PINETOP-LAKESIDE — Up once again before the council on April 15 was the recommendation from Planning and Zoning for a rezone from Residential (R-Low) to Recreational Vehicle Park (RVP). This time the application was at the request of GJR Development, LLC for 6.2 acres. and it passed unanimously.
Since September 2019 the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside and citizenry in the surrounding communities have been at odds over converting first, 25.2 acres, and most recently 6.2 acres from R-Low to RVP. The first request was made by BC2 for GJR who planned to purchase the property contingent upon a rezone.
Though the rezone passed, a citizen’s group obtained enough signatures for a referendum which was to take place in January but was repealed at the request of BC2.
Since that time, GJR purchased 40 acres from BC2 and has requested a zone change for 6.2 acres of those acres for an RV park.
Community Development Director Cody Blake offered a recap of what he had already shared at planning and zoning and a community information meeting regarding the current zone change request.
Blake said the first application was received in September 2019 and the project “has gone through several iterations, adjustments and changes based on public comment and concerns based on access to diversity to buffering.”
“The developer has tried to address many of the concerns of those that are going to live close to this project,” said Blake, who named and answered the six concerns:
- Lighting – the town has a lighting ordinance
- Traffic– the developer did a traffic study for 86 units, though not required, and at stage one the study says there is no need for a traffic light
- Clear cutting of trees – Under the town’s site plan review, the developer is required to keep as many of the natural trees as possible; the town also has an ordinance requiring them to plant more trees to beautify the project
- Firewise – the Town has a Firewise ordinance which requires the park to maintain a safe Firewise project requiring them to take out dead trees and ladder fuels
- Buffering between the citizens that live off of Vallery Lane — Project began with no buffering; went to 100 foot buffering and now 150 buffering. Blake provided a photo with a 30 foot red banner for illustration which was 150 feet back; it was barely visible
- First impression – The park is 700 feet off from the highway and will eventually be behind a commercial project. It is about 1400 feet from Camp Tatiyee and over 2,000 feet from Mountain Gate Community.
“So, the developer has tried to address all of the concerns,” said Blake.
“Some of them he cannot address. He’s got a project that we as staff or a town feel is a quality project that will provide a benefit to the town and will provide a needed resource for the town, as we do not have any real RV park in the town and will give those traveling through town a place to stay instead of going up to Hon-Dah or out into the forest.
“They can now stay some place closer.”
Blake added that the RV park will provide additional revenue for the town through sales tax revenue which results in a benefit to provide better roads, police services and more.
Mayor Stephanie Irwin invited James Gappmayer of GJR Development to speak.
Gappmayer announced that due to concerns heard at planning and zoning over congestion on 260, they will be putting in a deceleration lane, even though it is not required.
He said the deceleration lane is 300 feet and then there is 700 feet to the RV park.
“The project has been downsized to make sure it works. We do not want to touch any of the forest if we don’t have to and I think we are touching very little of it compared to R-Low zoning which would take a lot of streets and bigger area,” said Gappmayer.
Opening up the meeting for public hearing, Irwin said,
“I would just like to remind everybody that wants to talk tonight that this council has attended – we get all the minutes from the planning and zoning meeting; we attended a community meeting and we’ve all toured the property.
“So I think we are pretty aware of some of the concerns that you have and I would like you to remember that when you talk tonight, don’t continue voicing those same objections because we have heard you loud and clear and we appreciate that.”
Three persons spoke. Rob Ingels, Mary Ellen Bittorf and Lon Hoffman.
Ingels expressed concern over safety and in summary said, “I just know that if I heard discussion on how a rezoning like this is compliant to the General Plan and it is adhering to the Forest Service Land Exchange agreement, I would be more comfortable with it.”
Bittorf, who stated concerns over the trees and the town listening to the its citizens over the developer said, “I am against over development and I think that this is a perfect example of what that is.”
Hoffman, who is listed as the agent for GJR Properties on the zoning application, reiterated the developer’s concessions and recounted the financial benefits to the town.
He spoke of the recent zone changes for Lion’s Club International and Camp Grace, and of both camp’s "hypocritical" opposition to the RVP zone change.
“The elephant in the room, once again, is the threat of a referendum,” said Hoffman, who also said, “There are no winners in the threat of a referendum.
“With actions come consequences. The threats have again blackened the eye of Pinetop-Lakeside from an economic development standpoint. Businesses and developers pay close attention to the climate within a community prior to investing.”
Councilor Paul Watson, who has spent a number of years courting economic development for growth and development for Navajo and Apache counties said he believes that after a review of the project, it meets the idea of economic development.
“Typically, it is commercial development, transitioning from the commercial back to the residential, or commercial to high density residential, then on to your low density,” said Watson.
The zone changed passed with the recommendation that the developer maintain as many trees as possible; there be no permanent RV residents, no RV skirting or built on decks and RV residents be limited to nine months in duration.