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SPRINGERVILLE — Tensions were high Wednesday night as the Springerville Town Council voted unanimously (with Councilor Ruben Llamas, who took a staff position with the farm abstaining) to cancel all lease and development agreements with White Mountains Flower, L.L.C. (WMF).

The decision was announced after several impassioned three-minute commentaries by town residents and the Round Valley School Administrator, Travis Udall and a lengthy recess into executive session to discuss the matter away from the public. Chris Dodge, a principal of WMF, had no comment following the announcement.

In layman’s terms, this means that there will be no cannabis farm in Springerville and a mess will be left in the wake. Time will tell where this saga ends. This has been months in the making and the fallout will leave scars and ripples. Stay tuned as lawsuits could be forthcoming.

In March the prospect of a cannabis cultivation and infusion operation near the Springerville airport took another turn when the Town of Springerville ordered WMF to “cease and desist” building structures until the company gets the permits required by town codes. The operation has run into roadblocks seemingly at every turn.

The project was also challenged by the FAA, due to its proximity to the airport.

Background

The Town of Springerville leased land it owns near its airport to WMF, which built a number of cannabis greenhouses. The town accomplished that by approving a lease and development agreement with WMF, and changed zoning ordinances to accommodate the facility. The town hoped to create new jobs and add replacement jobs expected to be lost with the pending closure of two units of a nearby power plant.

Pushback by residents

The move to accommodate the grow operation has provoked fierce pushback from some residents whose objections run the gamut. They complain about the road going to the farm not being adequate, that the workers are being mistreated by the company, that the farm will use too much water, that there were not enough environmental studies done, that the town violated open meetings laws and conflict of interest laws, (a town councillor took a job as the WMF’s general manager) that the town-owned parcel of property at issue is not even in the town but in the county, that town leaders tried to hide official town meetings, had poor COVID protocols during town meetings, and finally that the fact that the town manager isn’t there anymore is just another sign of scandal.

The group of residents has also voiced their concerns to the Apache County Board of Supervisors, The Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. The former town manager and the current town attorney have denied wrong doing.

The FAA

On top of that, the federal government got wind of the plan and the Phoenix Airport District Office of the Federal Aviation Administration, of the US Department of Transportation sent a letter to the town in January with a copy of an internal memo from the FAA’s Office of Chief Counsel dated October 1, 2020. The letter and memo explained that because marijuana is illegal under federal law, the town could face criminal prosecution, and continued federal funding for the airport could be in jeopardy.

The town promptly responded to the FAA and urged that there is no cannabis “currently” at the airport, so they are not in violation of anything.

White Mountain Independent Justice Reporter RT Lynch contributed to this story.

(15) comments

libertyminded

This is a Joke, Right? We are not going to give up 200+ replacement jobs pioneering the hottest agricultural market in the whole World because some un-named bureaucrat from Phoenix sent a letter to someone at the City whining about something and putting vague, but misplaced, reliance on obscure federal regulations themselves based on federal war on drugs laws which are now unenforced and waiting for the Dumping. (Need to for debit-pot legal transactions$). This needs to be Reconsidered at the very next meeting (and All Mayor and Councilmembers should vote on it). If not, Citizens should file for Referendum on the matter. I see you also have candidates for City Attorney, well, you certainly do need that.

Hunt2007

The majority of citizens don't want this here. It was the efforts of the concerned citizens that fought to stop this. The town council finally listened to the people with this decision despite the conflict of interests. What is sad is the total lack of professionalism and competency with this whole thing.

libertyminded

Well 2007, if a true majority of concerned citizens agrees with you, why not just settle it by having an election? Or, as I suspect, is this just a vocal minority of one? I suspect the latter. So the Council snookered them and had WMF pay rent to the Town for land that the Town didn't own? Whatever you do, Re-elect that Council !

Hunt2007

It actually is a fact that the property is privately owned. White Mountain Flowers is currently being sued by the owners of the property and as part of the suit has been required to remove everything from the property. The town tried to push this through so quickly that they made critical errors. It is also true that backdoor dealings and other corrupt practices violated ordinances and proper procedures. I live right by the farm and have been involved from the begining... Have you? You may not be from Springerville, but it is the majority here who oppose the location. Personally I have no problem with the farm existing... Its where they chose to put it that was the issue. Right in a neighborhood. The farm in Snowflake is in the perfect spot... By a junkyard and a pig farm. The town was also not making much profit... the company was paying less in rent a month on all their acres than the mortgage on my small home that sits on less than an acre.

libertyminded

2007, please examine whether your "analysis" is not stained by your biases? 2007 said: "The farm in Snowflake is in the perfect spot... By a junkyard and a pig farm." How is it that a corn-like crop deserves your so vehement content? Biases showing here?

Horse Rider

The federal government's position on marijuana is far from obscure. They consider it to be an illegal drug comparable to heroin. In my opinion, that's a gross exaggeration at the least but it doesn't change the fact that marijuana production, possession and use is a federal crime. Anyone who wants legal marijuana needs to put pressure on their federal senators and representatives to legalize it at the federal level.

Ridgerunner

[yawn] This whole thing went up in smoke quickly![tongue_smile]

Hunt2007

There was so much incompetence with this. They tried to put it right in a neighborhood. They violated public notice laws, open meeting laws, etc. The Mayor, one council member, and the former town manager were in kahoots with the farm and pushed things through. They may have gotten away with it too if they had just done it in the middle of nowhere where something like this should be. The article does not even mention that the land the town leased to the farm was actually PRIVATE PROPERTY not even owned by the town. So much incompetence. We don't need a company like this here... Good riddance

libertyminded

2007, none of which you say is proven nor factual but I do think that your "Good riddance" and Bon Voyage, is way, way too premature. The money at stake and the improvements made in reliance on the official Governmental approvals made here will probably legally unseat your hopes and dreams.

Hunt2007

[cool] Bring it on

libertyminded

What I'll say about that is simply this: $ money $ talks and B.S. walks. Have a nice hike ... With that I'll keep watch. Ha Ha Ha

Bob Smith

Contrast this dumpster fire with the way Copperstate approached the town of Snowflake with a similar proposal: Fife and his team let it be known that hundreds of good paying jobs could be coming to our community. He worked with the mayor and council, attended all the public hearings and patiently listened to concerned citizens before committing to the project. They are now the town's largest employer and a solid community partner. I visited the Springerville site a couple weeks after the cease and desist order and was amazed at the dozens of workers busily erecting greenhouses against the background of agitated local citizens. These folks just squandered an amazing business opportunity and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory because they didn't do their research or understand their audience. My prediction: Fife (or someone equally savvy) will eventually acquire the farm and make it a viable operation but only after addressing all the issues the previous owners ignored.

RAnnMrq

People....relax! Smoke one and let's all just get along. 😁

MountainMusic

"To every action there is always an equal and opposite or contrary, reaction." Since the wonderful Cannabis farm opened in Snowflake, it attracted several job openings and some great wonderful characters (I'm being sarcastic with the great characters). It also brought an increase of crime. This is no different than putting more liquor stores in out neighborhood which also attracts crime. I'm glad our people here who fought decades of having a peaceful city stood their ground.

libertyminded

Crime wave in Snowflake centered on Farms? WTFreak does this have to do with Liquor Stores? One can probably go in a liquor store, probably not a Pot Farm. It is a lot different, putting a bunch of Greenhouses or a bunch of Liquor Stores. I know which I want to live next to.

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