PINETOP-LAKESIDE – It was a June 1, 2019, letter from the Community Development Department to residents living within 300 feet of Vallery Lane for a zoning change to Recreational Vehicle Park (RVP) that began a 14-month upheaval in the community.
Now, it is a Feb. 9 letter from the department to residents inviting them to an informational discussion meeting regarding another zone change to RVP that is creating a buzz among residents.
The June 1, 2019, letter advised residents that a request from owner Brett Cote, BC2, had been filed for a zone change from Open Space (OS) of 25.2 acres to RVP.
Word of the 2019 letter reached others in the community and the Oct. 24 Planning and Zoning meeting was met with a packed council chamber of people anxious to weigh in on the subject.
That meeting had to be postponed due to last minute information the developer received from the county which he did not have time to review.
Subsequent meetings were held when the public offered their comments. When all was said and done, Planning and Zoning recommended that council approve the zone change.
The objections voiced by residents on the original zone change from OS to RVP ranged from not following the General Plan to noise, lighting, adverse changes to the neighborhood community and other issues that Community Development Director Cody Blake attempted to answer at the June 18 council meeting.
Accepting the recommendation of Planning and Zoning, and following a public hearing which offered many of the same comments from the public that were given during the Planning and Zoning hearings, council approved the zoning request on June 18.
Immediately following council’s approval, a Citizens for Quality Development Committee was formed and the clock began ticking for them to collect a required 109 signatures for a referendum.
The group met their deadline with more than enough signatures and following the validation of random signatures by Navajo County, a mail ballot to residents was to take place around January 2021.
Following the sharing of the referendum information with owner BC2, LLC, Blake said that Cote had consulted with his attorney and they had decided to ask the council to repeal their decision for the zoning change.
That request was brought before council on Aug. 20, 2020 and the rezone was repealed, going back to R-Low.
During the period of the rezone hearings, research by the town uncovered that the land in question — part of the 344 acre Camp Tatiyee/Forest Service Land Exchange – was not OS but actually R-Low.
When the town incorporated in 1984, Forest Service land was not given a zoning designation by the county.
Town code requires that nothing can be unzoned in the town and that anything coming into the town limits automatically gets an R-Low zoning.
A 1986 map showed that was done but in 2002 the town zoned all of the Forest Service Property as Open Space (OS).
Blake said town code and state law both state that in order for any property to be zoned OS, there must be a request from the property owner to do so.
When the Forest Service property exchanged hands to private property, BC2, there was no such request.
Requesting an opinion from the town attorney on the zoning, it was confirmed that R-Low is the correct zoning.
Since the zone repeal, both Camp Tatiyee and Camp Grace have requested rezones for their properties which were approved.
Both cited expansion as the reason for their requests.
The Feb. 9 letter received by residents within 300 feet of the proposed RV Park was immediately circulated on the White Mountain Preservation Facebook page.
The page is a private group which was formed during the first zone change request concern.
Though it was claimed that neighborhood residents were contacted about the original request change in 2019, many said no one came and spoke to them about the RV Park.
The People’s Voice Committee, who was very vocal during the zone change hearings, said they originally suggested to town staff that a community meeting be held to discuss the RV Park, but none occurred.
The new request for the zone change was submitted on Jan. 7 by GJR Properties, LLC who is now the owner of the property.
When the previous rezone request was made, the sale to GJR was contingent upon the zone change approval requested by the owner at that time, BC2.
The Feb. 9 letter from Community Development begins by stating that an application has been made requesting a zone change from R-Low to RVP for 6.2 acres in Section 16, Township 9 North, Range 22 East, Navajo County (Hwy. 260) with access from White Mountain Boulevard, but then invites the resident to an informal meeting.
The letter states, “Since your property is near the subject property, you are invited to participate in a public meeting to discuss a new plan that the applicant is proposing for an RV Park.
“This meeting will be an informal discussion on the new plan and for the public to voice any concerns that they may have with the proposed plan.
“No votes will be taken at the meeting, this will be a discussion only meeting.”
The normal legally required procedure which takes place when a zone change application is made is for all owners of record within a radius of 300 feet be identified according to the latest Navajo County tax rolls.
A letter is then sent by certified mail allowing the owner an opportunity to appear at the hearing and express their opinion on the effect of the boundary change.
Though normal limit to council hearings these days limits attendance to 24 people, Blake said it will not be the case for this meeting. It will also be open to all community members. A mask will be required of everyone who enters.
The meeting will be held at the Pinetop-Lakeside council chambers at 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25. The meeting will not be live streamed.