Tue, Jan. 28

Response deadline set regarding Bashas' Center petition

Cottonwood Citizens for Public Participation on Wednesday filed a request for a briefing schedule in the case of the group's petition for a referendum related to the new Bashas' Center planned at Arizona 89A and Verde Heights Drive.

The referendum petition is known as R-2001-02.

Yavapai County Superior Court Judge David L. Mackey issued a subsequent order Wednesday, requiring Cottonwood City Clerk Marianne Jiménez to file and serve an answering brief "on or before March 22."

The city clerk, listed as respondent on the city's behalf, confirmed Friday that she had received the two-page order by certified mail from Cherie Ryan, a Verde Heights resident and member of Cottonwood Citizens for Public Participation.

The latest action by the citizen's group attempts to speed up the court process regarding the petition in question, possibly allowing the city to put it with a companion referendum petition – R-2001-01 – on a special-election ballot sometime before the May 20, 2003, general election.

The problem stems from two sets of petitions – one regarding Resolution 1886 and one regarding Ordinance 408, both approved Nov. 29 by the Cottonwood City Council.

Resolution 1886 – or the subject of referendum petition R-2001-01 – redesignated the General Plan land use for the 144-acre parcel from "residential/mixed use" to "commercial, multi-family residential, business park, and open space/trails."

Ordinance 408 – addressed by referendum petition R-2001-02 – amended zoning from R-1 (single-family residential), R-2 (single- or multi-family residential), and C-1 (light commercial) to PUD-C/R (planned unit development, commercial-residential).

A serial-number mistake on R-2001-02 regarding Ordinance 408 was discovered when the petitions were submitted to Jiménez for filing Dec. 31.

That serial number was corrected subsequently by citizen's group member Sally Davidson and rushed back to the clerk's office for filing.

In a Jan. 8 letter, the city clerk formally advised Davidson that the petitions regarding Ordinance 408 were being refused because "the petitions did not contain the correct serial number when they were circulated," in violation of state statutes.

The clock began running from the date of refusal – Dec. 31, according to city attorneys. Davidson and the group of neighbors were left with only two days to file their special action in superior court.

The city clerk's letter cited the specific 1992 appellate court case used as the case precedent by the city attorneys as Barry v. Alberty.

Jiménez's letter further stated, "Thus, contrary to my personal position in the matter, it could be that a court might find that the period in which you were required to seek review of my refusal began to run on Dec. 31, 2001, rather than today.

"And if that is true, the time in which you must file a petiton for special action would expire on Jan. 10, 2002, because, in the same case cited above, the court held that this period was not extended by weekends, holidays, or mailing time, as is usually the case with other civil actions."

The citizen's group filed its petition for special action with the court Jan. 11, according to court documents.

Meanwhile, referendum petition R-2001-01 regarding Resolution 1886 – redesignating the General Plan land use for the 144-acre parcel of Groseta Ranch land, owned by Andy Groseta and slated for development of the new Bashas' Center – was formally presented Feb. 19 to the city council during its regular meeting.

The council is awaiting the court's decision regarding R-2001-02 to schedule a special election; or the matter could wait until the next regularly scheduled general election of May 20, 2003.

However, a 90-day period must elapse between formal announcement and an election, according to state statute.

Bashas' developer Howard T. Grace, of W.M. Grace Development Co., Phoenix, had hoped to open the new Bashas' Center store in fall 2003.

At the council's Feb. 19 meeting, Groseta said, "We ask the council to expedite the process as much as possible."

"Time is of the essence," he added, reiterating the developer's time constraints for the initial site work.

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