PINETOP-LAKESIDE — It was the June 18 council meeting when the council approved a zone change for 25.5 acres on Vallery Lane from Open Space (OS) to Recreational Vehicle Park (RVP) status that the R word (Referendum) began circulating even before the doors closed. Now, almost a year later, following the April 15 council meeting where council approved RVP zoning for 6.2 acres, the R word flashed like a neon sign once again.
Even with former Community Development Director Cody Blake having answered primarily every concern voiced by the citizens who objected to the RV park, and Town Manager Keith Johnson’s Open Letter to the Citizens of Pinetop-Lakeside regarding the proposed RV resort in the April 23 edition of The Independent, which was also posted on the town’s Facebook page and emailed to subscribers of “Community Update,” the R word is now a reality.
On April 20 the Citizens for Quality Development (CQD) submitted their application for a serial number for a referendum petition. Town Clerk Jill Akins confirmed that 109 signatures from citizens living within the town limits is required and must be turned in by May 17.
In an email to the Independent, CDQ Chairperson Everett Peterson wrote, “Citizens for Quality Development PAC members began collecting signatures of voters within the Town limits of Pinetop-Lakeside on Friday, April 23, and plan to accomplish our goal of collecting the required number of signatures within a three week window to put the Tatiyee Land Exchange RV Park zoning to a vote of the citizens of Pinetop-Lakeside.”
Town Manager Keith Johnson said that he spoke with Peterson on April 20. “I asked them to reconsider this because their rationale objections have all been answered. Why are you objecting to this? The developer has done everything that he can do. He has talked to and listened to the neighbors. There is not anything else he can do to satisfy you except not do the project.”
Suzann Bingham, also part of CQD, said they have six or seven persons collecting signatures. She said there is no reluctance to sign. She got 14 signatures on April 27 in two hours.
“The petition is going well. The RV park will not benefit the town whatsoever. The town people don’t want this right in the middle of town. Let the town’s people have a say in what they want, because the town council isn’t listening,” stated Bingham.
Local resident Chuck Kermes, who is not within the town limits but lives in the path of the proposed RV park stated, “I am helping out...getting signatures mainly. More people than I had imagined are aware of the issue and willing to sign. Regarding the 2nd time around: I am sorry to see the same project submitted and approved by the town council for a second time. It’s not anti-business to point out that this project simply isn’t a good business for the town and the adjoining neighborhoods.”
Each petitioner carries with them a “RATIONALE FOR A REFERENDUM OF TOWN ORDINANCE 21-440 Town Council’s 15-April-2021 Decision to Rezone 6.2 Acres from Rural Residential (R-Low) to Recreational Vehicle Park (RV) Zoning which states:
The 344-acre Camp Tatiyee Land Exchange was finalized by the U. S. Forest Service in 2018. The Record of Decision established that future development would be done in a measured manner to retain the general forested, low-density character of this “gateway” property along White Mountain Boulevard. The Town’s General Plan Official Zoning Map listed this parcel as “forested” open space/park, but the default zoning is R-Low. Any changes to the zoning map require that Town Code 17.128 be followed, and zoning changes; 50 acres require a Major Amendment to the General Plan; this tract is nearly 5% of the entire Town limits.
The Town rezoned 40 acres as Light Commercial (C-1), and 25.5 acres as Recreational Vehicle (RV) in June 2020 for which sufficient signatures were gathered for a referendum before the application was withdrawn. This rezoning was done in a “piecemeal” approach without a Major Plan Amendment or any master planning of the 344-acre parcel to ensure sound, integrated development addressing circulation/roads and other considerations. Later, Camp Grace (20 acres; Commercial Recreation; C-R) and Camp Tatiyee (44 acres; Light Commercial; C-1) were rezoned to largely conform to existing uses. Citizens met with the Town in December 2019 and November 2020 to urge conformance with the General Plan and conceptual land use planning before rezoning further parcels. We are concerned the Town is skirting the intent of its General Plan.
RV Park rezoning
(as per Town Code 17.128.040) In June 2020, 25.5-acres was proposed for RV Park rezoning yet preliminary design concept plans and transportation impacts were addressed for only 6.2 acres. This failed to address the entire parcel’s impacts and community concerns. Now, rezoning of only 6.2 acres was done though the applicant owns 40 acres and has openly stated his intent to develop 4 phases as RV Park. The Town is again failing to address full project impacts for the larger acreage before conferring rezoning that would set the stage for further RV rezoning. As in June 2020, the applicant’s consideration of the Town Code criteria is minimal, with little detail provided including addressing impact to adjacent homeowners. Despite professing otherwise, the Town has not “listened” to its citizens and adjacent residents throughout this issue including at its orchestrated February 25 Community Information Meeting.
As expressed in June 2020, the Town is allowing the applicant to create a new access road to White Mountain Blvd. just 1,600 feet from the signalized intersection at Lockwood Drive. Access to Lockwood Drive from the proposed RV Park is only 220 feet away but the applicant has consistently failed to address why this access option is not viable. Based on just the 6.2-acre parcel, the professional traffic statement did not recommend a right-turn deceleration lane or traffic signal (nor might one be appropriate so close to Lockwood Dr.). A proper traffic assessment should consider the entire acreage to be pursued as RV Park which could include 250-300 RV sites in 4 phases and much greater traffic — this very well could require a traffic light and could even impact the fire evacuation for the area.
RV Park proximity
Camps Tatiyee and Grace, in existence since the 1950s are in proximity to the proposed RV Park. Camp Tatiyee has long been visited by special-need youth and campers of all ages. Camp Grace serves the needs of at-risk youth. With the nonpermanent nature of a RV park’s clientele, residency near the camps could compromise the safety of visiting youth and campers and increase vehicle traffic and conflicts. There is also concern for increased use of motorized ATVs on trails around the RV Park.
Norris Dodd, former councilor for Pinetop-Lakeside, member of the People’s Voice Committee and petition circulator, said, “People do not feel that they have been listened to.”
Last go-round the CQD collected 325 signatures and 263 were deemed eligible for verification.