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Sun, Jan. 19

Judge orders action on new Bashas' to be re-served<br><i>Phoenix attorney for Cottonwood files motion to dismiss</i>

Cottonwood Citizens for Public Participation on Friday were to re-serve a special action requesting a briefing schedule in the case of the group's referendum petition R-2001-02.

The petition relates to the new Bashas' Center planned at Arizona 89A and Verde Heights Drive.

Yavapai County Superior Court Judge David L. Mackey issued an order, dated March 6, that the request be re-served.

Cherie Ryan, a Verde Heights resident and member of the citizens group, said the group had received the judge's order to re-serve on Wednesday. A legal server had picked up the document at 5 p.m. Thursday, to be served Friday to the city clerk, she said.

A previous order had required Cottonwood City Clerk Marianne Jiménez to file and serve an answering brief "on or before March 22." However, that date is now nixed, and the city clerk will have 10 days from the date of the re-service to respond.

Meanwhile, a motion to dismiss, dated Tuesday, was filed on the city's behalf by attorney Andrew S. Gordon, of the Phoenix law firm of Coppersmith Gordon Schermer Owens & Nelson, P.L.C.

The city's motion requests an appearance for oral arguments before the judge and cites the improper service as a reason for dismissal of the special action.

Ryan said, "I'm extremely optimistic that Judge Mackey is keeping the Arizona constitution in the forefront of his mind and (is) providing us – a very humble, grassroots organizaiton – the careful scrutiny required to preserve the rights granted by the constitution, to keep citizens in active participation in the legislative process.

"Let's pray his compassion for the common folk continues, and we are allowed the accessibility to the process, despite not having the money to hire expensive legal guns like the city has."

The action by the citizen's group attempts to speed up the court process regarding R-2001-02, 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 the other 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).

The rezoning involves a 144-acre parcel of Groseta Ranch land, owned by Andy Groseta and slated for development of the new Bashas' Center.

A serial-number error on R-2001-02 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.

However, in a Jan. 8 letter, the city clerk formally advised Davidson that R-2001-02 was being refused because "the petitions did not contain the correct serial number when they were circulated," in violation of state statutes.

The citizen's group filed its original special-action request with the court Jan. 11, according to court documents.

Referendum petition R-2001-01 was formally presented Feb. 19 to the city council.

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 in May 2003.

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.

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