RV Park Information Meeting like Déjà vu

Hoping to allay some of the misconceptions relating to the proposed 6.2 acre RV Park, town staff and petitioner addressed community members at an Information Meeting on Feb. 25 at the PTLS council chambers. Some minds were changed; some not.

PINETOP-LAKESIDE — The Feb. 25 Information Meeting regarding a proposed RV Park off of Vallery Lane seemed like a Déjà vu experience for many. Learning that another request had been filed to change property located on Hwy. 260/White Mountain Boulevard from Rural Residential (R-Low) to Recreational Vehicle Park (RVP) zoning brought out community members to listen, ask questions and comment on the proposed change which lasted for nearly two hours.

The RV Park issue first began in 2019 when residents within 300 feet of Vallery Lane received a letter regarding a request for a zoning change from what was thought to be Open Space (OS) at the time to RVP. It was later confirmed by the town attorney that it was actually zoned Rural Residential. A series of planning and zoning meetings and finally an approval of the zone change by council on June 18, 2020, resulted in the formation of a Citizens for Quality Development Committee who began working toward a referendum to repeal the decision. With the appropriate number of signatures gathered and vetted, a mail-in ballot was planned for January 2021. Before that could occur, owner Brett Cote, said he had consulted with his attorney and decided to ask the council to repeal the decision. Council approved the repeal on Aug. 20, 2020.

Mayor Stephanie Irwin began the meeting by welcoming the crowd. “I appreciate the passion you all have for our community and the interest you have on what is going on in our town. Thanks for coming.”

Community Development Director Cody Blake said the meeting was to update everyone on what the proposed RV Park is, and made it clear that the zoning request was made by GJR Properties who purchased the property from Brett Cote and have scaled down the size of the proposed park from the original 25.2 acres to only 6.2 acres.

GJR told The Independent they actually purchased 40 acres from Cote and revealed during the meeting that each of the partners, Gary Rogers, James Gappmayer and Ryan Koningsor (GJR) plan to build personal cabins on a portion of the acreage.

Blake said that Annie DeRosier, Tourism Marketing Coordinator for the town, had been working with James Gappmayer (GJR Properties) to come up with a better plan on how to move things forward. As a launch-pad for the meeting, DeRosier presented a video regarding “Misconceptions about Pinetop-Lakeside.” The three misconceptions cited were “Our Economy Does Not Depend on Tourism;” “This Business Model Does Not Match Our Plan,” and “An RV Resort will attract unfavorable people to our area.”

The crux of the presentation was that the town’s branding of Pinetop-Lakeside as a recreational destination is indeed suitable for RVing and the statistics relating to the type of RVer that is likely to come to the area does match what the town wants.

Following the slide presentation, there was a short video introducing GJR Properties.

Though it was unclear at the time, DeRosier did not make her presentation as tourism/marketing coordinator, but as proprietor of her marketing company, Wild Arrow Creative.

Blake later told the Independent that DeRosier did not do the presentation on town hours.

DeRosier joined in that conversation with Blake saying, “After the last zoning fell through, I told James I have some ideas. It is outside of my role and I have other clients in town. It is not an anomaly for me. I had independent contracts before I worked for the town. It is outside of the office.”

With a nearly packed room, for the sake of being able to hear and respond, people were asked to raise their hands to speak, wait to be called upon, and to be kind and respectful which, for the most part, they were.

Questions and comments were primarily a reiteration of those previously asked regarding issues with ATVs, lighting, noise, the buffer, fire evacuation, density, traffic, deceleration lane, RVers wandering into the neighborhoods, trails, smoke issues, amenities planned within the RV Park, fire-wise compliance and the new question regarding the fact that the 6.2 acres is listed as Phase I of the RV project. Members were curious as to whether or not there will be RV Park plans beyond the first phase. GJR said it depends on how the first one turns out.

For the most part people were appreciative of the informational meeting and acknowledged that sentiment with their comments. That said, it was evident from some of the comments that some minds were not changed.

Following the meeting Blake said, “There were a few people there that I think may have changed their minds when they saw how much smaller it was than the original plan.”

Connecting with Gappmayer post meeting as to why after the push-back from the community on the RV Park they decided to go ahead with their purchase, he said, “I think Pinetop needs it. We love Pinetop. We have been working on this for six plus years. We have worked with Lon Hoffman over a year and a half. We even put offers in on another property but when you are looking for a business location, it comes down to location.”

Gappmayer said before they closed on the property they went up and down Vallery Lane and told the residents what they planned to do. He said some were receptive and some not. He said others said they had not been contacted but they had knocked on a lot of doors where people were not home.

He said they have tried to listen to the concerns of the people. He said after the Vallery Lane push back, they agreed that Vallery is narrow and without a major upgrade, and the issues with the neighbors, that it did not make sense. They started looking at a buffer which is now 200 to 225 feet, which is more than required. He said they scaled down and that if it were to go to residential, more trees, a major concern of the community, would be taken out than with the RV Park. He said they want an RV park that is in the trees; that is why they chose that property.

“We are trying to listen and understand from the neighbors point of view,” said Gappmayer, who added that they are trying to be good neighbors.

Blake said the conceptual drawings of the park presented were only concepts not a site plan which is not required at this time.

No further informational meeting is planned before the zoning change request which will take place on Thursday, March 25. Depending on the results of that meeting, a recommendation will be sent to the town council which will be on the agenda for Thursday, April 15.

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

(1) comment

glepinski

[cool] Another RV Park is needed. They are overcrowded now and many close for winter months. I don't live in the area so it really is up to the Residents to allow it or NOT.

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