PINETOP-LAKESIDE – Oct. 24, 2019 was the first meeting for Planning and Zoning regarding a request from owner Brett Cote, BC2, for a zone change of 25.5 acres on Vallery Lane from Open Space (OS) to Recreational Vehicle Park (RVP) zoning.
Following several rezone meetings and a final approval by the council for the rezone on June 18, a referendum process began and is in process, but another meeting will take place this Thursday, Aug. 20, asking council to repeal the RVP zoning.
From the beginning the request by Cote was met with opposition. Citizens showed up to a packed Planning and Zoning meeting which had to be rescheduled due to last minute country restrictions which were received by the owner and the town.
The rescheduled Dec. 12 meeting sent interested citizens back home when the request was withdrawn due to access issues. June 11 brought the issue back before Planning and Zoning when the owner found a new access route to the proposed park. Following a public hearing that night with a majority of persons speaking in opposition to the zone change, Planning and Zoning approved the change with the restrictions that there be no permanent residents in the park or decks or skirting allowed.
June 18 council held a public hearing and heard again from citizens who were primarily opposed to the change for reasons which ranged from noise, lighting, emergency evacuation and more which Community Development Director Cody Blake attempted to address.
Councilor Jim Snitzer, a former Planning and Zoning commissioner, advised those speaking that council needed a legal reason not to approve the zone change rather than site plan issues which they were presenting. Finally, in an unanimous vote, the council approved the rezone with restrictions that no one could occupy an RV space for more than nine months and no decks or outbuildings would be allowed.
The approval of the rezone was not acceptable to many of the residents and nearby citizens and the Citizens for Quality Development Committee was formed.
With 2,727 active registered voters within the town limits of Pinetop-Lakeside, the committee needed to collect 109 verifiable signatures in order to move forward with a referendum. They turned in 25 petitions with 325 signatures to Town Clerk Jill Akins on July 16.
The committee received an email from Akins on July 22 advising them that 23 of the referendum petition sheets — 263 signatures — were eligible for verification. On Aug. 13 the town forwarded a random sampling of those petitions, as required by referendum process, to the Navajo County Recorder’s office for further verification.
According to Town Manager Keith Johnson, the Recorder’s office has until Sept. 3 to finish reviewing the random sampling provided. Johnson told the Independent in a phone interview on Thursday, Aug. 13 that they had advised Cote, that in their opinion, there are enough valid signatures to force a referendum election. He said that Cote decided it was in his best interest to ask the council to repeal the zone change.
Johnson said he does not know if Cote or Developer James Gappmayer of GJR Properties of Tuscon, who contracted to buy the 25.5 acres contingent upon the rezone, would be present at the meeting.
The Independent contacted Cote for a response on the rezone request to which he replied by email, “Thank you for contacting me for an opportunity to respond.” That was the only comment.
If a referendum election does take place, Johnson had estimated that the cost to the town for the mail ballot would be around $8,000.
Chairman of the Citizens for Quality Development Committee Everett Peterson advised members of the committee that he received a call from the town on Aug. 13 of the repeal request. He was also advised that the town was moving ahead with the referendum process with the county but had also advised the county of the pending request to repeal the zoning on the Aug. 20 council agenda.