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Land exchange discussed at Cave Creek Council meeting


Tara Alatorre

CAVE CREEK – The Cave Creek Town Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that would create a land exchange between the town and the Horny Toad Restaurant on Sept. 21, which will be used for a non-motorized trail easement for the entertainment district when it passes final reading.

The Horny Toad Restaurant will receive a portion of the Desert Awareness Park at 38050 N Vermeersch Road, located directly in front of the Horny Toad, in exchange for signing over the wash located north of the restaurant.

Since the Horny Toad Restaurant is located in the entertainment district, the land exchange would provide Cave Creek a much-needed walkway for pedestrians and equestrians, “providing a much safer route,” said trails planner Bambi Mueller, who has been working on this project for the last year.

“I have been working for years on getting easements near that wash that provides a much safer route, and will add more usable property to the Desert Awareness Park,” said Mueller.

The land exchange provides legal access through the wash that is currently owned by Horny Toad Restaurant and is virtually unusable to the restaurant. Jeff Price, the owner of Horny Toad, said trading the property is a good deal for everyone; it will help straighten out the property lines and give him more usable land.

“The wash is not any good for my business,” Price said. 

Price estimates it will take about two weeks to gather all the title paperwork together, but says he will give the town the easement it is requesting for the land exchange. 

In a six to one vote, the town council denied reimbursement of $17,800 in development fees paid in October 2012. Roy and Penny Jewett paid development fees when they bought land to build a retirement home; unfortunately they were unable to build their house, and asked the council for a reimbursement of the development fees paid, since no housing structure was built.

However, according to a Cave Creek ordinance, the town is prohibited from reimbursing the Jewetts because grading and a small retaining wall was built, which is considered developed, according to town code.

“It sounds to me like it’s time we dig into policy and procedures and other things,” said Councilwoman Susan Clancy.

Clancy voted for the approval of the reimbursement, despite the town’s lawyer, who recommended against the action. She stated it was unfair to the Jewetts, and expressed disdain in her fellow councilmembers who were not prepared to make a change in the town code regarding the matter.

“How can you not be prepared to make a change to an ordinance, I am more inclined to go on and fix this so we can do what is fair,” she said.

Four roadways in Cave Creek have tested positive for unsafe levels of arsenic and lead because the sub-base of the road was originally built with mine tailings from the Phoenix Mine. The four identified roads are: 52nd Street; 51st street; Rockaway Hills; and Old Stage Road, according to Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

The council unanimously agreed to execute a declaration of environmental restriction or a “DEUR,” in cooperation with the AZDEQ on the four identified roadways.

The identified roadways tested positive for arsenic and lead in 2006 after the town completed a mediation program and sealed the roads. AZDEQ said no further action needed be taken once the town executed the DEUR, which essentially states the identified land cannot be used for residential use, and that Cave Creek must consult AZDEQ if the roads are modified.