PINETOP-LAKESIDE – Following Planning and Zoning’s Sept. 24 recommendation to approve Lions Club International’s request to change the zoning of the Camp Tatiyee property from Rural Residential (R-Low) to Light Commercial (C-1), council held a public hearing on Oct. 15, and voted 6 – 1 to approve the zone change. Councilor Lynn Krigbaum was a no vote.
Community Development Director Cody Blake said that the current status of the land owned by Lions Foundation of Arizona on which Camp Tatiyee resides is non-conforming, or grandfathered in, because their particular use was already in place when the property transferred from the Forest Service to private ownership. In their current status, they may continue as they always have under the Forest Service agreement.
Lions Foundation of Arizona, which owns the property, but leases it to Camp Tatiyee, said they want to be able to expand the use of the property in the future in ways which were not permissible under the current zoning. Blake said that R-Low would allow them to add new buildings or equipment to the property as well as rent the land out for commercial purposes, increase their fundraising capacity and grant opportunities and to improve the camp and its service in the future.
Blake said under the grandfathered status, the camp can only rent to other non-profits and cannot add another building or any other equipment to the property or charge for its use.
Blake explained that during a recent zone change request it was learned that Forest Service property was designated by the town in 1985 or 1986 as R-Low. The Forest Service does not acknowledge zoning and when property comes into the town undesignated, as it did when the town incorporated in 1984. Then town automatically zoned it R-Low. In 2002 the council changed the Forest Service property to the town to Open Space. OS can only be applied to a property if the property owner requests it and the Forest Service did not make such a request, but neither did they object.
With the new information the town asked Town Attorney William Sims for an opinion letter on the property which came out of the Forest Service Land Exchange. His opinion is that the zoning is R-Low and any other Forest Service property going into private ownership would also revert back to the R-Low zoning.
Lions Foundation of Arizona’s Sandy Schiff, who appeared by phone, said, “This camp is very special and we plan to keep it very special. The land exchange was to preserve that and we also work with our neighbors. This C-1 zoning gives us the future, as well as the present. and the efforts that we put into the past.”
Some of the members of the local Lions Club had made it known that they did not object to the C-1 zoning after the Sept. 24 Planning and Zoning meeting, but as the Oct. 15 meeting went into a public hearing, seven persons went on record opposing the change.
Seven persons spoke at the public hearing, all objecting to the zoning change. Reasons ranged from the change not being needed, to concerns for the campers, and the possibility the change would set off a domino effect for the entire area becoming commercial.
Speakers said a building had been built on the property with proper permits and permission under the current status. Blake clarified that the building built on the property in 2019 was completed when the property was still Forest Service land. He said permission was obtained from the Forest Service for him to issue the permit to build the building and said that is why it was issued.
Vice Mayor Jerry Smith asked if Camp Tatiyee and Lions Foundation of Arizona were tenant and landlord. Camp Tatiyee Board Member Sherman McCutcheon answered that Camp Tatiyee has a five-year lease with an option to buy the land. He said the lease can be renewed every five years by mutual agreement and has a one year notice clause since they own the buildings but not the land.
“We hear a lot of people not wanting development in their back yard, but the reality is that the people that own land have rights too, and that is why America exists,” said Councilor Jim Snitzer. “In England the King owned everything and people came to America so that they could have private property rights and in this case you do not own the property.”
Councilor Carla Bowen said this situation is a landlord/tenant situation.
“What would happen if the landlord comes to you and says, ‘I am not renewing your lease?’ That could very well happen. This country was based on private property rights,” said Bowen. “I appreciate those in attendance and expressing your opinions, but we see the same people come every meeting and say, ‘Don’t let that property owner do what we don’t want them to do.’
“Your situation is very complicated because you are the tenant and that is a bad situation to be in when somebody else owns the property because your rights as tenants go away. C-1 could possibly be more valuable to the landowner than what the current zoning is, and in reality this property needs to and is going to be rezoned, it has to be in order for anyone to be able to use it.”
Mayor Stephanie Irwin said, “I do not see the harm in changing the zoning to C-1,” said Irwin, “and if there ever is an intent to change the use, the site plan would come to the Planning and Zoning Commission and it would not be automatically approved.”