Wednesday was a big decision-making night for Camp Verde.
After months of debates, followed by more than four months of negotiations, the Camp Verde Town Council, by a vote of 4-3, approved its version of an Intergovernmental Agreement.
The IGA between the town and the Yavapai-Apache Nation is an attempt to shore up a fight between the two parties over the Nation’s illegal mining operation in a residentially zoned area near Arizona 260 and Old Highway 279 in Camp Verde. The town’s adopted version of the IGA addresses several aspects directly and indirectly related to the sand-and-gravel mining operation, and the Nation’s land where the mining is taking place. The Nation hopes to convert the land to trust status, which would remove it from town’s jurisdiction for zoning and taxing purposes. Part of the IGA includes potential in-lieu fees the town could expect, in particular a 50-percent sales tax for any non-Indian business operations on the property, if the land goes into trust. In-lieu fees are those taxes and fees the town should receive because the land has not yet been placed in trust.
In a letter sent by the town last week to the Nation explaining the town’s position on the IGA, it implied it would take a supermajority vote by the council to pass the IGA. Town Manager John Roberts said Wednesday night it wasn’t so. He told council members the IGA did pass by a simple majority vote, but clarified any amendments to the general plan, an element of the proposed IGA, would require a supermajority or at least five council votes.
Three council members voted against the IGA —Tony Gioia, Brenda Hauser and Jim Redinger. Prior to the vote, Gioia went over the IGA point by point saying over and over the acronym “IGA” really meant “I give it away.” He said he believed the conditions of the IGA strongly favored the Nation and did little for the town.
The council meeting was the second public hearing on the IGA as promised to the public.
Audience member Leon Raper told the council he was going to file a complaint with the state’s attorney general’s office for what he suspected was a violation of the Open Meeting Law. He maintained, presumably based on the contents of a letter signed by Vice Mayor Brenda Hauser, that the council agreed in executive session to support the final version of the IGA.
According to Roberts, the council will now submit the town’s signed version of the IGA to the Nation to see what type of response it gives. The Nation will have 30 days to respond.
During the meeting, Ed Davidson, general manager of the Nation’s Sand and Rock operations, and Nation Attorney General Helen Avalos reiterated Chairman Vincent Randall’s words from last week’s council meeting — that the Nation was not happy with the town’s proposed IGA version, that it did not coincide with the negotiations and will not be accepted by the Nation. Both Avalos and Davidson strongly encouraged the council to re-enter negotiations. Davidson said that once the town signed the IGA document, the 30-day waiting period for the Nation’s acceptance would be in vain. It appears the town is remaining steadfast in its position and is continuing the process to approve the IGA in the hopes the Nation will accept the town’s adopted version.
Prior to passing the intergovernmental agreement, an amended mining ordinance was passed despite concerns raised by several audience members, particularly about the grading restrictions contained in the new ordinance.
The town’s mining ordinance was at the core of the dispute with the Y-A Nation. Several months ago, the town ordered its Planning and Zoning Commission to revise the ordinance.
Under the new mining regulations, all mining operations, whether historic or new, must have a permit to operate in any area (see related story). The current zoning code does not have any specific areas for mining and, according to Roberts, the next step will be to clarify where, if anywhere, such operations could take place.
It is estimated there are several businesses that would be affected by the new mining rules because of the restrictive grading element that, according to some, includes unreasonable noise restrictions and time elements. The new regulations could affect several major players in town such as Shill Enterprises, Gypsum (Phoenix Cement), McDonald Brothers Construction, Inc., Blevins Construction, Parker Construction, United Metro (formerly Superior).
“If they really bear down on the restrictions, it could affect anyone in that business even small contractors,” C. A. McDonald of McDonald Brothers later commented.
Several commented that the 30-day restriction under the new mining rules was too restrictive for grading purposes; that contractors who are grading, in particular planned area developments, could not get the work done in 30 days.
Roberts later said that grading under 30 days is not affected by the mining ordinance; that anyone who is performing grading in phases could apply for a 30-day permit for grading and then re-apply for another 30-day permit according to their projected phases. The cost is on a sliding scale, he said, fewer than $100.