Sedona AZ (June 20, 2012) – by Eddie S. Maddock, SedonaEye.com columnist.
As Sedona embarks on a two to four year voyage with a newly seated City Council (depending on term lengths), campaign “wish lists” have already surfaced in at least one arena.
During their recent election campaigns, individually, Mayor Rob Adams and long time Sedona real estate developer and former city council candidate John D. Miller both expressed a desire for the City of Sedona to purchase the northernmost available acreage in Uptown Sedona for public usage.
Because a portion of the property under consideration is creek side, it has now been linked with the possibility of establishing a city park and resurrecting the long researched idea for a path along Oak Creek.
At a City Council Meeting on May 22, 2012 (for direct web cast select Item 12 on the following site – http://sedonaaz.swagit.com/play/05222012-706) John D. Miller offered on behalf of his clients, Garden Incorporated, to purchase the 9+ acres on Soldier Pass Road owned by the City of Sedona for the purpose of creating a high end sculpture and meditation area.
Although this “gift” to Sedona will be a public park, an entrance fee will be charged to offset cost of maintenance.
The Garden Incorporated proposal would include a 10 year deed restriction for the conditional use as a public park after which time the heirs of the principals of Garden Incorporated would have the option to revert the property to its original zoned usage for housing or, quite possibly, be rezoned for other purposes after the 10 year duration.
The sale of City owned property – valued for $500,000 or more – necessitates voter approval and would further allow the option for open bidding.
Based on that, the dialog at this City Council meeting was pretty much focused on how the ballot issue would read. Would it, for example, include the 10 year deed restriction, etc?
Garden Incorporated is willing to pay for half the cost of putting it on the ballot or around $10,000 on an estimated total of $20,000.
Of course, the option of selling the 9+ acres for less than $500,000 would nullify the need for voter approval and dismiss the technicality allowing others to bid on the land which, at the present time (indicated at the meeting), had not actually been considered for sale.
Although with the exception of the few businesses just past Judi’s Restaurant, the property along Soldier Pass is zoned residential and the scenic quality ranks among Sedona’s finest. Future potential for rezoning to commercial or high density development beyond the 10 year deed restriction was not discussed at this time.
Miller consistently made mention that the city could take the proceeds from the sale of this land and purchase another park since the sale would (in simple speak) just mean a check for the city. Miller stressed that “time is of the essence” and encouraged a push to have this ballot measure included in the upcoming November election.
This agenda item, surprisingly, made the cut at a meeting anticipated to last for at least five hours and, it being the first city council meeting with its newly sworn members seated, apparently is considered high priority in the realm of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of our community. The conclusion of the presentation resulted in agreeing for further discussion at a (then undisclosed) time and place.
Acknowledging that residents have expressed interest in a creek walk, through input on the Sedona Community Plan and other public meetings, and after years of studying the project, it has never moved forward and with good reasons.
Many, many issues relating to intrusion on private property and, in addition to accommodating a local “wish list,” uncontrolled foot traffic from Sedona’s thousands of tourists would obviously factor in contributing to litter and pollution of Oak Creek, a protected waterway.
As recently as within the last four year city council term, then Vice Mayor Cliff Hamilton wisely emphasized the fact that a creek walk would be located within a designated flood plain. His convincing and thorough research relating to unknown costs of future maintenance and liability as being dangerously unpredictable, over and above initial expense to create such a project, were soundly realistic. Based on that, the issue was put to – what some were hoping – was a last tribute to a really unfeasible idea.
Not so, because here it is again, back on the drawing board.
The appropriation of 1.6 million dollars has been included in the 10-year improvement plan for a land purchase along Oak Creek – even though presumed “safe” areas are subject to potential flooding. Flood waters have the ability to change the course of a waterway – which is exactly what occurred when the island by the New Age Center was created.
At the city council meeting on June 13th, Item 9C Paragraph A-2, “Recreation Component at Wastewater Treatment Plant,” Councilman Dan McIlroy, in addition to questioning money set aside for that and what it meant, also wanted an explanation of the money earmarked for” Creek Access Park/Walk.”
Clarification from Sedona Assistant City Manager Karen Daines verified the 1.6 million dollars was specific and 100% for land acquisition only.
For those interested enough to learn the answer about the “Recreation Component at WT Plant” it’s suggested you refer to the pertinent dialog (by fast-forwarding approximately 15 minutes into Item 9C – June 13th meeting) on the web link provided herein, and then draw your own conclusions.
During that same June 13th meeting, Item 9F/Future Meetings was opened with a comment from Councilman Mike Ward. He questioned the purpose of a “pre-study” council meeting slated for June 26th and specifically wanted to know if it would appear on TV/web cast – which was his recommendation. His concern specifically related to “transparency to public” of what occurred in City council meetings.
Mayor Rob Adams and council members Jessica Williamson and Mark Dinunzio expressed preferences for holding this proposed meeting in the Vultee Conference Room, whereby only an audio recording would be made available relating to what transpired during this trial test for having a pre-council meeting for the alleged purpose of spending less time at lengthy regular city council meetings.
(For clarification City Attorney Mike Goimaric termed the pre-meeting as a “Special City Council Meeting” with a sort of “workshop” type tag since it was clearly a test of some sort, even if in name only, to shorten meetings.)
To benefit your clarification of this somewhat muddled situation and, in addition to Item 12 on the May 22 meeting, check out Items 9C and 9F on the following web site.
And then maybe ask yourself the following questions:
1. Will the city use the current decline in real estate property values as a questionable reason to discount the 9+ prime scenic acres on Soldier Pass Road by selling it for less than $500,000 in order to avoid a public vote?
2. Would that compensate for purchasing equally lower valued property in a known flood plain?
3. Has a “Recreation Component at the Wastewater Treatment Plant” actually been officially approved?
4. If the sale of the property of the city owned property becomes a ballot measure, then why not include a vote on approval of a creek walk and related expenses?
5. Will two shorter meetings, say 2-1/2 hrs each, still not add up to a 5 hr. meeting if the purpose of meeting #1 is simply to refine the agenda of meeting #2?
6. Would you find listening to an audio transcript nearly as amusing as watching the videos?
Seriously . . . have fun, check this out, and pray. Then let the lion roar.