On the heels of the July 28 unanimous approval for a Conditional Use Permit for a guest ranch in Pinetop-Lakeside on White Mountain Boulevard an appeal was filed with the town clerk on Thursday by four citizens.
The June 23 appeal
A previous CUP request for the same parcel (No. APN 212-01-036N; address listed as TBD White Mountain Boulevard) was heard before the Planning and Zoning Commission on June 23. Following the approval of that request, an appeal was filed with the town on June 30 that cited four reasons for the appeal, primarily failure of the commission to follow the town code and the CUP review criteria, and a suggested conflict of interest regarding Commissioner Alison Stewart.
Stewart, a designated broker for Frank Smith Realty, is listed as the contact on the 142.69-acre parcel owned by Brett Cote, the subject of the CUP request for the guest ranch. Stewart told the White Mountain Independent that when she arrived at the June 23 meeting she asked Vice Chairman John Salskov if she should recuse herself and Salskov asked her if she stood to get any money from the transaction. She said she told him no, that she stood to lose money. She said her office no longer has this listing agreement but do have Cote as a client on other transactions.
When appellants Norris Dodd and Everett Peterson hand delivered the appeal regarding the June 23 CUP guest ranch approval to Community Development Director Jeremiah Loyd on July 1, having transferred their appeal onto the required town form, Dodd said Loyd advised them there was no need to file the appeal because the town was going to do the CUP again due to a conflict of interest.
Dodd said he insisted Loyd accept the full appeal even if the town was going to withdraw it based only on the conflict of interest. He also asked that a confirmation of the acceptance of the full appeal be acknowledged by email.
Loyd did verify the acceptance in a July 5 email to Dodd.
In that same email Loyd stated, “In the basis for your appeal, you identified multiple reasons for the request and presented some valid arguments. The fourth reason you identified a potential conflict of interest. The commission or the commissioner did not bring the conflict to my attention. After the appeal was submitted, I spoke with the commissioner and the town attorney and concluded that there was a conflict of interest.
“Therefore, the appeal will not move forward to the Board of Adjustment because the vote is invalidated. Instead, the Planning and Zoning Commission will rehear the case. This will give the applicant an additional chance to address your concerns.”
July 28 CUP rehearing
The CUP for the guest ranch was on the agenda for the July 28 Planning and Zoning meeting. Cote, the property owner, returned with some new material and a conceptual site plan along with other information he said was similar to the previous material for the 142.69 acres. He also offered to answer any questions regarding the criteria review for the CUP, offering an explanation for the majority of the items without being asked.
During the public hearing portion of the July 28 meeting, local resident Kim Mattice questioned why the June 23 meeting was not invalidated before moving forward with the same CUP request. Mattice pointed out that the site plan accompanying the July 28 CUP request had the date of June 23 on it that was incorrect since there was no site plan accompanying the CUP request on that date. He also stated that the June 23 meeting had an adequate quorum and that the CUP passed at that time, despite the fact that there was no conceptual site plan.
Loyd responded to Mattice saying that it was not in the town code to invalidate the June 23 meeting, but that it was invalidated by state statute.
Following the closing of the July 28 public hearing and some discussion among the commissioners, Commissioner Tim Kendzlic made the motion to approve. “I move to approve the CUP 132 to allow a guest ranch to be constructed on APN 212-01-036N. Before Commissioner Tim Williams seconded the motion, Commissioner James Brimhall asked if conditions could be added. Salskov advised that first he needed a second on the motion that was being entertained. Williams seconded the motion, and it was unanimously approved without conditions.
Post rehearing consideration
Before it was decided by the appellants to file Thursday’s appeal, Dodd sent an email to Loyd after the July 28 CUP and requested feedback and guidance “on how the town will handle development beyond the approved site plan accompanying the CUP approval.”
In that same email to Loyd, Dodd said the site plan Cote presented, as limited as it was in detail, allowed he and some others to support what they viewed as an initial phase of the guest ranch development that was actually less than a 10% portion of the entire parcel. He stated he had recommended to commissioners at the meeting that conditions be placed on the approval, as did some of the others who voiced concerns regarding ingress/egress off Wagon Wheel Lane.
Dodd also asked Loyd, “If the site plan does not constrain development, then when and how are all the guest ranch pieces (e.g., roads, setbacks, etc.) addressed in a holistic, comprehensive manner as would be done for an R-Low (Rural Residential) subdivision and in the absence of a single 142.7-acre conceptual site plan? So, while we’re trying to support the guest ranch development, the commission may have acted imprudently in failing to impose appropriate conditions and recognize the limited scope of the site plan.”
Loyd responded to Dodd’s email on July 29. “The site plan submitted by Mr. Cote was conceptual. When Mr. Cote comes in for a building permit, he must submit a detailed site plan. That detailed site plan will go for review at a meeting open to the public. The Planning and Zoning Commission will review density, ingress/egress, and utility impacts, along with other requirements and ecommendations from staff and the public. The applicant included the entire parcel in the application but indicated that of the 142.69 acres, there were only two sites he was interested in for the guest ranch. I do not believe the commission would approve a site plan for anything other than the areas close to the identified areas. Staff would also advise that they stick to the areas identified within the initial application. I do not see the development expanding beyond what was issued last night. If it were to, it would be much later, and more site plans would have to be submitted and reviewed by myself, the commission, and ultimately the public. At that time, the community would have a better idea of what the guest ranch entails and if it wanted more of what it had to offer or if there was reason to limit the use.”
Appellants’ decision to appeal
The appellants decided to file the appeal and did so on Thursday. The introduction stated that since 2019 they had been advocating for sound land-use planning and development with the town of Pinetop-Lakeside regarding the CUP parcel for the guest ranch and the area surrounding it that is part of the larger 344 acre Camp Tatiyee Exchange Tract that transferred to private ownership by the U.S. Forest Service in 2018, referencing the RV park referendum.
Having filed the earlier appeal which did not go on to the Board of Adjustment, the appeal clarified its reason for filing.
“What differs this time is that additional CUP application review criteria information and an accompanying site plan for a portion of the parcel, both lacking with the initial approval, has allowed us to now support the guest ranch concept for the area covered by a site plan.
“This demonstrates that this is not an anti-development driven appeal, but rather revolves around our continuing concerns regarding the town’s failure to fully adhere to the town code regarding CUP approval. ...”
Dodd said the appellants have no problem with Cote proceeding with the guest ranch. Each of the appellants stated his and her reasons for the appeal.
Peterson stated, “I think a guest ranch could be a good use of the 143-acre property behind Camp Grace and Camp Tatiyee.
“I would like to see it limited to the 10-acre site plan presented at the P&Z meeting.
“The conditional use permit is attached to the property, so if it’s sold, a new owner could propose additional development beyond the current 10-acre site plan without citizen’s recourse or input.”
Ralph Engler stated, “I decided to be a signer on the CUP appeal because of my deep belief in, and commitment to, the Camp Tatiyee population of the developmentally disabled.
“My interest as a Lion and as the president of the White Mountains chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness causes me concern that unplanned development focused solely on the interests of realtors and money; may eventually cause harm to this population!”
Another appellant, Rob Ingels stated, “Governance, especially local, needs accountability with its citizens. Too often insufficient evaluations cause unintended consequences and are seldom possible to reverse or correct.
“The town code, general plan and even permitted conditional uses all require compliance. Building trust by providing honest transparency that promotes meaningful citizen involvement would be a welcomed change.
“It is past time to stand up and speak out on the issues important to you.”
Dodd stated, “Provided even the minimum of information and a rough conceptual site plan has allowed us to support development under the CUP.
That does not mean, however, that the 143-acre parcel can be developed or sold with a 10-acre site plan, especially when there is no further citizen oversight with CUP approval.”
The Independent reached out to Loyd by phone and email regarding the Aug. 4 appeal but did not receive a reply.
Appellants question parcel listing
Thursday’s appeal also stated that as the signers evaluated the merits of actually filing an appeal, they “sought to rule out the fact that the 142-acre parcel was still listed by Frank Smith Realty to ensure that the commission’s CUP approval was not being used to increase its speculative value for sale – based on commissioner Stewart’s statement to the Independent regarding her not recusing herself from the June 23 vote. They said their property search on the Frank Smith Realty website showed the parcel still listed with Stewart as the agent and showed the residential-zoned parcel as “Optimal for a resort, guest ranch, residential, or mixed use.”
The property is currently listed for $7,566,850.00.
Following the conflict of interest issue that involved Stewart, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted on July 14 to reappoint Stewart to another term, ending in July 2025.
The appeal states that the reappointment of Stewart to the commission without sanction after violating conflict of interest, and “the apparent nexus between the commission’s CUP approval action, increasing its value, and the marketing for sale involving a commissioner as the listing agent, appears inappropriate and underscores the inappropriateness of having a site plan covering less than 10% of the parcel.”
The Independent reached out to Stewart by phone for comment. She did answer and stated she was with clients and would call back. There has been no call back.
Relief requested of Board of Adjustments
The appeal states that the requested relief to the Board of Adjustment is for the board to impose a condition on the approval to that portion of the parcel covered by the submitted site plan.
With the appeal having been filed on Thursday, no notice has been posted to date for a Board of Adjustment meeting regarding the appeal.
The appeal is on file with the clerk’s office at the town of Pinetop-Lakeside.