Tue, Oct. 15

Town might lick ice cream biz

Ben & Jerry's probably never had it so rough.

David Beeler just wants to share with the world, or at least this corner of it, the fruits of his new invention. He said in a letter last month that he's created a unique way of making homemade ice cream: using a three-horsepower John Deere tractor engine.

But the story of an ice cream entrepreneur setting up shop at the mayor's farm each summer hit a snag this season. The Camp Verde Board of Adjustments could shut down the operation on Tuesday due to zoning violations.

Beeler spent at least a year researching the unusual application for a tractor engine. He chose the corn stand owned by Camp Verde Mayor Brenda Hauser, on Pecan Lane, as the spot to debut his creation in 1996. Beeler said he's been serving up homemade ice cream every year since, but this is the first time the town has tried to stand in his way.

"We found that people enjoyed us being there and if we didn't show, inquiries were made as to where we were," he wrote of the success of the cottage industry. "Late in the corn season last summer we were asked to leave Hauser's corn stand by the Community Development Department. Nothing was ever said about being in violation in all the other years we were there."

Beeler applied to the town for a use permit early last month so that he could continue selling his ice cream, but was denied and sent to the Board of Adjustments.

"I am sure the Board of Adjustments will be fair in this matter," he wrote in his appeal to the board.

Thus far, the town seems to be making a case against the small business. A June 10 denial of Beeler's permit written by senior planner Nancy Buckel stated that the commercial use simply does not conform to the residential zoning in that area.

According to a staff report prepared by Buckel, the Planning and Zoning Department denied the ice cream sales request because it would "have an appearance of a commercial activity in a residential neighborhood."

The land's primary use by zoning regulations is a single-family dwelling and the "accessory" use is the Hausers' farm stand. The town's stance is that a home occupation may only be operated by a resident within a dwelling or attached building. Beeler does not live at the site.

The Hausers are a well-known local family of farmers who provide the corn for an annual festival held in Camp Verde in July. Corn foods such as corn dogs, kettle corn, and green-corn tamales are typically on the festival's menu, and the event is considered by locals to be a traditional slice of "Americana."

Said Mayor Hauser this week, "He comes in on Saturdays and Sundays with homemade ice cream. It's not a full-time business. It doesn't generate any more traffic. People who come to buy corn can buy a cup of ice cream."

The mayor said the surrounding area isn't affected by Beeler's weekend ice cream sales.

"It's a farm. There are no houses around." She added that Beeler can still operate his business while the matter is under appeal. "It's neat," she said of the homemade ice cream. "It fits in with the whole farm thing."

The board of adjustments is set to have its hearing on the sale of ice cream at the Hauser property on Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Town Hall.

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