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Debate—Cave Creek’s planning commissioners, including Ray Fontaine and Dan Baxley, at a recent meeting discuss proposals that could affect the town’s appearance.
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Commission shoots down Trenk-sponsored proposals
Eric Quade ~ Editor~ 4/23/2014
In a one-two policy punch last Thursday evening, members of Cave Creek’s planning commission rejected a couple of proposed zoning amendments put forth by the town council’s vice mayor, Adam Trenk.
The first proposal would have slightly scaled back some town regulations pertaining to fences and walls. Specifically, language in Cave Creek’s zoning ordinances would have been modified in two significant ways:
First, the allowable height for fences and walls—before requiring a building permit or zoning clearance review—would have increased to a total of 5.5 feet and 4 feet, respectively, as measured from ground level. Restrictions currently measure from either structure’s base, even if buried, and fences are bound by the same 4-foot height standard as walls.
Second, properties zoned “desert rural” would have been allowed to erect fences without requiring a building permit and zoning clearance as long as they were no taller than 5.5 feet (measured at ground level) and were set back more than 25 feet from property lines.
Ian Cordwell, the town’s director of planning, said that the proposal had come up for commission debate via an unusual route.
“Normally when staff brings forward a recommendation to change the zoning ordinance in any way, it’s based on input from the public, or variance cases that we get or discussions—things that we notice,” he said. “In this particular case, it was input gathered by the vice mayor, who then brought it to staff and worked with staff to craft some recommended changes to the zoning ordinance.”
Cordwell added that people apparently wanted to put up temporary horse corrals on the weekend, but permits would typically be required.
Although some of the debate at the April 17 meeting expressed concern about double walls, climbable fences and more in a residential context, Commissioner Ray Fontaine said that the proposed amendment appeared to be tailored toward the “equestrian kind of properties.”
Vice-Chair Rae Iverson wasn’t so sure, however.
“If indeed it is only a proposal that will be reflected on horse properties, that’s actually not in the proposal,” she said. “It says ‘including’ corral fences … I’m finding it very difficult to agree with the proposed changes because I think the oversight loss is a tremendous loss to the town, to the properties, to neighboring properties and to the appearance of properties in town.”
A motion to recommend the proposed amendments to the full town council failed on a 4-2 vote.
Commissioners then unanimously recommended the council reject a proposed change to the regulations governing A-frame, “sandwich” style signs that commonly sit on sidewalks.
Luke Kautzman, senior planner for the town, said that Cave Creek had researched portable sign policy at length back in December 2011, resulting in the removal of time limits for displaying portable signs.
“The rationale for removing the time limit was the enforceability—nights, weekends, holidays. Who would be out making sure signs were where they were supposed to be and everything on those days,” he said.
Kautzman said that Trenk’s proposed changes to portable signs included limiting each one to being displayed no more than 20 days per month and out no more than 4 days in a row. Additionally, the vice mayor requested that certain drug references be outlawed:
“Signage referencing drugs classified by the federal government … as a Schedule 1 controlled substance using symbols, language or innuendo, including but not limited [to] any depiction of green crosses, leaves, powders or paraphernalia or reference by name or slang,” according to the proposal.
Kautzman said the vice mayor’s recommendation was atypical for a zoning ordinance.
“We limit size, placement—all those things,” he said. “The current ordinance does not say anything regarding content.”
Kautzman said that he asked the town’s legal counsel to review if the amendment could result in a First Amendment violation, but there had been no response.
Commissioners expressed concerns with the number of sandwich signs on display, but they also said that the suggested amendment was problematic.
“They seem to have proliferated like bunnies in a cage,” said Iverson about portable signs in Cave Creek.
Chairman Ted Bryda asked for clarification about exactly which drugs would fall under the amendment’s prohibition, but Cordwell said he wasn’t sure.
Bryda said that if marijuana fell under the policy, then Cave Creek would “probably have some legal problems.”
Commissioners went on to show their disapproval of the proposed amendment, voting 6-0 against it.
Both proposals for fences/walls and portable signs will still go before the full town council for consideration.