Sun, Jan. 26

Mining permit still at issue

Although Camp Verde prevailed in its legal case against the unsanctioned mining operations of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, granting a permit for town-approved mining is proving to be another challenge.

The town council discussed at a Nov. 20 work session the requirements that the Nation would have to meet in order to be granted a conditional use permit. About 26 such conditions exist, upon which hinge the continued operation of the facility.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Lindberg issued a decision this fall in the case of Camp Verde vs. the Yavapai-Apache Nation. The case was heard in Yavapai County Superior Court. The judge’s decision engendered confusion locally about its interpretation relative to the current mining laws.

According to the decision, the court rejected the Nation’s assertion "that the regulatory scheme under the mining ordinance was completely repealed or somehow rendered ineffective or inapplicable by the 1996 adoption of the Town Code and the concurrent repeal of the mining ordinance."

It continued, "The court finds that the provisions of the Town Code and/or mining ordinance were validly adopted." The ruling determined that, "The Nation has failed to produce any facts or evidence demonstrating that its excavation operation is exempt from the zoning regulatory scheme."

The bottom line is that the court ordered the Nation to "cease and desist in mining operations on the properties at issue unless and until they comply with the mining regulations of the town of Camp Verde."

Fred Sanchez, vice-chairman of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, has countered, "We still firmly believe that we have a right to perform sand and rock mining as part of our large-scale reclamation project."

The tribe first sued Camp Verde. The town then counter-sued the tribe and its businesses: Yavapai-Apache Rock and Yavapai-Apache Gravel.

Camp Verde entered into a suit with the Yavapai-Apache Nation in 2001 for what the town perceived to be an illegal mining operation. The Nation had been operating a sand-and-gravel mining operation without a use permit on fee land they own, which is zoned residential and located within town limits.

Representatives of the Nation repeatedly said that they are not subject to the zoning rules, under the guidelines of the old mining ordinance, because they are reclaiming the land for future development.

The Nation has been extracting sand and gravel from fee land it owns near Arizona 260 and Old Highway 279 since late 1998, without a permit. Additionally, the Nation has not paid the town local sales tax from the operation.

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