COTTONWOOD – Monday, the Cottonwood Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously shot down the zone change request and design review for Bill Gray Plaza – a single parcel to be used as an ATV rental office.
Around 25 people attended the meeting.
The vote was decided after concerned residents took turns speaking out against it. One spoke in favor of the plan, but the majority of the meeting’s attendees were worried about the impact of ATVs on the land.
Property owners Oasis Arabians, LLC, requested the zone change and design review of a single parcel from AR-70 (agricultural/residential) to C-2 (heavy commercial) to provide ATV rental services and construct a new building.
According to the Commission’s agenda, the business would be owned and operated by Vortex Healing ATV Adventure LLC. The business currently operates from 3420 E. SR 89A in Cottonwood. Approximately nine ATV’s are available at the location and applicant anticipated having up to 30 ATVs over time at the new location, stated the agenda.
The new location would have allowed ATV renters to access Forest Service land and dirt roads to the north, northeast, and northwest of the property, without having to drive on SR 89A, according to the project’s proposal. Turn-by-turn maps would have been provided to riders showing recommended trails that can be accessed via Bill Gray Road, and avoid the residential area known as Casner Estates, stated the proposal.
The property is located at 685 N. Bill Gray Road, and sits on approximately 6 acres. It is currently used as a visitor’s center. To the north is Yavapai County zoning and vacant state trust lands; to the south is a portion of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and planned area development vacant land across SR 89A; to the east is planned area development vacant land; and to the west are the community facilities of the Catholic Church and a city well.
The Commission reviewed the submittal and found the overall proposed use of the land meets the General Plan guidelines.
The applicant held the required neighborhood meeting and received generally positive feedback from neighboring property owners regarding the project, stated the agenda. However, the Commission also received voicemails and emails from property owners who live in the Casner Estates area farther out on Bill Gray Road. “These property owners are concerned about the increased traffic and potential safety issues that may arise from the ATV rental,” stated the agenda.
The details of the project were presented to the Commission, which lead to a question and answer session.
It was clarified that the project would not be considered outdoor recreation, but more like a vehicle rental operation, like Enterprise. The question of who would clean up after irresponsible ATV riders loomed.
Representatives for the property said the project would be a quality outdoor experience with the family. Safety would be a priority and riders would be advised to only follow recommended trails based on their experience, representatives said, and riders would not be allowed to drive more than 55 mph.
This speed limit was contrary to what was in the Commission’s packet, which stated 30 mph. When the Commission asked if the ATVs were licensed, the response was “they are in compliance with federal and state laws. “
When asked what they would do if riders ignored safety instructions, the response was “we will do what the law requires.”
The representatives said they have no control if riders choose to veer off the recommended trails.
There also seemed to be a miscommunication between the property’s representatives regarding a practice area behind the Catholic Church.
The public then had an opportunity to speak before the Commission. One man spoke in favor of the project, reflecting back to a positive family experience involving ATV rentals. Six people spoke out against it.
Those who spoke out against the project shared a common concern for the environment. Many end up on garbage patrol. Some said they were nearly run off the road by irresponsible ATV riders. Some riders get lost, and some get injured, resulting in emergency flights on the land. One person died four or five years ago, said one woman.
Some commenters emphasized said that guided ATV tours were safer and more responsible than self-guided ones. The land is used quietly by hikers, dog walkers, and horseback riders, one woman said, resulting in a small impact on the land. The use of ATVs would be destructive, she said.
Commissioners Jean Wilder and Thomas Narwid thanked the public for coming to the meeting, and said they appreciated what they had to say. All of the Commissioners seemed to be on the same page regarding the project.
Chairperson Ed Kiyler said he was disappointed with the presentation. He said that the Commission has been waiting on a master plan from the applicant for over 10 years.
Kiyler said there was conflicting information, absence of detail, and unanswered questions.
Vice Chairperson Robert Williams asked if there was the possibility of a conditional use permit. Community Development Planner Scott Ellis explained that it was not.
Williams made a motion to not recommend the approval of rezoning and design review of Bill Gray Plaza. It was seconded and passed unanimously.
In other business
In a March 22 Verde Independent story titled ‘Plans stall for ATV rentals on Bill Gray Road’ the action of a new business item was published in error.
The Commission tabled, not approved, the request for a conditional use permit to allow for the construction of the Castro Guest House.
It is a 750 square foot detached guest hose located at the rear of the property located at 1114 S. 6th St. in Cottonwood. The location is zoned R-1 (single family residential) and required the permit for the guest house.
Staff reporter Jennifer Kucich apologizes for the error.