek will be voting on more than whether or not there will be a Walmart in Cave Creek. The approval of a Walmart brings with it the approval of the town’s direction under its new economic model. 

Since owning horses does not generate any sales tax revenue, this horse-haven-community as we know it will soon disappear under the town’s new economic model. 

On November 3rd vote “NO” on Proposition 400 and “NO” on Proposition 401 to protect residential private property rights and the future of our horse-haven-community.

Sincerely,

P.R.I.Z.E.
Protect Residential Integrity, Zoning and Environment