Following a lengthy two-year stalemate, the Town of Camp Verde has officially denied the Yavapai-Apache Nation’s permit to mine sand and gravel on former ranch land located near Arizona 260 and Old Highway 279.
Wednesday night, Town Manager and Community Development Director John Roberts summarized a report he provided the council on the matter.
According to Roberts’ summary, the Nation applied for a mining permit to mine sand and gravel with a crushing and screening operation on Dec. 28, 1998 under the mining ordinance adopted by a former council in May 1992.
He said the Planning and Zoning Commission had heard the matter in February of 1999; the council in March of 1999 and at a council meeting of July 28, 1999, the application was tabled because it was found to be incomplete. He then went on to say that the council entered into negotiations with the Nation and that the legal issues have not been resolved since that time; that there has been no further action to bring the application into compliance with the town’s requirements.
The motion, read by Councilman Jim Redinger, stated, "I hereby move that the Town Council deny Yavapai-Apache Sand and Gravel’s pending permit No. 92-02/UP-99-02, submitted Dec. 28, 1998, based upon the entire record; the deficiencies of the application (it does not meet the requirements of the new and old mining ordinance); and the specific grounds in the town manager’s report."
The land being mined is not tribal sovereign land, but rather fee land that falls under the town’s jurisdiction zoned residential. In spite of the town’s refusal to act on the permit request for various reasons cited in Roberts’ report under the then-current mining ordinance, (the town has since adopted a new, more restrictive mining ordinance), the Nation continued mining.
Based upon legal advice, tribal officials said on several occasions that they were not subject to the mining ordinance because it exempted anyone who was reclaiming land for personal and agricultural use, which the Nation indicating it was doing.
Roberts’ report clearly states that the Nation has exceeded the limits of agricultural and personal uses of the property in violation of the old mining ordinance, and "is conducting a regular commercial sand-and-gravel mining operation including the sale of materials."
Before the vote, Ed Davidson, the Y-A Nation’s sand and rock operations’ manager, the only member of the Nation present at the meeting, told the council that he found discrepancies with what Roberts had said. He said there had been no response to the Nation, especially after the intergovernmental agreement. The town and nation began negotiations in March to reach a dispute settlement through the development of an IGA. In late August, the Nation refused to sign the document indicating it wasn’t what was negotiated.
Davidson said, "We did contact you and sent a letter from our engineering firm. We were told at the time that a moratorium was still on the mining ordinance," he said. "We received nothing stating that the moratorium was released."
He went on to say that the Nation had not been asked to come back to comply with the permit or submit anything else.
"Now, evidently, there is some trick to what you have just done here by making the motion before you have public input on this. It comes out of your special session this afternoon."
Mayor Barbara Miller denied Davidson’s accusation.
Roberts told the council and Davidson that he stood on the report provided that listed the permit deficiencies ranging from the lack of appropriate identification of the applicant or its legal status (Y-A Sand and Gravel) to its failure to meet the town’s zoning ordinance requirements.
Councilman Eric Eberhard said he had read "up and down" the report provided by Roberts.
"I agree that it is a reflection of the history and circumstances and I stand behind it," he said.
Davidson countered, "If you do deny this permit, we would like to request that we get our funding back that we turned in for the permit on this. The bottom line is that everybody knows that this is going on to litigation. Let the judges decide this thing."
In spite of Davidson’s plea to the council not to deny the permit, the council approved Redinger’s motion with a 4-2 count. Mayor Miller and Councilwoman Jackie Baker opposed the motion stating that they had not had sufficient time to review the report before voting. Roberts indicated the draft had been available for review on Dec. 29. Miller said she had just returned to town one hour prior to the council session. Baker said that she had not found the information as of 4 p.m. on Dec. 29.
The Nation was served with a zoning violation by Roberts’ department this fall. They were ordered to appear before the town’s hearing officer on Dec. 5. They then made a request to postpone until Jan. 9.
"Our attorneys have stipulated with the Nation that they have until Friday (Jan. 5) to file an action in Superior Court. If not, we have a hearing scheduled for Jan. 9," Roberts said.