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The Will of the People, Be Damned

Eddie S. Maddock, Sedona Eye columnist

Sedona AZ (January 23, 2012) – “. . . and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” as spoken by Abraham Lincoln during his Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863.

As we look at our great nation and smaller communities so many, many years later, was this not intended to apply to future generations?

Let us take Sedona, for example. The proponents for incorporation sold their bill of goods essentially based on two promises: (1) an opportunity to control growth and style of future development; (2) fear that lack of a central sewer system would render properties worthless.

After incorporation it took only a short time for voters to begin questioning the direction of Sedona’s future. Why were new developments lined up and given a heads up to build and connect to the sewer prior to older subdivisions that “allegedly” had been deemed in jeopardy? When people showed up at the original leased City Hall facility to voice objections to certain proposed policies, why were they ignored?

Case in point: On Oct. 25th 1994 a standing room only crowd begged and pleaded for denial of implementation of Administration Waivers, providing for up to a 25% deviation from development standards in cases where, due to physical constraints, size and shape, property may not be used like other properties in the zone. Who would make the determinations and questionably subjective variances?

Will of the people? Ignored . . .  as were similar public objections to the implementation of “alternate standards.” What became of the hard core building codes promised to those who opted to vote for incorporation?

The pace of development in the city accelerated, as evidenced by approval during a relatively short time frame, specifically May, June, and early July, 1996, which included:

  • At the May 14th  Sedona City Council meeting, a 109-unit timeshare resort and 31,700 square feet of retail and restaurant space at the “Y” (89A & SR179),  conditional to begin construction as soon as city sewer service became available.
  • Courthouse Plaza, a 30,000 square foot single-story office park, centered around a common courtyard, received City Council approval on May 28th, to be built on 2.8 acres at the southeast corner of Roadrunner Drive and Cardinal Lane. Who knew at that time it would become present-day City Hall? “The Shadow?”

Projects already in the works included but weren’t necessarily limited to:

  • Construction was about to commence on the 56-room first phase of the 119 room Hampton Inn.
  • Stormaster Development Co. was about to break ground on a 58,000 square foot mini-storage facility located on 3.5 acres just south of the Nepenthe Patio Home Development on Shelby Drive which, after full build-out, was to have about 300 commercial and residential storage spaces.
  • Nepenthe Patio Homes development had received occupancy permits for their first five homes and was under construction with another 62 homes. At full build-out the project was to total 182 homes on 24 acres.
  • A 10,000 square foot mini-storage project was approved to be built on 2.5 acres, north side of Yavapai Drive next to Oak Creek Brewery.
  • Construction began on All Seasons 60-unit Sedona Summit timeshare resort across from Foothills south on the north side of 89A.
  • Canyon View, a 232-unit timeshare and nightly rental resort including a restaurant and health spa facilities was being proposed for the north side of 89A next to the KAZM radio station.
  • On May 7th  the P & Z Commission recommended for City Council approval at their meeting on June 25th of Pointe Springs, a 20,000 square foot office park to be located on three acres, south side of 89A, across from Les Springs subdivision
  • During this timeframe Walgreen’s proposed to build the 17,000 square foot free-standing drug store on the two acres at the southeast corner of 89A and Sunset Drive, where it presently operates.
  • On July 2nd  the P & Z Commission was also to consider a proposal by Meridian West to build 276 hotel rooms, 60,000 square feet of commercial space, 26,000 square feet of restaurant space and a seven-acre publicly-accessible park on 23 acres located on both sides of 89A at Art Barn Road in Uptown.
  • Also on July 2nd the P & Z Commission was to consider plans to develop a 70-room Homewood Suite motel on 1.97 acres located at the north side of 89A, just west of the Sedona Post Office.
  • And preliminary discussions were under way for two new motel developments seeking to build two 50 to 60 room motels, one on the south side of 89A opposite Madole Road and the other on the southwest corner of 89A and Kalloff Place.

Acknowledging that not all of these projects became reality, the fact remains that approval had been granted for specific developments on each site which, in most instances, would automatically increase values for resale of the vacant land.

In February of 1999 yet another unpopular proposal was made before then seated City Council, giving City Manager authority to settle monetary claims up to $25,000 which involved the city without prior approval by City Council. Certain minor language changes were suggested by council members who facilitated the proposal to be approved at a subsequent meeting.

After public disclosure that City Manager, Mike Letcher, on his own initiative, authorized an expenditure of $96,000 in spite of the specified limitation and dismissing City Council concern and   public outcry, in September of 1999 the $25,000 change in city purchasing policy giving the city manager spending authority without approval was boosted to $150,000. If anyone is aware that this has been revised in any way, let us hear from you.

And so, folks, offered above are a few of examples for residents’ unrest and displeasure with city management and the cavalier attitude towards “we, the people.” A revolt was stirring as indicated by the rapidly spreading chorus which was close to echoing off the Red Rocks of Sedona: “We’re mad as hell and aren’t going to take it any more.”


(To be continued.)


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  1. Jean Jenks says:

    Even though the housing bubble has burst, local housing prices have plummeted nearly 50% and the real estate depression continues, our Sedona Housing Commission is demonstrating its profound ignorance of the economy and lack of concern for local property owners by pursuing development.

    That the Commission scheduled a meeting with a landowner on a possible land acquisition for low-income housing and met with Habitat for Humanity several times is very troubling. The unintended consequences of the Housing Commission’s economic illiteracy will be more downward pressure on property values and the quality of life in Sedona.

    E.g., won’t low-income housing be coming to a nice neighborhood? To one where many are already dealing with foreclosures, underwater loans, negative equity and/or vacated houses? How many more homes will be in financial hot water as a result of an increase in the housing supply in Sedona during this era of lost demand? When will the Housing Commission step up to the plate and protect the interests of Sedona’s current property owners? Don’t you feel it insane that a City development project is being planned for a small municipality with a bonded indebtedness of over $60 million, i.e., approximately $5,900 per resident?

    Lastly, why should Sedona’s Housing Commission be allowed to operate as a developer?

  2. Henry Twombly says:

    I commend Eddie and Jean on their article and comments. I’ve only been in respectively. Sedona for a little over four years, and I have found the City Council very unresponsive to local concerns. As in the past, they seem to represent business concerns over the public good – which seems to be typical of all levels of government. My biggest concern is that Sedona will become an overdeveloped, tacky tourist trap. In terms of our debt, I find the City Council, the School District, and Fire District to be fiscally irresponsible, always fear-mongering to promote their personal agendas. I’ve decided to vote against Home Rule as a last-ditch effort to get the City to curtail its spending. Thanks again for the information and insights. And hopefully we the people will take back our government, which would then promote common sense for the common good.

  3. Jean Jenks says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Henry Twombly about City government’s unresponsiveness to citizens’ concerns, so intend to vote “NO” on the Home Rule Option also. In my opinion, defeating Home Rule is probably the only real opportunity “we, the people” will get to restrain City Hall spending.

  4. Warren says:

    Dittos to Henry & Jean. Voting NO on Prop. 420, the “Home Rule Option”, is the Sedona residents’ only hope of reining in Council’s insane and wasteful spending.

    Candidates continually claim to be “fiscally conservative” but it never works out in practice.

    Do not be fooled by Council and Staff’s continued claims of fiscal responsibility. If Sedona was in such great financial shape then already high wastewater fees would not be skyrocketing, “court costs” would not have been implemented, and neither would have the new “licensing fees” for businesses.

    Vote NO on Prop. 420, the “Home Rule Option”, or expect more “fees” and “costs” in the future.

  5. Jean Jenks says:

    More on new fees: Under our current City Manager an undemocratic, discriminatory, financially stiffling fee was implemented with regard to elections. Submitting your statement for inclusion in the City of Sedona’s “Publicity Pamphlet and Text of Ballot” publications mailed to qualified voters, always free of charge before, now costs $250.00.

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