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Wed, Oct. 16

Camp Verde should stick to its guns on Verde Connect

Gail Pate is a Camp Verde resident who lives in the Middle Verde community.

Gail Pate is a Camp Verde resident who lives in the Middle Verde community.

At the Oct. 2 Camp Verde Town Council meeting, at least 20 citizens wanted to speak against the Verde Connect road proposed to bisect the Verde Valley through Middle Verde.

Council was asked to respond to a letter from the Yavapai County Works Department. The letter, dated Sept. 10, was written by County Public Works Director Daniel Cherry.

When our public time had come, Mayor Charlie German began a monologue, which at times seemed more like a soliloquy as he reminisced about his own history in the town.

The mayor then proceeded to reiterate information that has been repeatedly addressed at many presentations by the county and by proponents of Verde Connect.

Later, when the mayor asked if anyone wanted to speak, I raised my hand and waved it at him. I was ignored.

Mayor German’s speech, long and repetitive, was a plea for council to compromise with the county to allow various actions with the road construction that would mitigate the impact on our Middle Verde Road area.

Allowing adoption of one of the two routes selected by the county would be tantamount to rescinding their previous no-build resolution. Picking one of the choices for the connector road would be, by default, approving the Verde Connect project. 

So discussion led to a need to first rescind the original resolution. This was brought up by Council Member Bill LeBeau as a point of order. Councilor Whatley said that the annulment of the resolution was not on the agenda, so it could not be legally acted upon at this meeting.

My husband and I have developed a small horse boarding stable on 7 ½ acres. We are located at the intersection of Middle Verde Road and Forest Road 119A. We have seen tremendous changes in the Middle Verde area since 1985, but none as threatening to our way of life as this proposal to cross the area with a high-traffic road.

Riparian land is very rare and precious in our state and Camp Verde is privileged to have quite a bit in its jurisdiction. There are many efforts now underway to develop the advantages of having the river here such as a big park on Salt Mine Road, parks and boating and hiking trails near I-17 and others. 

Publicity for the area on the Camp Verde town website features the river recreational possibilities and the serenity of vacationing in our area for US and foreign visitors. 

Now we are considering construction of a major thoroughfare right through the heart of the Middle Verde Character Area, which is a special riparian area that is home to old growth forests and threatened species. The area was designated by popular vote to be preserved for agriculture, animal keeping and river and wild land recreational uses.

This was the expectation to land owners then and the promise to people purchasing properties here later on when the town voted for character areas and people selected the rural environment. Residents in Middle Verde knowingly chose to be away from traffic, and away from the convenience of short travel time to store fronts and urban activities.

Most of us own more land than we really need for our use, but have preserved the extra land by paying the additional property taxes for years and the cost of maintenance to keep the area true to a rural and well-kept neighborhood.  

High-traffic movement through our neighborhood would highly impact all that we love about the area.  It would increase crime in the area, would increase traffic accidents on our narrow roads with no shoulders, would increase fire risks and add much noise to housing that is near the small roadway.

 My husband and I are both geezers. He is 93 and I am 76 and together we board horses. I have heard comments from our county supervisors that we need fast access to the Middle Verde Area using people of our ages as the reason in case of emergency. We would certainly qualify as elderly but we feel that having a good road to I-17 is totally adequate for emergencies. 

There are so many neighborhoods that are more isolated from emergency response than we are in the Middle Verde. We would never consider going down a small, winding rural road to a bridge with another small road to state route 260 to go to Cottonwood if we were in urgency.

It is 3.7 miles to I-17 from the intersection of 119A and Middle Verde Road at our driveway. That’s far better access than many people in Yavapai County have.

We are not disadvantaged as described in the original proposal. Most of the residents in the area are comfortable or financially advantaged. Nearly everyone (maybe everyone) has access to private transportation.

There are many economic reasons as to why we oppose this road construction and a bridge that requires at least one roadway to connect to I-17 and Cornville Road because we cannot accept the enormous costs compared to the questionable benefits to the affected taxpayers. 

Then there are some procedural concerns about the speed with which the county wants you to select a route for a road. I believe you need to see a NEPA report before you can decide.

Has Jacobs Engineering hired a geotechnical company to do an investigation at the proposed bridge site? Has ADOT selected a bridge design? The ADOT bridge engineer has to pick a design and decide whether the Verde formation limestone can carry that bridge design’s weight. That decision is done by the bridge engineer who is a licensed civil engineer. And he will have the geotechnical engineer’s input. Some of that expertise is not within our county offices.

If the route is to be proposed without our town council’s approval, so be it. If those requirements and many others are not now in place, how can the county be so sure of the two choices they are offering for you to select one?

It is premature for our town council to make a decision on rescinding the no-build resolution.

Gail Pate is a Camp Verde resident who lives in the Middle Verde community.

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