CAVE CREEK – During the Jan. 19 planning commission meeting, commissioners Bob Voris and Ted Bryda were unanimously elected chairman and vice chairman, respectively.
Voris announced there were no items scheduled for the February meeting.
Planning Director Ian Cordwell presented the first agenda item, a special use permit (SUP) application for Wind Horse Ranch Bed & Breakfast (B&B) located at 6914 E Continental Mountain Dr.
Cordwell stated the SUP for Wind Horse Ranch was originally granted in 1995 for 15 years.
However, he said the use has been continuous even after the expiration.
Neighbors in attendance claimed the use has not been continuous and had ceased operating as a B&B about four or five years ago.
Cordwell stated Louise Hoffacker, the applicant, wants to purchase the property and resume its use as a B&B.
When asked why the SUP was limited to 15 years, Cordwell said there was nothing in the record to indicate why.
Hoffacker told the commission she would like to refurbish the property.
Commissioner Susan Demmitt asked if she planned to maintain just the four guest rooms.
Hoffacker said she did.
Hoffacker stated she will also be offering yoga to her guests and currently has an equestrian business that she would also like to house on the property.
She said she hopes to market her business to people who have horses and offer equestrian activities such as lessons and trail rides.
Commissioner Reg Monachino asked if Hoffacker would be required to obtain a business license and if she would need to get approval or a permit from the county.
Cordwell stated she would have to get a business license from the town but anything involving the county would be the owner’s responsibility.
Then the question came up over Hoffacker wanting to offer yoga and equestrian activities to the general public with the possibility of clients trailering their own horses in and out.
Cordwell indicated if she wanted to offer yoga to the general public she would need to come back and get the SUP amended.
He said the planning commission could decide if it wants to allow equestrian use to be extended to the public.
As she perused the zoning ordinances, Demmitt said it sounded like the equestrian use is by right.
The zoning ordinance allows up to five animals per acre, so she would be allowed up to 25 horses on the five-acre property.
Hoffacker stated the yoga was part of her equestrian training.
During public comment, Charles Spitzer stated he was a next door neighbor and said the property has been vacant for about five years.
He reminded the commission of another B&B that ended up expanding its offerings to include weddings.
Spitzer said he doesn’t have a problem with it being a B&B but they should limit the number of vehicles allowed.
Voris asked Spitzer if he had any number in mind.
Spitzer responded, “Twelve at any point in time.”
Kerry Smith stated it was a narrow two-lane road and not appropriate for horse trailers to be going in and out on a regular basis.
Smith said it sounded more like a commercial type business and, if not carefully controlled, the same people would be affected that are already affected by the auto repair business that has been a problem for the neighbors.
He too had no problem with a B&B but the expanded use was just a matter of scale.
Smith said the problem is the trailering horses in and out for people not staying there.
Demmitt again referred back to the ordinances and said her reading of the ordinance is that equestrian use is allowed by right and it allows for boarding, classes and training with animals already on the property.
Smith said it would be helpful to know the limits of the activities.
Voris stated his understanding of the ordinance required a boarding situation, not trailering animals in.
Katya Kincel said she lives south of the automotive repair shop that has gotten out of control and stated, “I don’t want this to get out of control.”
She said she lives two houses down from the property and bringing in horses is not allowed.
Kincel stated she didn’t want to let it go to commercial or see more commercial use in the neighborhood.
She said, “We as neighbors are against” bringing animals in and out.
Hoffacker stated, “The amount of that type of activity would be very minimal, if that’s the big objection.”
Voris explained to Hoffacker, “What you’re suggesting is not allowed. You are limited by the special use.”
He went on to explain that private ranch use allows for keeping animals on the property with no provision for trailering animals in for those purposes other than boarding.
Voris said, “There are two issues here – the SUP addresses the number of bedrooms, parking, etc.”
He suggested Hoffacker review her business plan and what the ordinances allow before moving forward with the purchase.
Demmitt moved to approve the SUP and stated there were two issues, property rights and the SUP for a B&B, which was the only item before them.
Commissioner Dick Frye seconded the motion but questioned the applicant’s use of “commercial kitchen” in her narrative.
Bryda asked if they could add a condition that there be no public classes.
Cordwell stated they could add whatever conditions they wanted.
Commissioner Paul Eelkema wanted to confirm the use of the word “travelers” meant guests staying at the B&B.
Bryda asked to add a condition that no ranch activities be open to the general public.
Demmitt reiterated that all that was before them was the SUP for a B&B, not the zoning ordinance. She said they could clarify the intent that the equestrian facilities may be utilized by B&B guests … stalls, pens and lighted arena may be used by guests up to 20 head.
Monachino said he was going to support the request providing the applicant obtain all necessary licenses and permits required by the county or state.
He asked to amend the motion to limit parking to no more than 12 vehicles.
Demmitt stated she couldn’t support limiting the number of vehicles and said, “She has private property rights … she might have a dinner party.”
Commissioner Peter Omundson said he concurred that was outside the commission’s purview.
Voris said, “I’m going to support this request. It’s a nice spot for a B&B. The applicant has other issues she needs to look into, but that’s not before us tonight.”
The commission voted unanimously to recommend approval for the SUP.
The next agenda item was to explain the process for approving the temporary structure at the intersection of Cave Creek and School House roads, which is the new home for Rare Earth Gallery.
Cordwell explained it was done through the building department and that it is permitted for 180 days.
Voris outlined the timeline for the general plan for the 2018 ballot.
He said they don’t want to wait until the last minute.
During public comment, Smith said the proposed plan was rejected by voters and they probably want to find out why people were confused.
Smith said he was confused about the land use map not matching the zoning map and was under the misconception that the zoning categories shown on the map are what is expected to happen.
He said they need to clear up these misunderstandings up front.
Kincel said the last time staff sent out the general plan to various agencies for comments it was staff’s rendition of the general plan and she felt it should go out after citizens’ input was incorporated.
Voris stated the general plan was not written by staff but rather by seven volunteers and the only thing staff did was update statistics and demographic information.
The last item on the agenda had Town Attorney Bill Sims explaining the responsibilities of the planning commission and, after sitting through the lengthy SUP agenda item, stated, “What you did tonight is proof government works.”
Sims explained the open meeting law, what constitutes a quorum and how various means of communication can easily put them at risk of breaching the open meeting law.
He said when a quorum plans to be present at some gathering where no business will be discussed the town should issue a courtesy notice stating such.
Sims said if they do happen to stumble into a violation they should admit it at the next meeting and get it out in the open.
He said agendas need to be precise enough so the public knows what’s going to be discussed and the agenda must be posted at least 24 hours in advance.
While he noted there is no legal right for the public to comment, Sims said if they don’t allow the public to comment, chances are they won’t get reelected.
Explaining executive sessions are exempt from the open meeting law, Sims also covered other topics, including conflict of interest.
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