The Second in the Series, The Will of the People Be Damned, by Sedona Eye columnist Eddie S. Maddock looks at the incorporation of Sedona and subsequent efforts to manage its development.
The deciding election for whether or not Sedona was to incorporate occurred in the fall of 1987. When the final votes had been counted in early December, the decision to incorporate was deemed valid and Sedona began her journey as an official city in early 1988.
A previous attempt to incorporate in 1985 geographically included the entire area known as Greater Sedona, encompassing both school and fire districts. However, that election failed and incorporation was rejected. The second attempt which reduced the proposed city limits to their current boundaries was approved by a margin of 3-2.
After incorporation, some locals had become restless long before the time frame of the development proposals cited in Part One of this discourse.
Because of that, during the summer of 1993 a movement ensued by a small group of citizens. The end result was formation of what was coined an “alliance” to become an Arizona non-profit corporation known as The Responsible Residents of the Red Rocks aka 4R with the mission statement: “The Responsible Residents of the Red Rocks, Inc. are committed to preserve and improve the quality of life in Greater Sedona. We take responsibility as citizens and stewards for the present and the future that this unique place offers its residents. Our vision is a community where generations of people thrive in productive harmony with each other and with nature.”
In the first 4R newsletter dated January 1994 they already declared a membership as of December 20, 1993 of two hundred. By April 6, 1997 that number had grown to 479 which, in those days, easily rivaled support for both Keep Sedona Beautiful and the Chamber of Commerce.
Having progressively lost faith in City Officials’ commitment that the Community Plan coupled with area planning efforts, codes, and ordinances would serve well enough to manage growth, the 4R proceeded to legally succeed in placing Proposition 401, the Sustainable Growth Initiative, on the May 21, 1996 ballot. Their observance of the city’s trend to water down the Community Plan was the primary target, and the ultimate goal was simply to pump the brakes in order to allow sewer capacity and other infrastructure needs and related maintenance an opportunity to play catch up within presently existing areas.
The object of the ordinance was to slow the rate of construction in Sedona to preserve the environment and manage growth . . . not to stop development! That, however, very quickly became the convenient and erroneous determination of city planners, developers, and realtors in an attempt to avert tighter controls.
Upon voter approval of Proposition 401 on May 21, 1996, albeit by a small margin, opponents wasted no time in taking legal action against the Sustainable Growth Initiative. Real estate broker John D. Miller, president and founder of Sedona Private Property Owners Association (Service name: Citizens Police Academy) determined it to be a popular ordinance but not legal.
And who were these unnamed members of Sedona Private Property Owners Association who apparently failed to voice their objection by casting their votes on Election Day? Hmmm . . . could it be that they, as well as John D. Miller, were, in fact, not residents living within Sedona City Limits and thus weren’t registered voters? And yet, as it turned out, they prevailed and succeeded in overturning the will of legitimate residents who should have mattered because it was their city they were attempting to protect.
And so you see, the recent incident of the battle of ownership of West 89A wasn’t the first time the voices of Sedona residents had been ignored which resulted in a ballot measure. Will the decisive outcome of that effort also be subjected to a court challenge?
As development marched onward within Sedona City Limits, a similar troubling situation was brewing in 1998. A debate was under way as the “Growing Smarter” process was moving forward, the purpose of which was to combat “urban sprawl” in yet another attempt to curtail unbridled growth statewide.
Specifically in our immediate area Suncor, one of Arizona’s then most financially and politically powerful corporations, made its intentions clear that they desired to acquire a 300 acre parcel at “The Dells” for the purpose of developing a residential/commercial mixed use project which was substantially supported by at least two of our local developers, John D. Miller and Gary Hughes.
As comparisons were made using stretches of strip development between Dewey and Prescott, Show Low and Pinetop, Oracle and Tucson, was this what we wanted for our area? At least at that time the resounding will of the people was heard: “NO!” However, that was in 1998 and we are now embarking into the beginning of 2012 and another election for three members to the Sedona City Council is in our faces.
With the recent announcement that acquiring land and a partnership is part of the city’s affordable housing plan, could it be that once again expanding Sedona City Limits will be on the horizon? How is it the city can agree to partner in the purchase of real estate without approval of the voters? Is that even legal?
At any rate, if expanded City Limits becomes a reality, will the owners of the former Offield Horse Ranch appeal to the city to rezone that property for commercial use? Yavapai County, in their infinite wisdom when approached with such a proposition did, indeed, determine it was an offer they could refuse because that’s exactly what they did. Given the same opportunity would our own Planning and Zoning Department and City Council make the same determination?
Will the need for affordable housing be the prime selling point to tempt the city to expand City Limits? If that’s the case, will future development agreements be more specific and include that intent within the agreements themselves, unlike what occurred, for example, with Miller’s Nepenthe Patio Homes and the affordable rentals made part of the contingency when the original Fairfield Timeshares gained an amendment to the Community Plan for rezoning? Such alleged affordable housing obviously never came to pass.
Will the greed for buying up vacant land be the underlying reason to resurrect this questionable need for more housing while some existing properties are still undergoing foreclosure and real estate remains a buyer’s market? Who is to say “affordable” isn’t presently available due to decline in real estate values?
We cannot change the past. What are the chances of protecting the future? Based on promises time and time again that the Community Plan will serve as our savior and the stark reality that the document itself holds little credibility, are we destined to be denied forever the words spoken by Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863?
Will we ever be able to trust our elected officials to listen and apply the choices of the majority in lieu of opting for their own defining opinions and actions?
Or are backroom plans already in motion for implementations the moment the votes are counted and new members of the Sedona City Council are seated?
As perhaps only “The Shadow” knew the actual purpose of the 30,000 square foot “office park” realistically was intended as the future Sedona City Hall, maybe only “The Shadow” knows what’s in store for expanding “urban sprawl?” That being the case, will anyone be surprised if the bottom line turns out to be short term personal gain for a select few?
Watch for Eddie S. Maddock’s Part Three of the Will of the People be Damned exclusively on SedonaEye.com.