Tue, Oct. 22

Tall order of business: Mago Earth Park and statue face planning review Monday

COTTONWOOD -- With the dedication of the Mago Earth Park Wednesday, the Cottonwood Planning and Zoning Commission will meet Monday evening to determine whether the 39-foot tall Mago Statue will remain in place as it now stands.

The Planning Commission will meet Monday at 6 p.m. in a larger venue to accommodate a possible overflow crowd at the Cottonwood Public Safety Building Meeting Room at 199 S. 6th St.

In mid-November, the Planning Commission held its first hearing on an application for extension of time for the Conditional Use Permit for the six acres of land at the northeast corner of Bill Gray Road and SR 89A. The land is zoned AR-70 for agriculture-residential use.

The use permit was first issued in January 2006, and has been amended four times since then.

Initially, the permit called for a manufactured home to be placed as a caretaker's residence. Applicants suggested it was an "interim use" of the property and that a zone change and development plan for a lodging facility would be submitted in three to five years.

Four months later, the Tao Fellowship asked that the manufactured home be allowed to be used as a waiting area for shuttle passengers to the Mago Retreat Center. They also asked for permission to landscape the property.

In March 2007, P&Z approved a further amendment to the user permit to allow for a farmer's market and other events on a monthly basis. The plan included a parking area and gazebos. Community Development Director George Gehlert, at the time, said the applicant talked about open-air weddings, art shows and "whatever the community needs." According to minutes from that meeting, the Commission wondered if this represented "zoning creep" and whether a rezoning was appropriate instead.

The planning department's administration approved a minor revision to allow for a small horse barn and corral and a decorative arch at the entrance to the park. The site now has a joint-parking agreement with the adjacent Immaculate Conception Catholic Church property. The Tao Fellowship asked about placing statues in the rear of the property, near the Catholic cemetery. However, when a rendering was requested, the Fellowship produced a drawing showing a 50-foot statue near the state highway. The application was referred back to the Planning Commission.

In November, the Planning Commission considered an extension of time for the conditional use permit that expires in March 2010. A design review is now needed to consider structures such as the pedestals for the statue. The commission had a difficult time making a decision and wanted more details, elevations and renderings and tabled the request.

However, Tao Fellowship agent Amy Ko complained that the statues were being cast in South Korea and would be brought to the site for a Dec. 16. dedication ceremony. The Commission allowed the "temporary placement of a 50-foot statue on the site for one week, during the scheduled event" according to the Nov. 16 meeting minutes.

Two days before the dedication, Amy Ko suggested in an application letter that the property be rezoned and requested department permission to add new facilities to the site. Those facilities would include 1) a gift shop 2) limited lodging and dining facilities and 3) a multi-use facility that would include conference space and tourist information.

Tao Fellowship planner James Cottle, in an application letter to the Community Development Department, cited additional uses. They include arts and crafts markets, a crystal fair, health and healing exhibitions, concerts and music festivals. The manufactured home would become an information center and bike rentals would also be provided.

Friday, Tao Fellowship asked for a permit to light the statue at night.

"The property was purchased to extend the vision of the Sedona Mago Retreat to a global level," stated Cottle's letter.

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