Sat, Dec. 07

Jerome Town Council considers options for sale of 19.3 acres<br><i>Clarkdale unyielding on lot-split ordinance</i>

Library of Congress

AN act of Congress allowed President Woodrow Wilson to deed over to Jerome 40 acres for a new cemetery in 1915. Though the land is owned by Jerome it has been annexed into the town limits of Clarkdale.

"We can probably work through the issues," Richardson said. But he admitted the process would not be without hurdles.

Later in the scheduled council meeting, Sedona attorney Stephen J. Renard told the council creating a subdivision is not the only option.

"They are a bit over enthusiastic," Renard said of the comments made by Richardson and Gayle Mabery, Clarkdale town manager.

Renard outlined some options of his own, including filing suit against the Town of Clarkdale. Renard said he believes Jerome has a stronger claim than Clarkdale.

The controversy started when Clarkdale officials notified Jerome officials only a few days prior to a scheduled auction June 23 for the sale of the 19.334 acres that the property could not be split again. That opinion on the part of Clarkdale officials comes from a lot-splitting ordinance the town passed in 2001. The 2001 ordinance used 1986 as the reference for deciding the mother parcels. Any splits prior to 2001 are valid, but any splits after 2001 will be judged on the basis of how the original parcel existed in 1986.

Jerome was deeded 40 acres Nov. 8, 1915, by President Woodrow Wilson as land for a cemetery. This was allowed by an 1890 act of Congress.

In 1997, Jerome sold 10 acres of the land, which was then divided into three parcels by the purchaser. Now, Jerome wishes to sell 19.334 acres of the remaining 29 acres. But Clarkdale officials say the land cannot be split further. The ordinance was passed in 2001 to control wildcat development.

Jerome officials take the position that the town created three separate parcels of the 40 acres prior to the sale of the 10 acres in 1997. Jane Moore, Jerome vice mayor, said the town created the three parcels prior to Clarkdale's ordinance of 2001. She said the land was advertised as three parcels for sale and Clarkdale was notified.

Richardson agreed that if Jerome can document that three parcels were in fact created prior to 2001, the whole controversy may be moot. Jerome officials are in the process of trying to find the proper documentation.

The process could end up with both towns in a legal battle over how the land may be sold.

Clarkdale wants Jerome to essentially become a developer and create a subdivision with the property. But the process would include plans for infrastructure such as water, sewer, streets and lighting. It also would take a long time, as Richardson said he doubted that the process could be completed in 180 days.

Jerome officials are perplexed as to why the town council of Clarkdale does not simply pass some form of exception to the ordinance allowing the town to sell the 19 acres. Any developer who purchases the land will still have to go through the subdivision process with Clarkdale. Consequently, the Town of Clarkdale is not in danger of giving up control over how the land is developed. The exact same process will be followed whether Jerome creates a subdivision or a developer purchases the land.

When asked if Clarkdale could simply pass an exception allowing Jerome to sell the 19 acres, Renard said, "Absolutely, they could." Since it is rare for one town to own land in another town, Jerome officials feel that Clardale would not be setting any sort of precedent by allowing the auction of the land without first creating a subdivision.

Mabery told the Verde Independent that Clarkdale applies all laws equally to all people.

Jerome needs to sell the acreage to raise money to complete projects on other town properties, including completing the new civic center at the old Clark Street School, and building a fire escape at the Jerome Hotel, where the town hopes to provide affordable-housing apartments.

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