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Bullhead City | Mohave Valley

Mining for lithium, at a cost to Indigenous religions

In western Arizona, the push for EVs threatens the Hualapai Tribe’s religious practices.

Maya L. Kapoor

One autumn evening four years ago, Ivan Bender, a Hualapai man in his mid-50s, took a walk with his fluffy brown-and-white Pomeranian, Sierra Mae, to check on the ranchland he tends. Nestled in western Arizona’s Big Sandy River Valley, the ranch protects Ha’ Kamwe’ — hot springs that are sacred to the Hualapai and known today in English as Cofer Hot Springs. As the shadows lengthened, Bender saw something surprising — men working on a nearby hillside.

“I asked them what they were doing,” Bender recalled. “They told me they were drilling.” As it turns out, along with sacred places including the hot springs, ceremony sites and ancestral burials, the valley also holds an enormous lithium deposit. Now, exploratory work by Australian company Hawkstone Mining threatens those places, and with them, the religious practices of the Hualapai and other Indigenous nations. But this threat is nothing new: Centuries of land expropriation, combined with federal court rulings denying protection to sacred sites, have long devastated Indigenous religious freedom.

Cholla Canyon Ranch, where Bender is the caretaker, includes approximately 360 acres about halfway between Phoenix and Las Vegas, flanked to the west by the lush riparian corridor of Big Sandy River. The valley is part of an ancient salt route connecting tribes from as far north as central Utah to communities in Baja California and along the Pacific Coast, documented in the songs and oral traditions of many Indigenous nations.

“There are stories about that land and what it represents to the Hualapai Tribe,” Bender said. “To me, it holds a really, really sacred valley of life in general.” According to tribal councilmember Richard Powskey, who directs the Hualapai Natural Resources Department, the Hualapai harvest native plant materials along the river corridor for everything from cradle boards to drums.

The mining company (USA Lithium Ltd., which has since been acquired by Hawkstone Mining Ltd.) hadn’t told the Hualapai Tribe it was searching for lithium on nearby Bureau of Land Management lands. That evening, Bender was shocked to see the destruction taking place. The company eventually bulldozed a network of roads, drilling nearly 50 test wells more than 300 feet deep in the sacred landscape.

This summer, Hawkstone plans to triple its exploratory drilling, almost encircling Canyon Ranch and the springs it protects. In the next few years, Hawkstone hopes to break ground on an open-pit mine and dig an underground slurry to pipe the ore about 50 miles to a plant in Kingman, Arizona, where it will use sulfuric acid to extract the lithium. Lithium, which is listed as a critical mineral, is crucial for reaching the Biden administration’s goal of replacing gas-guzzling vehicles with electric vehicles, and Big Sandy Valley is relatively close to the Tesla factory in Nevada. Altogether, Hawkstone has mining rights on more than 5,000 acres of public land in Arizona for this project. Yet tribes whose sacred sites are at risk have almost no say in its decisions.

Public lands from Bears Ears to Oak Flat contain countless areas of cultural and religious importance. But when tribes have gone to court to protect these sites — and their own religious freedom — they’ve consistently lost. Courts have narrowly interpreted what counts as a religious burden for tribes, largely to preserve the federal government’s ability to use public lands as it sees fit.

A BLM map shows the completed (black dots) and proposed (red dots) drilling sites surrounding the eastern side of the Cholla Canyon Ranch property.Bureau of Land Management

The roots of this policy are centuries deep. In the landmark 1823 case Johnson v. M’Intosh, the Supreme Court ruled that Indigenous people could not sell land to private owners in the United States, because they did not own it. Instead, Christian colonizers were the rightful owners, based on the Spanish colonial “Doctrine of Discovery,” a racist and anti-Indigenous policy holding that non-Christian, non-European societies were inferior, and that Christian European nations had a superior right to all land.

“Part of what justified the claiming of the land was that (colonizers) would teach the Indigenous people Christianity,” Michalyn Steele, an Indian law expert at Brigham Young University and member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, said. “If they rejected Christianity, then they essentially forfeited their rights to the land and resources.”

By the late 1800s, the United States had banned Indigenous religious practices, forcing tribes to socially and politically assimilate, and to adopt Christianity through agricultural, lifestyle and religious practices.

More recently, courts have continued to weaken protections for Indigenous religious freedom on public lands. In the precedent-setting 1988 case Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association, the Supreme Court ruled that the Forest Service could widen a logging road in Northern California’s Six Rivers National Forest, even though it would destroy a region that was essential to the religious beliefs of tribes including the Yurok, Carok and Tolowa. The Supreme Court reasoned that although the location might be utterly wrecked, that destruction did not violate the Constitution, because it would not force tribal members to violate their religious beliefs or punish them for practicing their religions.

“Even assuming that the Government’s actions here will virtually destroy the Indians’ ability to practice their religion, the Constitution simply does not provide a principle that could justify upholding respondents’ legal claims,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in the majority opinion.

The court ruled, in part, to avoid granting tribes broad control over their ancestral lands through the exercise of their religious freedom. “Whatever rights the Indians may have to the use of the area … those rights do not divest the Government of its rights to use what is, after all, its land,” the ruling said.

Though Congress partially protected that sacred region by adding it to the Siskiyou Wilderness Area, the Lyng ruling still reverberates across Indian Country today, creating what Stephanie Barclay, the director of the University of Notre Dame’s Religious Liberty Institute and a former litigator at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, calls a “double standard” in how Indigenous sacred sites are treated.

Barclay compared the situation of tribes such as the Hualapai, which rely on the federal government to access sacred sites, to that of Jewish prisoners who adhere to a kosher diet, or Sikh members of the military whose faith forbids them to cut their hair. In all of these cases, religious freedoms are controlled by the government. But, Barclay said, tribal members don’t get the same religious protections.

 “To me, it holds a really, really sacred valley of life in general.”

“If the government is unwilling to accommodate an access for different Native peoples so that they can practice their religion in those sacred sites, then it won’t happen,” she said. But the Supreme Court has narrowly interpreted religious protection of Indigenous sacred sites on public lands, to the point of allowing wholesale destruction.

In a recent Harvard Law Review article, Steele and Barclay urge the federal government to protect Indigenous religious practices as one of its trust responsibilities, and to be very cautious about allowing destruction of sacred sites on public lands.

As things stand, state and federal agencies may permit irreversible damage with little input from affected Indigenous communities. Indeed, communication between the BLM and Hualapai Tribe about Hawkstone’s Big Sandy River Valley lithium impacts has been almost nonexistent. Although the BLM invited the Hualapai Tribe to consult with the agency in June 2020 about Hawkstone’s exploration plans, the agency later rebuffed the tribe’s request to be a coordinating agency on the project. It also rejected the suggestion that a tribal elder walk through the area and educate the agency about the cultural resources and history that mining might imperil.

Cholla Canyon Ranch caretaker, Ivan Bender, points out the boundaries of the Hualapai Tribe’s property from one of the initial exploratory drilling sites surrounding the ranch.Roberto (Bear) Guerra/High Country News

The BLM said that it found only four cultural resource sites in the proposed drilling area. Of those, it said it would attempt to avoid one, which was eligible for protection under the National Historic Preservation Act. Meanwhile, in its publicly available environmental assessment, the agency stated that effects to Native American religious concerns or traditional values were “to be determined,” and that it was consulting with the Hualapai Tribe, among others. As of this writing, BLM staff had neither agreed to an interview nor responded to written questions from High Country News.

For its part, in March Hawkstone said that “All (I)ndigenous title is cleared and there are no other known historical or environmentally sensitive areas.” Hawkstone’s report ignores the fact that even when tribes lack legal title to their traditional lands, those spaces still hold religious and cultural importance.

When asked for comment, Doug Pitts, a U.S. advisor at Hawkstone Mining, emailed HCN that, given the early stage of the project, “we do not feel a discussion on the project is worthwhile at this time.”

Even without a clear legal path forward, the Hualapai Tribe has not given up on protecting its religious practices from lithium exploration. Nor is it alone: In April, the Inter Tribal Association of Arizona, representing 21 nations including the Hualapai, passed a resolution objecting to the lithium mining, calling the BLM’s environmental analysis “grossly insufficient.” Recently, the BLM agreed to extend the comment period until June 10. But Councilmember Powskey pointed out that during the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline — which in part concerned the destruction of burials — the authorities’ response was violent, and tribal nations, for a long while, were the only ones who seemed to care. And in the end, the pipeline was built.

Big Sandy is not the first battle the Hualapai have fought to protect sacred landscapes in this remote corner of Arizona, where wind turbines, gold mines and other private interests already have destroyed culturally important places — and it won’t be the last. “You know, there’s more to come,” Powskey said.

Meanwhile, the likelihood of more lithium exploration around the ranch upsets caretaker Ivan Bender. The double standard in how Indigenous sacred sites are treated galls him.

“They come in here and desecrate your sacred land,” he said. “Would they appreciate me if I go to Arlington Cemetery and build me a sweat lodge and have me a sweat on that land?” he asked, comparing the valley to another site considered sacred. “I’d rather they go somewhere else and leave history alone.”

The tribe is concerned that drilling or mining on nearby BLM land risks destroying or contaminating the springs.Roberto (Bear) Guerra/High Country News

Maya L. Kapoor is a writer and editor based in Lotus, California. She was formerly an associate editor at HCN. Follow her on Twitter @kapoor_ml. Email High Country News at editor@hcn.org or submit a letter to the editor

Central Arizona

Council votes to spread pain of water rate increase

Vice Mayor Chris Higgins tells the council the base rate increase “is a more reliable income stream. It is a more fair and equitable rate increase. You would have everybody in the community, a low or higher user, contributing to a rate increase.”

The Payson Town Council last week approved a roughly 24% water rate increase phased in over the next four years that will hit second-homeowners and low-income residents especially hard.

The council knew it needed more money to upgrade the town’s aging water system, but debated how to spread out the pain at its June 10 meeting.

The council opted for a rate structure that will boost the base rate no matter how much water you use, rather than a rate structure that would rely mostly on how much water homeowners and businesses actually used. A rate structure based on volume encourages water conservation, but a structure that stresses the base rate produces more predictable income.

In March, Tanner Henry, the director of the Payson Water Department, briefed the council on the sorry state of the water mains in town. At this June meeting, he presented the council with a piece of 30-year-old pipe.

“If you notice, the walls are typically thin,” he said as he picked up a piece of newer pipe, “The kind we put in now has a thicker wall.”

He reminded the council the water department has had a few water main breaks in the last few years, which will get worse unless the town updates the system.

The water department plans to increase spending on capital improvements from $1 million up to $3 million per year to catch up on repairs set aside while they built the C.C. Cragin pipeline.

The six council members present (Scott Nossek did not attend), considered two alternative rate structures — one with a higher base rate and one with higher rates the more water you use. They opted for the higher monthly base rate.

The average Payson water user’s bill will go from $55 per month to $68 per month when the new rate is phased in by 2024. The average Payson customer uses about 4,000 gallons per month.

That works out to a roughly 6% increase each year, starting in October.

Vice Mayor Chris Higgins strongly favored the high base rate, rather than emphasizing water use. “I really like the alternative one,” he said, “It is a more reliable income stream. It is a more fair and equitable rate increase. You would have everybody in the community, a low or higher user, contributing to a rate increase.”

The town’s water rate consultant noted the higher base rate produces a more predictable budget. The base rate will go from about $43 a month to $55 per month over the course of four years — which covers the first 2,000 gallons used. That’s a 28% increase in the base rate. The water-use rates will also rise — going from $5.84 per 1,000 gallons (between 3,000 and 5,000 gallons) to $7.23 per 1,000.

The council rejected the alternative plan — which would have kept the base rate consistent but charged almost $10 per 1,000 gallons.

At one time, the town had some of the strictest water conservation statutes in the state. However, completion of the $54 million C.C. Cragin pipeline project boosted the town’s long-term water supply from about 1,800 acre-feet to 4,800 acre-feet — more than enough water to support about three times the present population. The project shifted the emphasis from conserving water to putting that water to use.

Payson must put the pipeline water to “beneficial use” to maintain its rights to the reservoir.

Higgins did recognize a higher monthly charge would be a challenge to lower-income residents because the flat fee will take a proportionately higher percentage of their income than a wealthier resident. Moreover, residents can’t avoid the higher base fee by reducing their water use.

Payson’s poverty rate is about 11% — and half of the families in the Payson school district qualify for free-and-reduced federal lunches based on family income. Those families also have to cope with Payson’s relatively high housing costs.

On the other hand, boosting the base rate means that second-homeowners will face a substantial bill every month — even if they don’t use a drop of water.

Mayor Tom Morrissey asked town staff whether the community has assistance for those struggling to pay.

Henry told him there are a lot of nonprofits in town that offer utility bill assistance.

“Is your experience that this solves the problem?” asked Morrissey.

Henry said yes, and if the bill is outrageous because of a leak, the water department will work with the customer on payments. The department also refers them to the Gila Community Action Program.

However, those community groups typically have limited funds to help people through a crisis rather than offering ongoing assistance.

City park revitalization selected for CDBG funds and discussion of 2021-22 budget tops agenda at May 25 council meeting

Announcements

Council member Mike Stapleton gave a shout out to Public Works for all the work they’re doing across the city and to the fire department for their efforts on the Copper Canyon fire.

Council member Mariano Gonzales said he had judged the Beef Cookoff over the weekend for the U of A extension and 4-H Club and had suggested that the organizers hold the event in downtown Globe next year. This year it was held at the fairgrounds.

Gonzales also informed Council about a 4-H group in Payson that has equipment to etch coffee cups and uses them for fundraising. There’s an opportunity to locate one of these printers in the southern Gila region through the U of A extension, and Globe should look into it.

Council member Freddy Rios gave a shout out and congratulations to all the graduates in the region, including the kindergarten graduates.

Mayor Al Gameros also congratulated all the graduates. He also noted that the community wildland survey is going on now and we need communities in the southern Gila area to fill out the survey. People should go to the county website or go to his Facebook page to fill out the survey.

Mayor Gameros also said the Arizona legislature is considering a new 2.5% flat tax bill. This tax would benefit larger and growing cities but would harm small rural communities like Globe. Globe stands to lose $360,000 a year for the next 10 years if the tax bill passes. Mayor Gameros asked people to go to his Facebook page to get Governor Ducey’s phone number and call the governor to voice their opposition. Mayor Gameros said Dave Cook and Frank Pratt are holding strong against it even though they’re under a lot of pressure to support it, and the mayor is encouraging people to thank them for that.

City Manager Paul Jepson gave kudos to the team that developed the grant application for the National Endowment for the Humanities grant to be discussed later in the meeting.

Jepson also noted that two new stop signs are going up on Mesquite. Everybody will need to get used to them being there.

Jepson also announced changes in the City’s Covid requirements. The recommendations are: 1) Members of the public entering City facilities will be encouraged to wear masks if they are not fully vaccinated. People who have been fully vaccinated can just come on in without masking. 2) Second, City staff within 6 feet of others should offer to put a mask on. 3) Staff are asked to put on a mask when requested to do so. These three items are the entirety of the new Covid requirements.

Aquatic center update

Evelyn Vargas gave an update on the aquatic center project. Since she last spoke to Council, the group has adjusted the center’s maintenance and operations plan. They had originally planned to keep the center open a large number of hours – 14 hours a day, 7 days a week – but have determined to reduce those hours. As a result, projected M&O costs are now $97,000 for the City of Globe, $27,000 for the Town of Miami, and $92,000 for Southern Gila County, based on estimated revenues from the aquatic center of $70,000, conservatively. 

This translates into $22,000 in net savings for the City of Globe compared to rehabilitating and operating the community center pool. Miami would save $37,000 compared to the costs of operating a separate pool facility, while the $92,000 would be a new cost for the county.

Vargas pointed out that the aquatic center would have eight regulation competition lanes, while the community pools have fewer lanes and they are not regulation. The aquatic center would also have zero entry, two slides, a diving board, a play structure, and water spouts at zero entry – and the community pools offer none of these features, except that the Globe community center might add a splash pad. The aquatic center would also have a conference and party room and bleachers for spectators, which neither of the community centers offers.

“If we can work together, City of Globe, Town of Miami, and the county, to support the M&O costs, you would be saving money, with a much better pool that would serve all of the population, not just a part of the population.” —Evelyn Vargas

Recognition of Stephanie Mata

Hon. Judge John Perlman recognized Stephanie “Penny” Mata for 10 years of diligent service to the Magistrate Court and for her valuable expertise and capabilities, upon her retirement in June.

2021-22 budget presentation

Council heard a presentation on the key elements of the city’s 2021-22 budget, presented by City Manager Jepson and Finance Director Jeannie Sgroi.

The budget will include $73,000 to fund Copper Mountain Transit, $13,000 for Globe Girls and Boys Club, $25,000 for the blight remediation fund, and $60,000 of common line budget. 

Jepson presented the possibility of the Magistrate Court to be relocated to the county court complex for a savings of $52,000. Security is a major issue in that decision, and there are other factors to be considered. Council will see a full presentation on this at a meeting in the near future.

Bed tax will be distributed in the same way as in the past. Based on an estimate of $145,809 bed tax collected, the Chamber of Commerce and Southern Gila County EDC would each receive $32,807, the Gila County Historical Society would receive $21,871, and the Center for the Arts and the Downtown Association would each receive $29,162.

The next steps in the budget process will be to finalize the baseline general fund budget to match revenue, propose CIP budget items to be funded by the city fund balance, and propose department fixes to be funded by Rescue funds. The process will proceed through June, with a special meeting on June 2 to review line items, and a final budget will be adopted on July 13.

Besh Ba Gowah grant submittal

Jerry Barnes, Engineering Director, and Leana McGill, Museum/Parks and Recreation Manager, presented a grant application for ratification. The application was prepared in just 10 days to meet the submissions deadline for a funding opportunity with the National Endowment for the Humanities American Rescue Plan: Humanities Organizations. The $295,000 grant would be used for repairs and maintenance on the outdoor exhibit at Besh Ba Gowah. Without the repairs, the outside exhibit would have to be closed. Council voted to ratify.

City Council vacancy policy

Council discussed and considered a City Council Vacancy Policy for council members and moved it forward to the next meeting. The policy was based on the process that was used at the previous meeting to fill the District 5 vacancy, with a few modifications.

Globe CDBG project selection

Council opened a public hearing with regard to the use of community development block grant (CDBG) funds and the made a final project selection. Approximately $177,000 is available to the City. Council had already chosen five projects for consideration, listed below. Robert Mawson, CAG Community Development Manager was present to answer questions about the CDBG process.

Mawson noted that the city could also apply for state special projects funds in addition to the $177,000 in CDBG funds. The special projects funds are competitive and so are not guaranteed. Globe receives CDBG funds every three years, which are allocated to the region.

1) Purchase of new wildland urban interface pumper (fire truck)

Gary Robinson, Fire Chief, said the equipment would be designed for fires both in communities and in forest environments and could serve the city as well as surrounding forest areas. Total budget would be $450,000. The truck would also generate revenue. City Manager Jepson said it would be better to use a lease option to purchase a Type 3 truck and service the lease through the revenues from the truck.

2) Asbestos abatement and demolition of City-owned buildings

Chris Collopy, Human Resources Director, said this project would involve demolition and stabilization of two properties – the old medical plaza (to be repurposed for the fire department) and the building next to the library. The buildings are continuing to deteriorate. The budget would slightly exceed $177,000. Jerry Barnes, Engineering Director, recommends using special funds for this project instead of CDBG funds.

3) Revitalizing the community center play area

John Angulo, Public Works Director, said the budget for new playground equipment at the community center would be roughly $162,000 including installation. Upgrading the bathrooms would be additional. 

Council member Pastor said he has received a lot of encouragement from residents to move forward with the community center. Council member Leetham pointed out that the community needs to invest in parks for the youth of the community. Council member Stapleton opined that work on the parks is long overdue, and he favors work on the community center. 

Council member Rios also said that members of the public have approached him to support work on the community center pool, and that this project would have immediate impact. He favors this alternative given that the fire equipment will be funded through some other source. 

Council member Shipley also favors funding the park project. Council member Gonzales concurred. He said people are coming to Globe to explore its offerings, and we want to encourage them to come back. 

Mayor Gameros also supports investments in recreation, especially as the community is coming out of Covid.

“We need to get a pool in our community…. I hope that we can make a difference for the kids in our community.” —Mayor Al Gameros

4) Health care services victim advocate position

City Manager Jepson noted that this alternative isn’t the best fit for a CDBG because it’s a position rather than a purchase, although it does meet CDBG qualifications. Other funding sources are available for this.

5) Road infrastructure

Jerry Barnes, Engineering Director, said Globe has a 20-year plan to improve the road system. CDBG was an important part of that plan. Some roads – such as 4th Street and 5th Street – need more than chip seal or crack seal. They need asphalt. Also, a large development is going in at the East Street school, and the streets will have to be dug up. This project would be to repave those roads. 

Barnes pointed out that three of the proposed projects can be funded from other sources, and the roads and the parks are the two areas that the city has had difficulty funding. City Manager Jepson agreed that often the roads and parks get pushed off the budget, and this has happened over and over.

Council selected the city park revitalization project for the CDBG funds. Mawson indicated that the funds won’t be available until later next year – which implies that, unfortunately, the project probably cannot be finished in time for next summer.

Other actions

Council approved an outlay of $20,244.35 plus 15% owners contingency for the cutter booster #3 replacement project.

Council approved a contract for El Ranchito waterline improvements at a cost of $113,911.61. This is a two-inch water line that runs behind five businesses.

Council also approved spending on sidewalk and parking improvements on Mesquite at Broad Street, for the islands where stop signs will be installed.

Full minutes can be found by going to the City Hall website  and clicking on Agendas/Minutes in the bottom left-hand corner.

The Globe City Council meets every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall. The meetings are currently open to the public at 25% capacity. Members of the public are requested to wear a mask when entering and exiting the Council chambers. Seating is limited to allow for social distancing.

Members of the public can also participate in City of Globe public meetings by viewing the meeting live on YouTube. To view the Council meeting live stream, go to the City of Globe’s YouTube channel (search for City of Globe Arizona). Or click on the “Live Stream on YouTube” link at the top of www.globeaz.gov.

To speak to agenda items before or during the meeting, you can call or text (928) 200-0154 or send an email to council@globeaz.gov. If you desire to speak to the Council during an agenda item, please contact the Council in advance and include your phone number on your request.

Green Valley | Sahuarita

Mayor: Sahuarita can withstand Ducey’s flat tax

  • By Jamie Verwys jverwys@gvnews.com

Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed 2.5% state flat tax would cut revenue by $1.9 billion a year while slashing annual payouts to cities and town. The mayor of Sahuarita said the town is in a good position to absorb it if it passes, but many areas could be hard hit.

Here’s a rundown of the plan, which will be the subject of a special session this week.

What’s Ducey’s flat tax plan and why all the uproar?

Ducey’s plan would do away with Arizona’s four income tax brackets, cutting taxes for nearly everybody as early as next year.

It would put in place a 2.5% flat tax on income. It also would set a 4.5% cap for higher-income taxpayers subject to Proposition 208, passed in November. (Proposition 208 created a 3.5% surcharge for individuals earning $250,000 or more per year and couples who earn at least $500,000. The money supports schools.)

Here’s why cities and towns are concerned. Under a formula set in 1972, all 91 of the state’s municipalities split 15% of the state’s income tax revenue, allotted based on population. The flat tax would cut taxes overall and greatly diminish that pot of money — so, less money going to towns and cities.

Sahuarita, for example, anticipates it would lose $1.5 million, or about 1.6% of its current proposed budget.

Why is Ducey pushing a flat tax?

The governor sees tax cuts as a way to keep Arizona competitive by drawing companies to the state and supporting businesses already here.

He also thinks it’s good for taxpayers. Ducey spokesman C.J. Karamargin said the proposal would reduce taxes an average $300 annually for the typical taxpayer.

“That means more money for gas, for groceries, other basic needs and entertainment,” Karamargin said.

But $1.9 billion is a lot of money to give up, isn’t it?

Karamargin said the governor’s plan is balanced and “fully paid for by the remote sellers tax, a new privilege fee on sports betting and an ongoing revenue surplus in the state’s economy.”

In 2019, Ducey signed off on a law requiring remote sellers and marketplace facilitators, like online sellers, to begin filing and paying sales taxes in Arizona. The legislation is made possible by the South Dakota v. Wayfair case in 2018, which allowed states to require out-of-state online businesses without a physical presence to collect and remit sales tax from transactions in their state.

One report said the new tax brought $57 million into Arizona in 2020 and will bring in $85 million this year.

What do legislators think?

Democrats are in the minority and don’t have much of a voice on this. But Ducey has met opposition from two GOP lawmakers who are holding out and blocking the budget.

Sen. Paul Boyer of Glendale and Rep. David Cook of Globe said the cuts are too deep and would hurt their communities. So there’s work underway on a compromise.

The House proposed several amendments, including raising the percentage of shared revenue from 15% to 17%.

The League of Arizona Cities and Towns, which advocates for municipalities, said that’s not enough. A study it commissioned from the Rounds Consulting Group said that to hold municipalities harmless, that percentage needs to be 18.9%.

In its newsletter Friday, the League stated, “the 17% distribution share would still leave local governments with a 21% cut to income tax revenues that they currently rely on to fund essential services.”

Karamargin said there will be a special session early this week, though Ducey is focusing time and attention on the fires in eastern Arizona. He said they fully expect to have the budget approved by the end of the fiscal year.

Why isn’t Sahuarita worried?

Sahuarita Mayor Tom Murphy said he is concerned about the possibility of a big loss in state-shared revenue, but thinks the town is in a better position to handle it than rural communities.

“I have concerns but I can easily see where other municipalities would be more concerned,” he said Friday. “To be frank, with our growth and the position we’re in now, coupled with our reserves and our council and staff, I believe we could maintain our level of service.”

Other municipalities see the potential for impacts on the services they can provide to residents, especially when it comes to public safety.

Murphy said he understands concerns from rural communities with “recent memories of the 2008-09 recession,” and after the hard hit by COVID, especially in tourist areas.

“We haven’t been as negatively affected but I can see where it would raise some concerns for them,” he said. “How long will we be held harmless?”

Murphy said he thinks even if the flat tax passes and they see a loss, the town could still figure it out.

“It would be more difficult. We might have to delay some things, make some choices, adding a new park for instance, keeping our staff growth — personnel is the biggest part of the budget,” he said. “It could have an impact on us but we’re in a better position. I’m grateful for all that we’ve seen through the pandemic with people shopping more locally because that goes directly to our coffers and directly to services.”

Murphy sees the benefits to Ducey’s proposal, but it’s a balancing act.

“I’m a proponent of providing the highest quality of life at the lowest tax burden to residents but when you look at states that have no state income tax, it’s coming from somewhere,” he said. “It’s definitely being made up where the sweet spot is and where it comes from, where it’s being taken away from. I believe in entrusting money into families to make the best choice where funds should be sent but there is a foundational role of government to provide a high quality of life to residents and needed services like police, roads and infrastructure.”

Murphy is confident that as business returns to a post-pandemic normal, the economy will improve and the town’s reserve funds and policies will allow them to weather the loss of state shared revenue without it being a huge hit.

“We’re definitely watching and monitoring it, but I’m grateful to residents because our business community put us in a better place than normal, knowing the importance of shopping local,” he said. “We have come out of this stronger and in a better place than most would have predicted a year ago.”

The Town of Sahuarita is poised to approve its tentative $94,927,520 budget on Monday; it would be up for final approval June 28.

Town staff said “2021 will end better than we anticipated,” and that the budget is sustainable for at least five years.

The proposed budget covers 24 capital improvement projects.

Quail Crossing Boulevard extension

$3.17 million is going toward the next phase of a four-lane road with a bridge over the Santa Cruz River, including multi-use lanes, sidewalks and drainage. It would connect the Walmart area to Quail Creek. Currently, the road runs from Nogales Highway to the river.

Vehicle acquisitions

$860,000 will go toward vehicle acquisitions including vehicle replacements in the police department and new and replacement vehicles in the town’s fleet.

Wastewater facility upgrades

$765,000 is earmarked for the design and construction of upgrades to the Water Reclamation Facility to increase its capacity. Design would likely begin in 2022 with the construction starting in 2023. The expansion is considered necessary to keep up with development in the town.

Wastewater lab

$698,000 would be used for a new wastewater laboratory. The current building is in a state of “disrepair” and the new building would be ADA compliant, have proper space for storing chemicals, two restrooms, accessible showers for workers and have proper ventilation.

Anamax Park sewer lines

$585,000 is set aside to construct a “sanitary” sewer pipe and sewer connections within Anamax Park. This is necessary for future projects at the park the Town wants to do like a splash pad and an expansion to the recreation center.

A total of $956,400 would go toward park improvements, including Anamax, around town including shade canopies, a volleyball court at Quail Creek-Veterans Municipal Park and multiple “game zones.”

Technology projects

$380,000 will be used for technology improvements like acquiring new technology upgrades and infrastructure, expanding digital storage capacity at the town and some additional video surveillance devices for the Municipal Court.

Sahuarita Square design

$250,000 will go toward the design phase of Sahuarita Square, a future multi-use site envisioned as a town hub. The hope is for the area to showcase culture and entertainment featuring a marketplace, play areas, fields, eateries, restrooms and a performance space.

Town complex

$481,610 will go toward improvements at the Sahuarita town complex such as restoring the sundial, restroom renovations and new public works facilities.

If the council approves the tentative budget it sets the cap at $94,927,520. The council can still make changes to the budget before its final adoption, but not exceeding that amount.

For a full breakdown of the budget: town-sahuarita-az-budget-book.cleargov.com.

Kingman | Golden Valley

Mining for lithium, at a cost to Indigenous religions

In western Arizona, the push for EVs threatens the Hualapai Tribe’s religious practices.

Maya L. Kapoor

One autumn evening four years ago, Ivan Bender, a Hualapai man in his mid-50s, took a walk with his fluffy brown-and-white Pomeranian, Sierra Mae, to check on the ranchland he tends. Nestled in western Arizona’s Big Sandy River Valley, the ranch protects Ha’ Kamwe’ — hot springs that are sacred to the Hualapai and known today in English as Cofer Hot Springs. As the shadows lengthened, Bender saw something surprising — men working on a nearby hillside.

“I asked them what they were doing,” Bender recalled. “They told me they were drilling.” As it turns out, along with sacred places including the hot springs, ceremony sites and ancestral burials, the valley also holds an enormous lithium deposit. Now, exploratory work by Australian company Hawkstone Mining threatens those places, and with them, the religious practices of the Hualapai and other Indigenous nations. But this threat is nothing new: Centuries of land expropriation, combined with federal court rulings denying protection to sacred sites, have long devastated Indigenous religious freedom.

Cholla Canyon Ranch, where Bender is the caretaker, includes approximately 360 acres about halfway between Phoenix and Las Vegas, flanked to the west by the lush riparian corridor of Big Sandy River. The valley is part of an ancient salt route connecting tribes from as far north as central Utah to communities in Baja California and along the Pacific Coast, documented in the songs and oral traditions of many Indigenous nations.

“There are stories about that land and what it represents to the Hualapai Tribe,” Bender said. “To me, it holds a really, really sacred valley of life in general.” According to tribal councilmember Richard Powskey, who directs the Hualapai Natural Resources Department, the Hualapai harvest native plant materials along the river corridor for everything from cradle boards to drums.

The mining company (USA Lithium Ltd., which has since been acquired by Hawkstone Mining Ltd.) hadn’t told the Hualapai Tribe it was searching for lithium on nearby Bureau of Land Management lands. That evening, Bender was shocked to see the destruction taking place. The company eventually bulldozed a network of roads, drilling nearly 50 test wells more than 300 feet deep in the sacred landscape.

This summer, Hawkstone plans to triple its exploratory drilling, almost encircling Canyon Ranch and the springs it protects. In the next few years, Hawkstone hopes to break ground on an open-pit mine and dig an underground slurry to pipe the ore about 50 miles to a plant in Kingman, Arizona, where it will use sulfuric acid to extract the lithium. Lithium, which is listed as a critical mineral, is crucial for reaching the Biden administration’s goal of replacing gas-guzzling vehicles with electric vehicles, and Big Sandy Valley is relatively close to the Tesla factory in Nevada. Altogether, Hawkstone has mining rights on more than 5,000 acres of public land in Arizona for this project. Yet tribes whose sacred sites are at risk have almost no say in its decisions.

Public lands from Bears Ears to Oak Flat contain countless areas of cultural and religious importance. But when tribes have gone to court to protect these sites — and their own religious freedom — they’ve consistently lost. Courts have narrowly interpreted what counts as a religious burden for tribes, largely to preserve the federal government’s ability to use public lands as it sees fit.

A BLM map shows the completed (black dots) and proposed (red dots) drilling sites surrounding the eastern side of the Cholla Canyon Ranch property.Bureau of Land Management

The roots of this policy are centuries deep. In the landmark 1823 case Johnson v. M’Intosh, the Supreme Court ruled that Indigenous people could not sell land to private owners in the United States, because they did not own it. Instead, Christian colonizers were the rightful owners, based on the Spanish colonial “Doctrine of Discovery,” a racist and anti-Indigenous policy holding that non-Christian, non-European societies were inferior, and that Christian European nations had a superior right to all land.

“Part of what justified the claiming of the land was that (colonizers) would teach the Indigenous people Christianity,” Michalyn Steele, an Indian law expert at Brigham Young University and member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, said. “If they rejected Christianity, then they essentially forfeited their rights to the land and resources.”

By the late 1800s, the United States had banned Indigenous religious practices, forcing tribes to socially and politically assimilate, and to adopt Christianity through agricultural, lifestyle and religious practices.

More recently, courts have continued to weaken protections for Indigenous religious freedom on public lands. In the precedent-setting 1988 case Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association, the Supreme Court ruled that the Forest Service could widen a logging road in Northern California’s Six Rivers National Forest, even though it would destroy a region that was essential to the religious beliefs of tribes including the Yurok, Carok and Tolowa. The Supreme Court reasoned that although the location might be utterly wrecked, that destruction did not violate the Constitution, because it would not force tribal members to violate their religious beliefs or punish them for practicing their religions.

“Even assuming that the Government’s actions here will virtually destroy the Indians’ ability to practice their religion, the Constitution simply does not provide a principle that could justify upholding respondents’ legal claims,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in the majority opinion.

The court ruled, in part, to avoid granting tribes broad control over their ancestral lands through the exercise of their religious freedom. “Whatever rights the Indians may have to the use of the area … those rights do not divest the Government of its rights to use what is, after all, its land,” the ruling said.

Though Congress partially protected that sacred region by adding it to the Siskiyou Wilderness Area, the Lyng ruling still reverberates across Indian Country today, creating what Stephanie Barclay, the director of the University of Notre Dame’s Religious Liberty Institute and a former litigator at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, calls a “double standard” in how Indigenous sacred sites are treated.

Barclay compared the situation of tribes such as the Hualapai, which rely on the federal government to access sacred sites, to that of Jewish prisoners who adhere to a kosher diet, or Sikh members of the military whose faith forbids them to cut their hair. In all of these cases, religious freedoms are controlled by the government. But, Barclay said, tribal members don’t get the same religious protections.

 “To me, it holds a really, really sacred valley of life in general.”

“If the government is unwilling to accommodate an access for different Native peoples so that they can practice their religion in those sacred sites, then it won’t happen,” she said. But the Supreme Court has narrowly interpreted religious protection of Indigenous sacred sites on public lands, to the point of allowing wholesale destruction.

In a recent Harvard Law Review article, Steele and Barclay urge the federal government to protect Indigenous religious practices as one of its trust responsibilities, and to be very cautious about allowing destruction of sacred sites on public lands.

As things stand, state and federal agencies may permit irreversible damage with little input from affected Indigenous communities. Indeed, communication between the BLM and Hualapai Tribe about Hawkstone’s Big Sandy River Valley lithium impacts has been almost nonexistent. Although the BLM invited the Hualapai Tribe to consult with the agency in June 2020 about Hawkstone’s exploration plans, the agency later rebuffed the tribe’s request to be a coordinating agency on the project. It also rejected the suggestion that a tribal elder walk through the area and educate the agency about the cultural resources and history that mining might imperil.

Cholla Canyon Ranch caretaker, Ivan Bender, points out the boundaries of the Hualapai Tribe’s property from one of the initial exploratory drilling sites surrounding the ranch.Roberto (Bear) Guerra/High Country News

The BLM said that it found only four cultural resource sites in the proposed drilling area. Of those, it said it would attempt to avoid one, which was eligible for protection under the National Historic Preservation Act. Meanwhile, in its publicly available environmental assessment, the agency stated that effects to Native American religious concerns or traditional values were “to be determined,” and that it was consulting with the Hualapai Tribe, among others. As of this writing, BLM staff had neither agreed to an interview nor responded to written questions from High Country News.

For its part, in March Hawkstone said that “All (I)ndigenous title is cleared and there are no other known historical or environmentally sensitive areas.” Hawkstone’s report ignores the fact that even when tribes lack legal title to their traditional lands, those spaces still hold religious and cultural importance.

When asked for comment, Doug Pitts, a U.S. advisor at Hawkstone Mining, emailed HCN that, given the early stage of the project, “we do not feel a discussion on the project is worthwhile at this time.”

Even without a clear legal path forward, the Hualapai Tribe has not given up on protecting its religious practices from lithium exploration. Nor is it alone: In April, the Inter Tribal Association of Arizona, representing 21 nations including the Hualapai, passed a resolution objecting to the lithium mining, calling the BLM’s environmental analysis “grossly insufficient.” Recently, the BLM agreed to extend the comment period until June 10. But Councilmember Powskey pointed out that during the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline — which in part concerned the destruction of burials — the authorities’ response was violent, and tribal nations, for a long while, were the only ones who seemed to care. And in the end, the pipeline was built.

Big Sandy is not the first battle the Hualapai have fought to protect sacred landscapes in this remote corner of Arizona, where wind turbines, gold mines and other private interests already have destroyed culturally important places — and it won’t be the last. “You know, there’s more to come,” Powskey said.

Meanwhile, the likelihood of more lithium exploration around the ranch upsets caretaker Ivan Bender. The double standard in how Indigenous sacred sites are treated galls him.

“They come in here and desecrate your sacred land,” he said. “Would they appreciate me if I go to Arlington Cemetery and build me a sweat lodge and have me a sweat on that land?” he asked, comparing the valley to another site considered sacred. “I’d rather they go somewhere else and leave history alone.”

The tribe is concerned that drilling or mining on nearby BLM land risks destroying or contaminating the springs.Roberto (Bear) Guerra/High Country News

Maya L. Kapoor is a writer and editor based in Lotus, California. She was formerly an associate editor at HCN. Follow her on Twitter @kapoor_ml. Email High Country News at editor@hcn.org or submit a letter to the editor.

Kingman City Council to accept public comment on development fees

Kingman residents will have the chance to give their opinions on development fees when Kingman City Council holds a public hearing during its Tuesday, June 15 meeting. (Miner file photo)

Kingman residents will have the chance to give their opinions on development fees when Kingman City Council holds a public hearing during its Tuesday, June 15 meeting.

KINGMAN – Community members will get the chance to weigh in on the city’s potential adoption of development fees during a public hearing set for Kingman City Council’s 5 p.m. meeting Tuesday, June 15 in council chambers, 310 N. 4th St.

Having held a public hearing on land use assumptions and the infrastructure improvements plan for development fees in March, and approving those assumptions at a meeting in May, council is now ready to hear from the community on the proposed development fees themselves.

Development fees are fees imposed on new development. Eyed areas that would benefit from such fees are fire, police, streets, and parks and recreation. However, those fees can only be used for public services identified within the already-approved infrastructure improvements plan.

Following the public hearing, council could adopt development fees as soon as Tuesday, July 20. Should that vote of approval occur, development fees could be in effect by Oct. 4, 2021.

There is one more public hearing set for Tuesday’s meeting, in regards to the city’s application for Arizona Department of Housing Community Development Block Grants.

The city will seek Emergency and Transitional Shelter funds in the amount of $2 million for Jerry Ambrose Veterans Council’s Operation 6 veteran housing program in downtown Kingman. The mission of Operation 6, according to JAVC President Pat Farrell, “is to provide information and services to the veterans and their families in the greater Mohave County area in order for them to achieve a better lifestyle in the community.”

Council will also consider adopting the fiscal year 2021-22 tentative budget. The tentative budget sets a ceiling on appropriations at approximately $274 million, according to the agenda.

The City of Kingman has $140 million in capital improvement projects slated in the recommended budget for fiscal year 2021-22, with streets and Kingman Municipal Airport accounting for the largest chunks of change at nearly $56 million and $35 million, respectfully. The majority, or approximately $46 million, of the nearly $56 million eyed for street improvements will be used for projects related to the Rancho Santa Fe and Kingman Crossing traffic interchanges. The city has received a $20 million appropriation from the state for the interchange.

Of the approximate $35 million in projects at the airport, the cleanup of the dross site totals $30 million. Of the $47 million in projects on the airport’s five-year improvement list, $45 million comes from contributions, and federal and state funding.

The final budget may be adopted as soon as June 28. According to the agenda, the public will be able to weigh in on the budget during a meeting set for the morning of June 28.

Lake Havasu

Mining for lithium, at a cost to Indigenous religions

In western Arizona, the push for EVs threatens the Hualapai Tribe’s religious practices.

Maya L. Kapoor

One autumn evening four years ago, Ivan Bender, a Hualapai man in his mid-50s, took a walk with his fluffy brown-and-white Pomeranian, Sierra Mae, to check on the ranchland he tends. Nestled in western Arizona’s Big Sandy River Valley, the ranch protects Ha’ Kamwe’ — hot springs that are sacred to the Hualapai and known today in English as Cofer Hot Springs. As the shadows lengthened, Bender saw something surprising — men working on a nearby hillside.

“I asked them what they were doing,” Bender recalled. “They told me they were drilling.” As it turns out, along with sacred places including the hot springs, ceremony sites and ancestral burials, the valley also holds an enormous lithium deposit. Now, exploratory work by Australian company Hawkstone Mining threatens those places, and with them, the religious practices of the Hualapai and other Indigenous nations. But this threat is nothing new: Centuries of land expropriation, combined with federal court rulings denying protection to sacred sites, have long devastated Indigenous religious freedom.

Cholla Canyon Ranch, where Bender is the caretaker, includes approximately 360 acres about halfway between Phoenix and Las Vegas, flanked to the west by the lush riparian corridor of Big Sandy River. The valley is part of an ancient salt route connecting tribes from as far north as central Utah to communities in Baja California and along the Pacific Coast, documented in the songs and oral traditions of many Indigenous nations.

“There are stories about that land and what it represents to the Hualapai Tribe,” Bender said. “To me, it holds a really, really sacred valley of life in general.” According to tribal councilmember Richard Powskey, who directs the Hualapai Natural Resources Department, the Hualapai harvest native plant materials along the river corridor for everything from cradle boards to drums.

The mining company (USA Lithium Ltd., which has since been acquired by Hawkstone Mining Ltd.) hadn’t told the Hualapai Tribe it was searching for lithium on nearby Bureau of Land Management lands. That evening, Bender was shocked to see the destruction taking place. The company eventually bulldozed a network of roads, drilling nearly 50 test wells more than 300 feet deep in the sacred landscape.

This summer, Hawkstone plans to triple its exploratory drilling, almost encircling Canyon Ranch and the springs it protects. In the next few years, Hawkstone hopes to break ground on an open-pit mine and dig an underground slurry to pipe the ore about 50 miles to a plant in Kingman, Arizona, where it will use sulfuric acid to extract the lithium. Lithium, which is listed as a critical mineral, is crucial for reaching the Biden administration’s goal of replacing gas-guzzling vehicles with electric vehicles, and Big Sandy Valley is relatively close to the Tesla factory in Nevada. Altogether, Hawkstone has mining rights on more than 5,000 acres of public land in Arizona for this project. Yet tribes whose sacred sites are at risk have almost no say in its decisions.

Public lands from Bears Ears to Oak Flat contain countless areas of cultural and religious importance. But when tribes have gone to court to protect these sites — and their own religious freedom — they’ve consistently lost. Courts have narrowly interpreted what counts as a religious burden for tribes, largely to preserve the federal government’s ability to use public lands as it sees fit.

A BLM map shows the completed (black dots) and proposed (red dots) drilling sites surrounding the eastern side of the Cholla Canyon Ranch property.Bureau of Land Management

The roots of this policy are centuries deep. In the landmark 1823 case Johnson v. M’Intosh, the Supreme Court ruled that Indigenous people could not sell land to private owners in the United States, because they did not own it. Instead, Christian colonizers were the rightful owners, based on the Spanish colonial “Doctrine of Discovery,” a racist and anti-Indigenous policy holding that non-Christian, non-European societies were inferior, and that Christian European nations had a superior right to all land.

“Part of what justified the claiming of the land was that (colonizers) would teach the Indigenous people Christianity,” Michalyn Steele, an Indian law expert at Brigham Young University and member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, said. “If they rejected Christianity, then they essentially forfeited their rights to the land and resources.”

By the late 1800s, the United States had banned Indigenous religious practices, forcing tribes to socially and politically assimilate, and to adopt Christianity through agricultural, lifestyle and religious practices.

More recently, courts have continued to weaken protections for Indigenous religious freedom on public lands. In the precedent-setting 1988 case Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association, the Supreme Court ruled that the Forest Service could widen a logging road in Northern California’s Six Rivers National Forest, even though it would destroy a region that was essential to the religious beliefs of tribes including the Yurok, Carok and Tolowa. The Supreme Court reasoned that although the location might be utterly wrecked, that destruction did not violate the Constitution, because it would not force tribal members to violate their religious beliefs or punish them for practicing their religions.

“Even assuming that the Government’s actions here will virtually destroy the Indians’ ability to practice their religion, the Constitution simply does not provide a principle that could justify upholding respondents’ legal claims,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in the majority opinion.

The court ruled, in part, to avoid granting tribes broad control over their ancestral lands through the exercise of their religious freedom. “Whatever rights the Indians may have to the use of the area … those rights do not divest the Government of its rights to use what is, after all, its land,” the ruling said.

Though Congress partially protected that sacred region by adding it to the Siskiyou Wilderness Area, the Lyng ruling still reverberates across Indian Country today, creating what Stephanie Barclay, the director of the University of Notre Dame’s Religious Liberty Institute and a former litigator at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, calls a “double standard” in how Indigenous sacred sites are treated.

Barclay compared the situation of tribes such as the Hualapai, which rely on the federal government to access sacred sites, to that of Jewish prisoners who adhere to a kosher diet, or Sikh members of the military whose faith forbids them to cut their hair. In all of these cases, religious freedoms are controlled by the government. But, Barclay said, tribal members don’t get the same religious protections.

 “To me, it holds a really, really sacred valley of life in general.”

“If the government is unwilling to accommodate an access for different Native peoples so that they can practice their religion in those sacred sites, then it won’t happen,” she said. But the Supreme Court has narrowly interpreted religious protection of Indigenous sacred sites on public lands, to the point of allowing wholesale destruction.

In a recent Harvard Law Review article, Steele and Barclay urge the federal government to protect Indigenous religious practices as one of its trust responsibilities, and to be very cautious about allowing destruction of sacred sites on public lands.

As things stand, state and federal agencies may permit irreversible damage with little input from affected Indigenous communities. Indeed, communication between the BLM and Hualapai Tribe about Hawkstone’s Big Sandy River Valley lithium impacts has been almost nonexistent. Although the BLM invited the Hualapai Tribe to consult with the agency in June 2020 about Hawkstone’s exploration plans, the agency later rebuffed the tribe’s request to be a coordinating agency on the project. It also rejected the suggestion that a tribal elder walk through the area and educate the agency about the cultural resources and history that mining might imperil.

Cholla Canyon Ranch caretaker, Ivan Bender, points out the boundaries of the Hualapai Tribe’s property from one of the initial exploratory drilling sites surrounding the ranch.Roberto (Bear) Guerra/High Country News

The BLM said that it found only four cultural resource sites in the proposed drilling area. Of those, it said it would attempt to avoid one, which was eligible for protection under the National Historic Preservation Act. Meanwhile, in its publicly available environmental assessment, the agency stated that effects to Native American religious concerns or traditional values were “to be determined,” and that it was consulting with the Hualapai Tribe, among others. As of this writing, BLM staff had neither agreed to an interview nor responded to written questions from High Country News.

For its part, in March Hawkstone said that “All (I)ndigenous title is cleared and there are no other known historical or environmentally sensitive areas.” Hawkstone’s report ignores the fact that even when tribes lack legal title to their traditional lands, those spaces still hold religious and cultural importance.

When asked for comment, Doug Pitts, a U.S. advisor at Hawkstone Mining, emailed HCN that, given the early stage of the project, “we do not feel a discussion on the project is worthwhile at this time.”

Even without a clear legal path forward, the Hualapai Tribe has not given up on protecting its religious practices from lithium exploration. Nor is it alone: In April, the Inter Tribal Association of Arizona, representing 21 nations including the Hualapai, passed a resolution objecting to the lithium mining, calling the BLM’s environmental analysis “grossly insufficient.” Recently, the BLM agreed to extend the comment period until June 10. But Councilmember Powskey pointed out that during the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline — which in part concerned the destruction of burials — the authorities’ response was violent, and tribal nations, for a long while, were the only ones who seemed to care. And in the end, the pipeline was built.

Big Sandy is not the first battle the Hualapai have fought to protect sacred landscapes in this remote corner of Arizona, where wind turbines, gold mines and other private interests already have destroyed culturally important places — and it won’t be the last. “You know, there’s more to come,” Powskey said.

Meanwhile, the likelihood of more lithium exploration around the ranch upsets caretaker Ivan Bender. The double standard in how Indigenous sacred sites are treated galls him.

“They come in here and desecrate your sacred land,” he said. “Would they appreciate me if I go to Arlington Cemetery and build me a sweat lodge and have me a sweat on that land?” he asked, comparing the valley to another site considered sacred. “I’d rather they go somewhere else and leave history alone.”

The tribe is concerned that drilling or mining on nearby BLM land risks destroying or contaminating the springs.Roberto (Bear) Guerra/High Country News

Maya L. Kapoor is a writer and editor based in Lotus, California. She was formerly an associate editor at HCN. Follow her on Twitter @kapoor_ml. Email High Country News at editor@hcn.org or submit a letter to the editor

Survey chance for boaters to influence future Lake Havasu State Park upgrades

Boaters who visit Lake Havasu State Park will have a chance to influence possible future development of the area’s outdoor recreation with a new survey from Arizona State Parks & Trails.

The 2021 Boating and Watercraft Survey is completed every three years, and informs state park managers of possible goals and future improvements for aquatic recreation on Arizona’s waterways. This year the survey will focus on the experiences of boaters who are Arizona residents, but will also accept feedback from all boaters — local and from out of state — who are visiting Arizona this summer.

According to Dawn Collins, who is leading this year’s Parks & Trails Boating and Watercraft Survey, the project will allow State Parks to identify problems, complaints and ways the department can improve recreation opportunities throughout the state. It will also allow park managers to best determine where to allocate department resources for those improvements.

“It will give boaters a voice,” Collins said Tuesday. “It’s something that Lake Havasu City, Mohave County and State Parks can use.”

The department’s previous boating surveys have most recently led to improvements of restroom facilities and launch ramps at Cattail Cove State Park and Lake Havasu State Park. The survey has also led to the addition of additional RV campsites at Lake Havasu State Park since 2016.

“Improvements can depend on whatever we’ve got going on at the time,” Collins said, “But if park managers have plans for one of our state parks, or there’s the possibility for capital improvement projects, then the survey can definitely be informative.”

The survey will be issued to park visitors throughout the state until September. The data collected in that report will be available before the end of 2021. According to Collins, 7,000 visitors to Arizona state parks completed the survey when it was last offered in 2016, and she expects 4,500 responses to the survey this year.

“It’s a pretty extensive project, and we’re hoping to get a lot of participation,” Collins. “Arizona boaters, we want to hear from you.”

Visitors and Arizona residents can take the survey at AZStateParks.com/survey. Participants will be eligible to win prizes valued at about $7,000, courtesy of Arizona State Parks and Trails.

Northern Arizona

Tuba City Households Get Starlink Internet In Pilot Program

By MELISSA SEVIGNY

Many homes in rural areas of Coconino County lack access to the Internet, but that’s changed for forty-five households in Tuba City, thanks to a new partnership with SpaceX. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

The pilot program is beta-testing the Starlink satellite constellation developed by SpaceX. The satellites were first launched into low-Earth orbit two years ago. Coconino County supervisor Lena Fowler says the pandemic highlighted a desperate need for Internet in rural areas of Arizona.

“It’s changed their lives completely,” she says of the pilot program. “They’re able to actually do work from home now, go to school from home, teach from home.”

County officials prioritized students, educators, law enforcement, and health care workers to participate in the program. The families also include citizens of the Navajo, Hopi and San Juan Southern Paiute nations. None of the homes had Internet before.

Matt Fowler, the county’s chief information officer, says, “They’re spread out in so many different areas, that there is no other opportunities. You can’t push microwave into some of these areas, you can’t run fiber or copper or any infrastructure, so really this is the only option.”

The county is paying for the first year of Internet service for the forty-five households, including the $500 startup costs. After that, residents have the option of continuing service by paying the $99 monthly fee.

Will your house survive an ember storm?

Get ready now.

Because by the time the ember storm hits you won’t have time.

That’s the message that emerged from a sobering webinar on preparing your home for a wildfire, put on by the University of Arizona Extension last week.

“It’s going to swirl up and go into eddies in the lee side (sheltered from wind) of your building and create piles of embers,” said moderator Chris Jones of the ember storm created by even the close approach of a wildfire.

“That’s where they can start a small fire and the fire gets bigger and they’re able to destroy the home.”

The warning comes as Arizona heads into one of the most dangerous fire seasons in history, based on the condition of fuels, projected temperatures and the severe to exceptional drought that grips most of the West — and virtually all of Arizona.

Last year, wildfires burned nearly a million acres in Arizona — and that followed the first relatively normal winter snowfall in years.

This year, most areas got less than half the normal snow and the spring has turned hot and dry – despite the brief arrival of cool, wet conditions last weekend.

A megafire can throw softball-sized embers up to a mile ahead of the fire line.

Mostly the embers rain down as small chunks of glowing wood — or flurries of sparks.

“If they’re able to get lodged into places, they can ignite the house,” said Jones. “An ember can be a small spark like you see coming out of a campfire — or they can be much larger. Even small sizes can be enough to set a house on fire.”

Mostly, the webinar focused on steps homeowners can take to protect their homes from such an ember storm — both long before the fire starts and as the flames approach.

“A hot fire can loft material up — much larger pieces of material that are burning. It can carry these materials a mile away — certainly a quarter of a mile,” said Jones. “It is the most common way that houses catch on fire during wildfires — from the embers rather than a flaming front from a burning forest.”

Such an ember storm can easily set several homes on fire at once, quickly overwhelming fire departments.

Once one house on a block catches fire, the flames can spread readily to neighboring houses. Repeated analysis of wildfire flame patterns in residential neighborhoods show that the ember storm starts the process — but flames then spread from house to house until the whole block’s gone.

Preparing for that ember storm can not only save your home, it can save the whole block. Unfortunately, you still face potential disaster if a neighbor hasn’t taken those precautions or left thickets of brush against the house and between homes.

Cities and counties can reduce this risk by adopting firewise codes, which require homeowners to keep dangerous concentrations of brush cleared — protecting both their own home and the neighborhood.

Ultimately, protection from an approach ember storm requires cities and counties to embrace fire-adapted building codes. These codes don’t add much to the cost of a new home, but do incorporate protective designs for things like porches, attics, roofs, building materials and other weak points when the ember storm hits.

So here’s the checklist.

Defense against an ember storm:

• Replace wood shingle roofs with material that won’t catch fire when it collects embers. Metal and tile are best — but composite asphalt shingles also resist heat and fire effectively.

• Plug all roof openings — like ventilation into attic spaces or nooks and crannies under the eves. Any place a bird might nest poses a potential refuge for embers, which can smolder and catch eves on fire.

• Replace plastic skylights with tempered double pane glass. Embers can melt through plastic skylights and fall into the house.

• Cover all exterior vents — including dryer vents. Use quarter-inch, corrosion-resistant materials — vents or wire mesh.

• Use caulk to plug gaps or holes in siding where embers could come to rest.

• Move woodpiles at least 30 feet from the house — although in winter you can keep a small stash of wood closer to have your fires at night.

• Embers will rain down on even covered patios, so consider the patio a danger zone. Replace thin wood decks in poor condition with thicker, high-density hardwoods or plastic composites. Put skirting on raised decks to prevent embers from getting underneath. Put metal flashing between the deck and the house so embers that pile up in corners won’t ignite the house.

• If a fire’s approaching, move patio chairs with flammable cushions, propane tanks, flammable door mats and other materials inside or at least 30 feet from the house.

• Remove window flower boxes, which can catch embers — especially if there’s any browned or dead plant matter in the box. Keep flower beds at least five feet from the house and use non-combustible mulch and dried out plants.

• Enclose open eves with plywood or something that will keep embers from swirling up into the eves and getting stuck.

• Close openings under the garage door and be sure to close the garage door if a wildfire threatens.

• Roll up the windows of parked cars if a fire threatens and make sure they’re parked either in a closed, covered garage or at lest 30 feet from the house.

• Replace plastic garbage cans with metal cans with tight-fitting lids. Embers can melt through a plastic garbage can and set the contents on fire — potentially igniting the house.

• Replace wooden fences that connect to the house with non-flammable material. A wooden fence can act like “a wick to a candle” to set a house on fire. Keep at least a five foot, non-flammable gap between the fence and the house and remove flammable debris or leaves from the base of the fence.

• Regularly clean out gutters and portions of the roof where leaves or pine needles can collect. Make sure no tree branches overhang the house, since they’ll drop needles and leaves on gutters and roofs.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com

Mining for lithium, at a cost to Indigenous religions

In western Arizona, the push for EVs threatens the Hualapai Tribe’s religious practices.

Maya L. Kapoor

One autumn evening four years ago, Ivan Bender, a Hualapai man in his mid-50s, took a walk with his fluffy brown-and-white Pomeranian, Sierra Mae, to check on the ranchland he tends. Nestled in western Arizona’s Big Sandy River Valley, the ranch protects Ha’ Kamwe’ — hot springs that are sacred to the Hualapai and known today in English as Cofer Hot Springs. As the shadows lengthened, Bender saw something surprising — men working on a nearby hillside.

“I asked them what they were doing,” Bender recalled. “They told me they were drilling.” As it turns out, along with sacred places including the hot springs, ceremony sites and ancestral burials, the valley also holds an enormous lithium deposit. Now, exploratory work by Australian company Hawkstone Mining threatens those places, and with them, the religious practices of the Hualapai and other Indigenous nations. But this threat is nothing new: Centuries of land expropriation, combined with federal court rulings denying protection to sacred sites, have long devastated Indigenous religious freedom.

Cholla Canyon Ranch, where Bender is the caretaker, includes approximately 360 acres about halfway between Phoenix and Las Vegas, flanked to the west by the lush riparian corridor of Big Sandy River. The valley is part of an ancient salt route connecting tribes from as far north as central Utah to communities in Baja California and along the Pacific Coast, documented in the songs and oral traditions of many Indigenous nations.

“There are stories about that land and what it represents to the Hualapai Tribe,” Bender said. “To me, it holds a really, really sacred valley of life in general.” According to tribal councilmember Richard Powskey, who directs the Hualapai Natural Resources Department, the Hualapai harvest native plant materials along the river corridor for everything from cradle boards to drums.

The mining company (USA Lithium Ltd., which has since been acquired by Hawkstone Mining Ltd.) hadn’t told the Hualapai Tribe it was searching for lithium on nearby Bureau of Land Management lands. That evening, Bender was shocked to see the destruction taking place. The company eventually bulldozed a network of roads, drilling nearly 50 test wells more than 300 feet deep in the sacred landscape.

This summer, Hawkstone plans to triple its exploratory drilling, almost encircling Canyon Ranch and the springs it protects. In the next few years, Hawkstone hopes to break ground on an open-pit mine and dig an underground slurry to pipe the ore about 50 miles to a plant in Kingman, Arizona, where it will use sulfuric acid to extract the lithium. Lithium, which is listed as a critical mineral, is crucial for reaching the Biden administration’s goal of replacing gas-guzzling vehicles with electric vehicles, and Big Sandy Valley is relatively close to the Tesla factory in Nevada. Altogether, Hawkstone has mining rights on more than 5,000 acres of public land in Arizona for this project. Yet tribes whose sacred sites are at risk have almost no say in its decisions.

Public lands from Bears Ears to Oak Flat contain countless areas of cultural and religious importance. But when tribes have gone to court to protect these sites — and their own religious freedom — they’ve consistently lost. Courts have narrowly interpreted what counts as a religious burden for tribes, largely to preserve the federal government’s ability to use public lands as it sees fit.

A BLM map shows the completed (black dots) and proposed (red dots) drilling sites surrounding the eastern side of the Cholla Canyon Ranch property.Bureau of Land Management

The roots of this policy are centuries deep. In the landmark 1823 case Johnson v. M’Intosh, the Supreme Court ruled that Indigenous people could not sell land to private owners in the United States, because they did not own it. Instead, Christian colonizers were the rightful owners, based on the Spanish colonial “Doctrine of Discovery,” a racist and anti-Indigenous policy holding that non-Christian, non-European societies were inferior, and that Christian European nations had a superior right to all land.

“Part of what justified the claiming of the land was that (colonizers) would teach the Indigenous people Christianity,” Michalyn Steele, an Indian law expert at Brigham Young University and member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, said. “If they rejected Christianity, then they essentially forfeited their rights to the land and resources.”

By the late 1800s, the United States had banned Indigenous religious practices, forcing tribes to socially and politically assimilate, and to adopt Christianity through agricultural, lifestyle and religious practices.

More recently, courts have continued to weaken protections for Indigenous religious freedom on public lands. In the precedent-setting 1988 case Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association, the Supreme Court ruled that the Forest Service could widen a logging road in Northern California’s Six Rivers National Forest, even though it would destroy a region that was essential to the religious beliefs of tribes including the Yurok, Carok and Tolowa. The Supreme Court reasoned that although the location might be utterly wrecked, that destruction did not violate the Constitution, because it would not force tribal members to violate their religious beliefs or punish them for practicing their religions.

“Even assuming that the Government’s actions here will virtually destroy the Indians’ ability to practice their religion, the Constitution simply does not provide a principle that could justify upholding respondents’ legal claims,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in the majority opinion.

The court ruled, in part, to avoid granting tribes broad control over their ancestral lands through the exercise of their religious freedom. “Whatever rights the Indians may have to the use of the area … those rights do not divest the Government of its rights to use what is, after all, its land,” the ruling said.

Though Congress partially protected that sacred region by adding it to the Siskiyou Wilderness Area, the Lyng ruling still reverberates across Indian Country today, creating what Stephanie Barclay, the director of the University of Notre Dame’s Religious Liberty Institute and a former litigator at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, calls a “double standard” in how Indigenous sacred sites are treated.

Barclay compared the situation of tribes such as the Hualapai, which rely on the federal government to access sacred sites, to that of Jewish prisoners who adhere to a kosher diet, or Sikh members of the military whose faith forbids them to cut their hair. In all of these cases, religious freedoms are controlled by the government. But, Barclay said, tribal members don’t get the same religious protections.

 “To me, it holds a really, really sacred valley of life in general.”

“If the government is unwilling to accommodate an access for different Native peoples so that they can practice their religion in those sacred sites, then it won’t happen,” she said. But the Supreme Court has narrowly interpreted religious protection of Indigenous sacred sites on public lands, to the point of allowing wholesale destruction.

In a recent Harvard Law Review article, Steele and Barclay urge the federal government to protect Indigenous religious practices as one of its trust responsibilities, and to be very cautious about allowing destruction of sacred sites on public lands.

As things stand, state and federal agencies may permit irreversible damage with little input from affected Indigenous communities. Indeed, communication between the BLM and Hualapai Tribe about Hawkstone’s Big Sandy River Valley lithium impacts has been almost nonexistent. Although the BLM invited the Hualapai Tribe to consult with the agency in June 2020 about Hawkstone’s exploration plans, the agency later rebuffed the tribe’s request to be a coordinating agency on the project. It also rejected the suggestion that a tribal elder walk through the area and educate the agency about the cultural resources and history that mining might imperil.

Cholla Canyon Ranch caretaker, Ivan Bender, points out the boundaries of the Hualapai Tribe’s property from one of the initial exploratory drilling sites surrounding the ranch.Roberto (Bear) Guerra/High Country News

The BLM said that it found only four cultural resource sites in the proposed drilling area. Of those, it said it would attempt to avoid one, which was eligible for protection under the National Historic Preservation Act. Meanwhile, in its publicly available environmental assessment, the agency stated that effects to Native American religious concerns or traditional values were “to be determined,” and that it was consulting with the Hualapai Tribe, among others. As of this writing, BLM staff had neither agreed to an interview nor responded to written questions from High Country News.

For its part, in March Hawkstone said that “All (I)ndigenous title is cleared and there are no other known historical or environmentally sensitive areas.” Hawkstone’s report ignores the fact that even when tribes lack legal title to their traditional lands, those spaces still hold religious and cultural importance.

When asked for comment, Doug Pitts, a U.S. advisor at Hawkstone Mining, emailed HCN that, given the early stage of the project, “we do not feel a discussion on the project is worthwhile at this time.”

Even without a clear legal path forward, the Hualapai Tribe has not given up on protecting its religious practices from lithium exploration. Nor is it alone: In April, the Inter Tribal Association of Arizona, representing 21 nations including the Hualapai, passed a resolution objecting to the lithium mining, calling the BLM’s environmental analysis “grossly insufficient.” Recently, the BLM agreed to extend the comment period until June 10. But Councilmember Powskey pointed out that during the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline — which in part concerned the destruction of burials — the authorities’ response was violent, and tribal nations, for a long while, were the only ones who seemed to care. And in the end, the pipeline was built.

Big Sandy is not the first battle the Hualapai have fought to protect sacred landscapes in this remote corner of Arizona, where wind turbines, gold mines and other private interests already have destroyed culturally important places — and it won’t be the last. “You know, there’s more to come,” Powskey said.

Meanwhile, the likelihood of more lithium exploration around the ranch upsets caretaker Ivan Bender. The double standard in how Indigenous sacred sites are treated galls him.

“They come in here and desecrate your sacred land,” he said. “Would they appreciate me if I go to Arlington Cemetery and build me a sweat lodge and have me a sweat on that land?” he asked, comparing the valley to another site considered sacred. “I’d rather they go somewhere else and leave history alone.”

The tribe is concerned that drilling or mining on nearby BLM land risks destroying or contaminating the springs.Roberto (Bear) Guerra/High Country News

Maya L. Kapoor is a writer and editor based in Lotus, California. She was formerly an associate editor at HCN. Follow her on Twitter @kapoor_ml. Email High Country News at editor@hcn.org or submit a letter to the editor

Phoenix

How a plan for 166 new homes divided a village planning committee in south Phoenix

Megan Taros – Arizona Republic

Depending on who you ask, a proposed development in south Phoenix is about the best use of land. Or protecting city plans to preserve the character of the neighborhood. Or creating housing that centers human needs before property.

The development will bring 166 new single-family homes just off 40th Street and Southern Avenue. The City Council voted to approve the developer’s request for a rezone and an amendment to the Phoenix general plan that deems the area a mixed-use agricultural and residential site.

But the plan was marked by tension between some members of the South Mountain Village planning committee, developer Scott Curtis and zoning attorney Jason Morris of the law firm Withey Morris. The committee struck down the developer’s proposals in March with an 11-8 for an amendment to Phoenix’s land-use plan and a 12-7 vote recommending denial for rezoning.

While votes from village committees are only recommendations, they can influence the way development is handled down the line.

The development process started like any other, with an informational presentation by the developer earlier this year. At that point, everyone on the village planning committee was on the same page and asked for one thing: more community engagement.

But things began to splinter as time went on. Opponents to the project on the committee and a group of nearby residents, citing concerns about density and the character of the community, began reaching out to residents, worried it would lead to development too dense for the neighborhood. They sent nearly 50 letters to the City Council opposing the development.

Mass Liberation Arizona, a nonprofit that supports prison abolition and promotes resources for formerly incarcerated people, began meeting with the developer to discuss issues in south Phoenix such as food insecurity, incarceration rates and health disparities. They began working with the developer’s company, the Brown Group, and Withey Morris on initiatives that would benefit the community. A member of the nonprofit, Joe Larios, sits on the village planning committee and voted in support of the project.

Those who oppose the project say the developer and his attorney, Morris, didn’t try to listen to residents. Morris says it was a matter of not seeing eye-to-eye.

“When you don’t agree, there’s a perception that you’re not listening,” he said. “It was an 11-to-8 vote, so at least eight people thought it was good. There are some people who don’t think this is an appropriate use of land. We think it is.”

The City Council agreed. The development will proceed with stipulations after the council voted for a rezone and a change to the city’s general plan that would allow the developer to operate within the city’s framework earlier this month.

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People vs property

The development site is within the Baseline Overlay District, an area that was zoned to preserve the rural and agricultural characteristics of the community while allowing for residential and business development. It is also part of the Baseline Area Master Plan, which the city adopted in 1997. It emphasizes a lower-density development pattern and increasing the use of infill development by making use of underused land.

The parcel of land where the single-family homes will be was originally zoned as agricultural and allowed zero to one unit per acre. It will now have 10 to 15 units per acre after the rezone and general plan amendment.

Opponents of the development say the Baseline Overlay District plans are unique and special to the community, the incoming project would be too dense for the neighborhood, and it would clash with the style of development intended for the area.

Trent Marchuk, an opponent and member of the village planning committee, said the project is emblematic of a pattern of developing without taking residents in south Phoenix into consideration.

“South Phoenix doesn’t have anything else like this,” he said. “It’s something special, and that’s something that’s been chipped away at for the last 20 years.”

But Larios said the developer was responsive to ideas proposed by Mass Liberation Arizona. When the Brown Group came back to the table with the village planning committee, it offered four units – 2% – to go toward formerly incarcerated people and front-line workers like teachers, as well as a community garden space.

The Brown Group also agreed to donate $10,000 a year to mutual aid groups working to address issues in south Phoenix.

Additionally, the developer will waive fees for south Phoenix residents and provide alternate background checks for formerly incarcerated people. The Withey Morris law firm and Mass Liberation Arizona have drafted a community benefit agreement with the stipulations. It is a private agreement that guarantees the developer will do what it promises.

It is one of the only ways to do so, as city guidelines such as the Phoenix general plan, which maps out appropriate development patterns for all areas of the city, are nonregulatory, meaning the city cannot force developers to comply with the city’s plans so long as they are not breaking the law.

Fraught negotiations

In an hourslong meeting on March 9, 56 people signed up to speak prior to the planning committee’s final vote.

Most speakers were supportive of Mass Liberation Arizona — something some committee members who opposed the project did not expect, Marchuk said. Those committee members clashed with the speakers, some of whom accused the project opponents of being racist for not supporting the project.

The tension played a role in Vice Mayor Carlos Garcia getting involved, but he was already prepared to bargain for housing in the area. A previous development slated for the same site failed after opposition from residents, he said.

“One of the glaring things that’s happening is the lack of housing,” Garcia said. “When thinking of the entire district, we need more housing stock. It seemed like a product that could work, but we knew it would take a lot to convince the neighbors.”

Committee members who oppose the project said in public meetings that while there may be some units sets aside for people who are in most need of housing, it is not affordable housing, which they believe should be prioritized. Some went as far as to call the development predatory.

Larios said he believes the developer is making a good faith effort to engage with the community. The character of the community is vastly different from when the Baseline Overlay District plans were written, he said.

“When you think of Baseline Overlay District, that is an overlay created over 20 years ago for a corridor that is drastically different and a time that was drastically different,” Larios. “If we’re myopic about development now, imagine in the late ’90s. Let’s not pretend this document contains all the wisdom we need to approach land use and development.”

Stakeholders want change from city

Marchuk said he was frustrated with the development process, which he said resulted in little change to the original proposal. It could pave the way for other developers to push the limits of the city’s plans and disrupt the character of the neighborhood., he said

The developer is required to adhere to the stipulations written by Phoenix’s planning department, which include reducing the originally planned number of units from more than 200 to 166, moving the dog park and other amenities to the interior of the development, and ensuring the bridle path between the neighborhood and the development – which is the responsibility of the residents should damage occur – is gated off.Man accused of killing officer while texting wasn’t on his phoneAudit backers pressure Senate to kill new digital recount of ballotsWater bottler that hired strip-club promoter to test it blamed for deathMiami mayor keeps vigil as fire threatens his town

Both Garcia and Larios agree the city needs to change how it approaches development.

Issues surrounding food, race and incarceration should be considered when appointees are selected for village planning committees, Larios said. He believes that right now, property owners and developers are prioritized on the board.

“Not only do we have to update the planning process, not only do we have to make space in general plan, we need to contend with the way race is structured,” he said. “It’s not just policing, it’s land use and development. … Land use and development touches on all social determinants of health, and we can’t prioritize only one social determinant: homeownership.”

Garcia said the city should consider requiring developers to do more community engagement with residents before moving projects forward because it would give everyone a chance to participate.

“We as a city need to examine how we do things and get developers to do more community engagement beforehand,” he said. “As a city, we need to formalize that process so that all voices that are impacted by a development are included.”

Morris said he’s spoken to planning committee members several times about the proposed development, but there are fundamental disagreements between all parties.

“The thing (the committee members) all share is that they want to make the community better,” Morris said. “We just have different ideas about what better is.”

Megan Taros covers south Phoenix for The Arizona Republic. Have a tip? Reach her at mtaros@gannett.com or on Twitter @megataros. Her coverage is supported by Report for America and a grant from the Vitalyst Health Foundation.

Hot housing market spurs real estate brokerages to expand into metro Phoenix

By Angela Gonzales  –  Senior Reporter, Phoenix Business Journal

The Valley’s hot housing market is creating a buzz among residential real estate brokers, and more brokerages are expanding to metro Phoenix as a result.

New York-based Real Brokerage inc. and Virginia-based Nest Realty are among those setting up shop in the Valley, while a local brokerage called GetYourNest.com is launching in Scottsdale.

Eugene Quackenbush and Brandon LaVallee have teamed up to launch Get Your Nest Inc., an app-based home buying experience that provides on-demand home viewings and also puts 50% of the agent’s commission back into the buyers’ pockets.

After raising $1.2 million in seed funding from friends and family, GetYourNest.com has selected Phoenix as its initial market, with plans to expand to other states.

Securing its brokerage license in April, the company closed on its first home on June 10, securing a $425,000 home for the buyer, who ended up with an extra $5,300, said Quackenbush.

“We want to do one thing and do it exceptionally well and that is to represent the buyer,” he said.

Buyers also will have an opportunity to donate a portion of their closing credit to local nonprofit organizations, including St. Vincent de Paul and Boys & Girls Club, Quackenbush said.

And now that the company is officially launching, plans call for hiring, LaVallee said.

So far, the company has 10 employees, but the goal is to hire 100 over the next year to work out of the company’s Scottsdale headquarters.

As the company expands into other states, agents will be hired in those areas, but the core staff will continue to grow here, he said.

All the agents are W-2 employees, which means they don’t have to worry about making commissions, he said.

Instead, agents will focus on providing the best customer service, whether they’re the “birds” who show up at the doorstep to provide house tours or agents who write up the contracts, LaVallee said.

“We’re trying to create an intentionally smarter homebuying experience,” Quackenbush said.

First Arizona office

Maintaining the nest theme, Charlottesville, Virgina-based Nest Realty, which has 17 offices in the five mid-Atlantic states, is also expanding into the Phoenix market.

Local longtime real estate agent Jono Friedland has opened Nest Realty’s first office west of the Mississippi.

“We take them from a regional to a national brand,” said Friedland, who has been a licensed real estate agent since 2004.

Friedland had reached out to Jonathan Kauffman, founder of Nest Realty, to see how they might bring the concept to Phoenix.

“One of the big internal mantras is relationships not transactions,” Friedland said.

While Nest Realty has a proprietary back-end system for agents and a client portal to ease the process, it’s the relationship that’s most important, he said.

Nest Realty will represent both buyer and seller.

“We are selectively recruiting,” Friedland said. “It’s not a body shop. It’s really quality over quantity.”

Tech-powered brokerage

Also expanding into Phoenix is New York-based Real Brokerage Inc., which already operates in 30 states and the District of Columbia.

In May, the company surpassed 2,000 agents across its national network, growing 90% since April 2020, and is poised to further that growth here.

This expansion into Phoenix comes at a time when Real Brokerage, which had been trading on the Toronto exchange has been approved to be listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market, with an expected trading opening on June 15 under the symbol REAX.

Kimberly Ryan, a local real estate broker, has been appointed as regional growth leader for the company, which is now licensed in Arizona.

The company’s platform is software based, allowing agents to use the virtual platform to conduct business without worrying about overhead. The app offers a portal that allows agents to access Real Brokerage’s marketing center, client management system and contract/transactional system.

“We’re looking to build a business that makes it easier for the agent to serve the client but also gives the clients some tools in their hands to have more independence and do some of their own self discovery,” Ryan said.

She said she’s ready to begin hiring.

“Right now we have about 200 agents that have expressed interest,” she said. “We are feverishly working to make that happen.”

Local expansion

Meanwhile, Libertas Real Estate, which employs more than 170 agents at several locations throughout metro Phoenix, has opened another branch.

The new Libertas Arrowhead branch at 18001 N. 79th Ave. offers private offices, conference and training rooms, collaborative workspaces and personal client consultation areas, said Julia Varner, branch manager and Realtor who has been with Libertas since its inception.

Justin Thorstad founded Libertas Real Estate in 2003 with a philosophy that encourages agents to retrain their way of thinking and choose their path to success through mindset.

Thorstad, designated broker, leads mindset workshops to help his agents learn this philosophy to help them achieve success in real estate and in all aspects of their lives.

Prescott Area

Will your house survive an ember storm?

Get ready now.

Because by the time the ember storm hits you won’t have time.

That’s the message that emerged from a sobering webinar on preparing your home for a wildfire, put on by the University of Arizona Extension last week.

“It’s going to swirl up and go into eddies in the lee side (sheltered from wind) of your building and create piles of embers,” said moderator Chris Jones of the ember storm created by even the close approach of a wildfire.

“That’s where they can start a small fire and the fire gets bigger and they’re able to destroy the home.”

The warning comes as Arizona heads into one of the most dangerous fire seasons in history, based on the condition of fuels, projected temperatures and the severe to exceptional drought that grips most of the West — and virtually all of Arizona.

Last year, wildfires burned nearly a million acres in Arizona — and that followed the first relatively normal winter snowfall in years.

This year, most areas got less than half the normal snow and the spring has turned hot and dry – despite the brief arrival of cool, wet conditions last weekend.

A megafire can throw softball-sized embers up to a mile ahead of the fire line.

Mostly the embers rain down as small chunks of glowing wood — or flurries of sparks.

“If they’re able to get lodged into places, they can ignite the house,” said Jones. “An ember can be a small spark like you see coming out of a campfire — or they can be much larger. Even small sizes can be enough to set a house on fire.”

Mostly, the webinar focused on steps homeowners can take to protect their homes from such an ember storm — both long before the fire starts and as the flames approach.

“A hot fire can loft material up — much larger pieces of material that are burning. It can carry these materials a mile away — certainly a quarter of a mile,” said Jones. “It is the most common way that houses catch on fire during wildfires — from the embers rather than a flaming front from a burning forest.”

Such an ember storm can easily set several homes on fire at once, quickly overwhelming fire departments.

Once one house on a block catches fire, the flames can spread readily to neighboring houses. Repeated analysis of wildfire flame patterns in residential neighborhoods show that the ember storm starts the process — but flames then spread from house to house until the whole block’s gone.

Preparing for that ember storm can not only save your home, it can save the whole block. Unfortunately, you still face potential disaster if a neighbor hasn’t taken those precautions or left thickets of brush against the house and between homes.

Cities and counties can reduce this risk by adopting firewise codes, which require homeowners to keep dangerous concentrations of brush cleared — protecting both their own home and the neighborhood.

Ultimately, protection from an approach ember storm requires cities and counties to embrace fire-adapted building codes. These codes don’t add much to the cost of a new home, but do incorporate protective designs for things like porches, attics, roofs, building materials and other weak points when the ember storm hits.

So here’s the checklist.

Defense against an ember storm:

• Replace wood shingle roofs with material that won’t catch fire when it collects embers. Metal and tile are best — but composite asphalt shingles also resist heat and fire effectively.

• Plug all roof openings — like ventilation into attic spaces or nooks and crannies under the eves. Any place a bird might nest poses a potential refuge for embers, which can smolder and catch eves on fire.

• Replace plastic skylights with tempered double pane glass. Embers can melt through plastic skylights and fall into the house.

• Cover all exterior vents — including dryer vents. Use quarter-inch, corrosion-resistant materials — vents or wire mesh.

• Use caulk to plug gaps or holes in siding where embers could come to rest.

• Move woodpiles at least 30 feet from the house — although in winter you can keep a small stash of wood closer to have your fires at night.

• Embers will rain down on even covered patios, so consider the patio a danger zone. Replace thin wood decks in poor condition with thicker, high-density hardwoods or plastic composites. Put skirting on raised decks to prevent embers from getting underneath. Put metal flashing between the deck and the house so embers that pile up in corners won’t ignite the house.

• If a fire’s approaching, move patio chairs with flammable cushions, propane tanks, flammable door mats and other materials inside or at least 30 feet from the house.

• Remove window flower boxes, which can catch embers — especially if there’s any browned or dead plant matter in the box. Keep flower beds at least five feet from the house and use non-combustible mulch and dried out plants.

• Enclose open eves with plywood or something that will keep embers from swirling up into the eves and getting stuck.

• Close openings under the garage door and be sure to close the garage door if a wildfire threatens.

• Roll up the windows of parked cars if a fire threatens and make sure they’re parked either in a closed, covered garage or at lest 30 feet from the house.

• Replace plastic garbage cans with metal cans with tight-fitting lids. Embers can melt through a plastic garbage can and set the contents on fire — potentially igniting the house.

• Replace wooden fences that connect to the house with non-flammable material. A wooden fence can act like “a wick to a candle” to set a house on fire. Keep at least a five foot, non-flammable gap between the fence and the house and remove flammable debris or leaves from the base of the fence.

• Regularly clean out gutters and portions of the roof where leaves or pine needles can collect. Make sure no tree branches overhang the house, since they’ll drop needles and leaves on gutters and roofs.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com

Upcoming Chip Seal Projects in Prescott Valley

By Staff

The Town of Prescott Valley, AZ is planning two chip seal projects on June 15th. The two projects will be part of the SR 69 Front Road Pavement Overlay Project and the Coyote Springs School Pedestrian Enhancements Project.

SR 69 Frontage Road Pavement Overlay Project

Asphalt Paving & Supply will chip seal the SR 69 Frontage Road Pavement Overlay Project on Tuesday, June 15th. Please do not park on the street during this operation. Access the driveways will be maintained. This work cannot be performed during inclement weather including high wind conditions. If works needs to be rescheduled, additional notifications will be distributed. Temporary delays may be experienced. Please use caution if traveling in the area. Thank you for your support and understanding as we complete this phase of the SR69 Frontage Road Pavement Overlay Project.

Coyote Springs School Pedestrian Enhancements Project

Asphalt Paving & Supply will chip seal the Coyote Springs School Pedestrian Enhancements Project on Tuesday, June 15th. Work will take place on Cattletrack Rd between Addis Ave and Yucca Dr. Please do not park on the street during this operation. Outside watering should not be done on the day the work is scheduled for this area. Trash/recycle containers must be kept off the street; if trash/recycle services take place during chip seal operations your service provider will be granted access to your container. Keep children and pets away from the construction for their safety. Access to driveways will be maintained. Temporary delays may be experienced. Please use caution if traveling in the area. Thank you for your support and understanding as we complete this phase of the Coyote Springs School Pedestrian Enhancements Project.

For questions regarding these projects, please contact Ron Pine at the Public Works Department by email rpine@pvaz.net or phone at 928-759-3035.


Is your business listed in the official Prescott Valley Recreation Guide?! 60,000 copies are being printed annually! How can you add your business? Call 928-257-4177 or email info@talkingglass.media or fill out the form at www.signalsaz.com.

Scottsdale

High Street Residential completes Gramercy Scottsdale construction

AZRE

High Street Residential, the residential subsidiary of Trammell Crow Company, and its partner, Principal Real Estate Investors, have completed the construction of Gramercy Scottsdale, a luxury 160-unit multifamily development in the heart of Downtown Scottsdale, Arizona. The five-story Class A building sits on two acres of land just north of the Scottsdale Road and Camelback Road intersection. Resident move-ins began in May and the building is now 15% leased.

“We are thrilled to have been able to deliver this unique multifamily project to the community of Downtown Scottsdale, where there has been a lack of new supply when it comes to high-quality, luxury residential product. The demand for this type of housing is deep, evidenced by our strong initial leasing numbers, and we believe will continue to increase,” said Paul Tuchin, Principal of High Street Residential’s Phoenix office. “Gramercy Scottsdale benefits from tremendous walkability to all of the great dining and entertainment options in Downton Scottsdale and offers great access to the rest of the Phoenix metro area.”

Gramercy Scottsdale offers a mix of studios, one-, and two-bedroom units, in addition to three-bedroom penthouses. Apartments range in size from 600 to 1,650 square feet. Units are well-appointed with high-end finishes, gas stoves, stainless -steel appliance packages, quartz countertops, wine fridges, and bespoke features in upper-level and larger area floor plans.

“High Street Residential delivered an incredible project consistent with the original construction schedule and budget despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, with a promising start on the initial lease-up,” said Kevin Anderegg, Managing Director for Principal Real Estate Investors.

The building also features an impressive amenity collection that includes a chef’s kitchen and a private dining room; an indoor-outdoor fifth floor sky lounge; a top-of-the-line fitness center; a guest suite, a pool, spa and outdoor lounge areas with a fireplace; grilling stations; a water feature; and a covered terrace on the top floor with views of Camelback Mountain and the McDowell Mountains. Steps from Fashion Square Mall and Old Town Scottsdale, a new walkable paseo will lead residents to a variety of retail and dining options nearby.

The general contractor for the project was Wespac Construction and the architect of record is ESG Architects.

3 highest-price neighborhoods driving hot housing market

 AZ BUSINESS MAGAZINE

The Metro Phoenix housing market is red-hot right now, but the highest-price neighborhoods are even outperforming the rest of the market.

• In May, the median listing price for a home in the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale market was $450,000, a 17.1 percent year-over-year increase.

• In April, 655 million-dollar home sales closed. To put that into perspective, fewer than 200 million-dollar home sales closed in April of 2020.

• The number of homes that sold in April with prices in excess of $3 million was 73, a 66 percent increase since just December 2020.

“There’s an element of the growth that’s being driven by out-of-town buyers who are coming from markets where home values are significantly higher than ours,” says  Sean Zimmerman, president of Launch Real Estate. “And there are others who realized they can work remotely since Arizona has a great lifestyle, that they get a lot of value for their dollar if they move out here.”

After the COVID shutdown in March-May on 2020, Zimmerman says the  Phoenix housing market started to experience a significant increase in million-dollar-plus home sales.

“From June until November, we’ve saw the best second half of any previous year in million-dollar-plus home sales,” he says.

So what are the neighborhood that are driving the skyrocketing home prices in the Phoenix housing market? Here are the three highest-price neighborhoods in the Phoenix housing market.

1. Paradise Valley

Paradise Valley has the highest-price homes in Metro Phoenix. Homes in Paradise Valley command a median sale price of $2.15 million, up 35 percent from a year ago

2. Scottsdale ZIP code 85262

North Scottsdale’s ZIP code 85262 is second in Metro Phoenix when it comes to the highest-price homes. ZIP code 85262  home to the elite golf community Desert Mountain and Pinnacle Peak area. The median price for homes in ZIP code 85262 is $1.175 million, an increase of 34 percent from a year ago.

3. Scottsdale ZIP code 85255

Coming in at No. 3 for the highest-priced homes in Metro Phoenix is ZIP code 85255 in Scottsdale. The area is home to the DC Ranch and Silverleaf communities. The median price for homes in ZIP code 85255 is $918,500, up 31 percent from a year ago.

Sedona | Verde Valley

Cottonwood Planning and Zoning Commission meeting to be held next Monday

June 14, 2021

The Cottonwood Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a special meeting next Monday at 6-pm at the Cottonwood Council Chambers. Topics to be discussed include CUP 21-003 & DR 21-004 conditional use permit and design review for residential use and building height, ZO 21-005 Amendment to the City of Cottonwood Zoning Ordinance Section 404 General Provisions and more. Comments can be sent to the Community Development Director by noon this Friday.  

Lane closures on Highway-89A between Prescott Valley and Jerome to start Wednesday

June 11, 2021

ADOT says drivers should plan for daytime lane closures on north and southbound Highway-89A between Prescott Valley and Jerome while cattle guard repair is underway. 89A will be narrowed to one lane only with alternating north and southbound travel between mileposts-331 and 334 near Legend Hills Drive. Restrictions will occur from 7:30-am to 3:30-pm on Wednesday.

Will your house survive an ember storm?

Get ready now.

Because by the time the ember storm hits you won’t have time.

That’s the message that emerged from a sobering webinar on preparing your home for a wildfire, put on by the University of Arizona Extension last week.

“It’s going to swirl up and go into eddies in the lee side (sheltered from wind) of your building and create piles of embers,” said moderator Chris Jones of the ember storm created by even the close approach of a wildfire.

“That’s where they can start a small fire and the fire gets bigger and they’re able to destroy the home.”

The warning comes as Arizona heads into one of the most dangerous fire seasons in history, based on the condition of fuels, projected temperatures and the severe to exceptional drought that grips most of the West — and virtually all of Arizona.

Last year, wildfires burned nearly a million acres in Arizona — and that followed the first relatively normal winter snowfall in years.

This year, most areas got less than half the normal snow and the spring has turned hot and dry – despite the brief arrival of cool, wet conditions last weekend.

A megafire can throw softball-sized embers up to a mile ahead of the fire line.

Mostly the embers rain down as small chunks of glowing wood — or flurries of sparks.

“If they’re able to get lodged into places, they can ignite the house,” said Jones. “An ember can be a small spark like you see coming out of a campfire — or they can be much larger. Even small sizes can be enough to set a house on fire.”

Mostly, the webinar focused on steps homeowners can take to protect their homes from such an ember storm — both long before the fire starts and as the flames approach.

“A hot fire can loft material up — much larger pieces of material that are burning. It can carry these materials a mile away — certainly a quarter of a mile,” said Jones. “It is the most common way that houses catch on fire during wildfires — from the embers rather than a flaming front from a burning forest.”

Such an ember storm can easily set several homes on fire at once, quickly overwhelming fire departments.

Once one house on a block catches fire, the flames can spread readily to neighboring houses. Repeated analysis of wildfire flame patterns in residential neighborhoods show that the ember storm starts the process — but flames then spread from house to house until the whole block’s gone.

Preparing for that ember storm can not only save your home, it can save the whole block. Unfortunately, you still face potential disaster if a neighbor hasn’t taken those precautions or left thickets of brush against the house and between homes.

Cities and counties can reduce this risk by adopting firewise codes, which require homeowners to keep dangerous concentrations of brush cleared — protecting both their own home and the neighborhood.

Ultimately, protection from an approach ember storm requires cities and counties to embrace fire-adapted building codes. These codes don’t add much to the cost of a new home, but do incorporate protective designs for things like porches, attics, roofs, building materials and other weak points when the ember storm hits.

So here’s the checklist.

Defense against an ember storm:

• Replace wood shingle roofs with material that won’t catch fire when it collects embers. Metal and tile are best — but composite asphalt shingles also resist heat and fire effectively.

• Plug all roof openings — like ventilation into attic spaces or nooks and crannies under the eves. Any place a bird might nest poses a potential refuge for embers, which can smolder and catch eves on fire.

• Replace plastic skylights with tempered double pane glass. Embers can melt through plastic skylights and fall into the house.

• Cover all exterior vents — including dryer vents. Use quarter-inch, corrosion-resistant materials — vents or wire mesh.

• Use caulk to plug gaps or holes in siding where embers could come to rest.

• Move woodpiles at least 30 feet from the house — although in winter you can keep a small stash of wood closer to have your fires at night.

• Embers will rain down on even covered patios, so consider the patio a danger zone. Replace thin wood decks in poor condition with thicker, high-density hardwoods or plastic composites. Put skirting on raised decks to prevent embers from getting underneath. Put metal flashing between the deck and the house so embers that pile up in corners won’t ignite the house.

• If a fire’s approaching, move patio chairs with flammable cushions, propane tanks, flammable door mats and other materials inside or at least 30 feet from the house.

• Remove window flower boxes, which can catch embers — especially if there’s any browned or dead plant matter in the box. Keep flower beds at least five feet from the house and use non-combustible mulch and dried out plants.

• Enclose open eves with plywood or something that will keep embers from swirling up into the eves and getting stuck.

• Close openings under the garage door and be sure to close the garage door if a wildfire threatens.

• Roll up the windows of parked cars if a fire threatens and make sure they’re parked either in a closed, covered garage or at lest 30 feet from the house.

• Replace plastic garbage cans with metal cans with tight-fitting lids. Embers can melt through a plastic garbage can and set the contents on fire — potentially igniting the house.

• Replace wooden fences that connect to the house with non-flammable material. A wooden fence can act like “a wick to a candle” to set a house on fire. Keep at least a five foot, non-flammable gap between the fence and the house and remove flammable debris or leaves from the base of the fence.

• Regularly clean out gutters and portions of the roof where leaves or pine needles can collect. Make sure no tree branches overhang the house, since they’ll drop needles and leaves on gutters and roofs.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com

Tucson

Roche Breaks Ground on Marana Expansion

  • Jeff Gardner, Tucson Local Media

Southern Marana continues to grow as the international healthcare company Roche plans to double its footprint on Tangerine Road. On Tuesday, June 1, Roche broke ground on a 60,000 square foot facility, directly next to its current facility of the same size. The facility is operated by Roche Tissue Diagnostics, formerly Ventana Medical Systems, which is headquartered in Oro Valley, and is expected to complete construction in mid-2022.

“This further solidifies Roche’s commitment to this area,” said Jill German, head of Roche Tissue Diagnostics. “Last year, cancer patients along with many other types of diseases suffered because getting to a hospital and having testing was very difficult during COVID, and yet we still touched the lives of 27 million patients around the world. And that’s something this site helps us continue to do.”

Roche announced they plan to move some of their manufacturing and employees from their Oro Valley campus to their expanded Marana facility upon completion. This can include moving up to 150 existing employees to the new location, and expanding the employee base at both facilities. In total, Roche employs more than 1,700 workers in the greater Tucson area. 

“This project also is a big win for us as a business and for the Tucson metropolitan area as a global community for us,” said Himanshu Parikh, vice president of global operations at Roche Tissue Diagnostics. “It becomes a good community partnership between businesses, because by allowing us to expand and continue to expand in this region, it also helps the community and in general the bioscience community in Southern Arizona.” 

Roche Tissue Diagnostics develops more than 250 diagnostic tests and associated instruments for cancer, including specialized stains for tissue samples that allow researchers to detect various biomarkers for cancers. 

“With this new expanded facility, our goal is to move some instrument manufacturing production over here, so this becomes a one-stop-shop,” Parikh said. “When we do that, it will allow us to expand our instrument manufacturing footprint in the Oro Valley campus and this is where the major growth of business is taking place. So we can continue to meet the growing demand of business over the years.” 

German says that because Roche Tissue Diagnostics works under highly validated processes, the most important thing is that when manufacturing is moved from one location to the next, it continues to work in the same way so agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration can be assured of quality. With this expanded facility, Roche says they will have more lab space to further develop their reagents and devices in the northwest area. 

“They work hand-in-hand, you can’t have one without the other,” German said. “The importance of both can’t be understated. We’re really excited that this allows for the continued growth of our business and our ability to serve patients.” 

The growing facility is located near the Gladden Farms community in Marana, which has seen many homes built in recent years. Marana mayor Ed Honea remarked on the growth in the area, saying how that section of Tangerine Road is continually developing. 

“This is a huge employment base, it’s a tax base, it’s a building that provides a service that helps people all around the world, and that service can be provided in the area,” Honea said. “We’re thrilled we have the infrastructure… If you want to come to our community, provide a clean service, employ people, and nobody complains about you and be a good neighbor, we are absolutely thrilled.”

Poor neighborhoods heating up faster than surrounding areas

By: Brian Brennan

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9) — We all know how hot it can get when the rain isn’t falling during monsoon. Scientists say Tucson is one of the fastest-warming cities in the country, and some areas are heating up faster than others.

Asphalt, concrete, are examples of materials that can bake in the sun and hold onto the heat. That energy radiates out at night keeping things from cooling off. It is known as the “Urban Heat Island Effect.”

“You look at freeways and inevitably along the freeways are areas with less shade and lower socioeconomic environment,” said Pima County Public Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen.

And it turns out the phenomenon is not impacting all areas equally. Dr. Cullen says poorer neighborhoods often have fewer parks and trees and more concrete.

“In certain parts of the community primarily in the southern part of the city the heat difference can be seven or eight degrees,” she said.

Cullen says rising temperatures are a public health issue. Not only can it cause heat stroke and death, but prolonged exposure can lead to other illnesses.

“If you are in a situation where you are exposed to heat, and you don’t drink enough water regularly you could end up with chronic kidney disease,” she said.

The disparity in the heat means minorities and those with fewer resources are getting hit the hardest. Something the county also saw tracking the spread of covid-19.

“We see that same difference when we look at heat,” said Dr. Cullen. “I think that’s what’s most striking to us, if we talk about vulnerability and we talk about equity that means we need to deal with this climate differential in the county.”

Dr. Cullen says simple things like planting trees and adding green space in underserved areas can make a big difference.

“We can all at least understand the need to mitigate heat, that we have adequate water, that we have adequate parks for everyone.”

WeSERV – East Valley

Board clears development of historic Mesa site

  • By Tom Scanlon Tribune Managing Editor

At 150 years old, the Crimson Farmstead is about as close to ancient as Mesa gets.

Not for long, though.

On June 1, the Mesa Historic Preservation Governing Board approved lifting historic overlay status, clearing the way for the Homestead at Lehi Crossing. The proposed 262-unit, four-story multi-family residential development on approximately 9 acres is at the southeast corner of Gilbert and McDowell Roads.

Today, it’s just a barren sliver of a bustling city, a sunken chunk of land surrounded by busy thoroughfares.

But in 1870, it was a very different story …  The four “founding fathers of Mesa” are Charles Crismon, Frances Pomeroy, Charles Robson and George W. Sirrine; they are memorialized in a statue at Pioneer Park.

The Crismon family homestead (home and farm) was in the family for three generations.

“At the time that the Loop 202/Red Mountain Freeway was being designed, the Crismons applied for and received the historic overlay for the property through the city of Mesa in 2001, and the design of the freeway accommodated their property,” noted a presentation to the Historic Preservation Board.

The property was later sold to the city and the historic-but-dilapidated buildings were moved in 2006.

The city later sold the property to a private owner, but the historic overlay status remained until it will be formally removed.

Arianna Urban, a city planner, told the board that “the site itself is below grade …

“There’s not a whole lot to see there at this point.”

She said the second big Mesa

pioneer settlement “was traditionally a

farming property and remained so for many years.”

The location is now pegged for a

high-end neighborhood — which, the developer insists, will give a strong nod to the past.

“We are not a team of developers that are going to ignore the history,” Ben Graff, an attorney representing Sweetwater Properties, said.

“In fact, we’re going to embrace the history.”

According to Sweetwater Properties’ presentation, “Although the Crismon Farm Homestead no longer exists, the development proposes a number of items that will serve to acknowledge, honor, protect and reflect the cherished heritage of the Crismon family and historic significance of the property.”

The developer promises to “create a blend of the simple lines prevalent in early farm home design reminiscent of Mesa’s heritage, such as those used with the former Crismon Farm homestead, along with the careful selection of both traditional and contemporary materials. We have utilized a robust blend of board and batten, stucco and stone to create an articulation of mass, color, texture and light into our Contemporary Farmhouse concept.” 

Sweetwater says a cafe to be called the Crismon Soda Shop will honor the historic family.

“We envision members of the Mesa community stopping to hydrate and enjoy a meal as they wrap up a morning walk or horseback ride along the Sunset Trail, which is adjacent to the SRP canal system in this area,” said the presentation.

“The trail system was important to the Crismon family, is an important community amenity and the development will serve to enhance the trail experience with new landscaping just north of the trail.”

Sweetwater Properties pledged “to collect and display historic photographs of the original Homestead structures and other significant moments of historic significance in the cafe.”

The board thought that was a nice start, but also is requiring the developer to place a plaque or “more permanent fixture” that denotes the historic nature. ′

Tempe could nix ‘slum-like’ from city language

By Mike Sunnucks | Rose Law Group Reporter

The city of Tempe is looking to take the term “slum-like” out of its city code, worrying the term is offensive.

The Tempe City Council will hold a hearing and consider taking the term out of city codes related to nuisances and property enhancement.

The council held an initial hearing on the language change on May 27.

According to city documents: “The Code Compliance Division has determined the phrase “slum-like” in Chapter 21 of the City Code is unnecessary and may be interpreted as offensive. Staff has unanimously agreed the removal of the phrase from Chapter 21 will not inhibit the ability to enforce City Codes. Staff will continue to utilize “deterioration” or “deteriorated” in place of “slum-like.”

Tempe has a progressive mayor and city council. A number of progressive cities and regions — as well as the Biden administration — have made changes to language and names that are deemed offensive.

Nationally, that has ranged from renaming the names of streets and schools to terminology used in ordinances and government publications.

Habitat for Humanity’s First 3D Printed House Being Built in Tempe

ALL ABOUT ARIZONA NEWS

Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona on Wednesday unveiled the first 3D-printed home in the United States that they have started building near Broadway Road and Roosevelt Street.

The first-of-its-kind home will be on land originally purchased by the city of Tempe for affordable housing.

The project combines 3D printing and traditional construction to create an innovative model for the future of affordable housing.

“The ultimate goal is to build affordable housing with less waste, to build it more economically, and to build it faster,” Debra Bradley, chief operating officer for Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona, said.

The 1,800 square foot single-story home will have three bedrooms and two baths. Nearly three-quarters of the home is said to be 3D-printed, including all internal and external walls. The remainder of the house is built traditionally.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Bradley said as she described the printer used for the project. “It extrudes concrete and builds walls – kind of like icing a cake with a piping bag.”

The home is expected to be completed in the early fall for a family who has already qualified for Habitat for Humanity’s program. The mortgage will have 0% interest to remain affordable for the family.

The home’s unique materials and blueprint would not have met city code had it not been for the city council’s approval.

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods joined the event on Wednesday with all the sponsors and stakeholders who had a role in making the historic home possible.

“Tempe is really known for innovation, and this 3D-printed home aligns perfectly with our goal to identify new solutions that accelerate the growth of affordable housing right here in our city,” Woods said during a press conference.

To date, the city of Tempe and Habitat for Humanity have plans for 16 new affordable housing units, including the 3D-printed home.

The homes are all being built on land purchased by the city, to ensure more affordable housing, and then later donated to Habitat for Humanity.

Gilbert man’s home helipad plan doesn’t fly with neighbors

  • By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor
Neighborhood
Robert Horne hosted a meeting for neighboprs at his home to discuss his hopes to build a helipad on his property

Robert Horne wants to build a helipad in his backyard so he can take off to reach two parcels he owns deep in a national forest to check on his cows.

Horne’s proposal to seek a conditional use permit for a 40’x40’ landing pad from the Town, however, isn’t flying with some of his neighbors in the Gilbert neighborhood of Sawyer Estates – horse properties with a minimum 2 acres of land.

“When I bought 21 years ago it was for the peace and quiet,” said Margie English, who lives five houses from Horne. “There are no street lights. I want to keep it rural.”

English and a dozen other nearby residents voiced concerns about noise, impact to property values and safety during a neighborhood hosted by Horne last Wednesday on his front lawn. He also streamed the meeting live on Zoom, which at one point showed 79 participants.

Horne moved the meeting outdoors in anticipation of a crowd after a growing number of people voiced opposition to the helipad on social media.

“I care about my neighbors,” Horne said. “Before submitting anything I want to make an educated decision whether to pursue a permit or not.”

He said his 2.58-acre property, as well as others in Sawyer Estates, are all zoned SF-43, which allows helipads with a conditional use permit under town regulations. Horne purchased his home three years ago and he and his family moved in about 18 months ago after renovating the house.

Horne also addressed the noise concern.

He said Sawyer Estates and neighboring communities like Lakeview Trails at Morrison Ranch are already subject to noise as they are within the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport flight path. The sounds of at least three commercial airplanes punctuated the hour-long meeting.

Horne said noise from a helicopter occurs during the warm-up stage before take-off and the cool-down step during the landing, both taking 10 minutes total.  

He also said the helicopter noise won’t violate the town’s noise ordinance, which prohibits noise heard inside a home with closed windows and doors reaching above 45 decibels for over 15 minutes from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. and 55 decibels from 5 a.m.-10 p.m.

Horne, a contractor, said he took readings of helicopter noise at Chandler Municipal Airport from 100 feet away inside a building to mimic Gilbert’s noise ordinance and the reading was 35 decibels.

When the helicopter hovered, the reading rose to 55 decibels, said Horne, who added he did not intend to hover his craft above the neighborhood.

In answering questions from Zoom participants, Horne said the helipad would be for his private use and not commercial and that he did not intend for friends or family to fly in and land on it.  

 He also said he hoped to earn his helicopter’s license by the end of the year and he likely would own a Robinson R-66 helicopter, which seats five. A personal helicopter is smaller and statistically helicopters are safe, according to Horne.

“I don’t have any plans on buying anything bigger than an R-66,” said Horne, who added he was looking at one flight a week if that.

He explained his parcels in the national forest are10 to 15 miles off the grid and hard to access so a helicopter is needed in order for him to check on his livestock.

“Flying out of my backyard would be more convenient for me,” he said. 

Several residents at the meeting still held reservations.

Paul English, a retired Federal Aviation Administration controller who’s been around aircraft all his life, said when he flies his drone around it scares his cows and they run into walls and fences.

“I’m concerned with outside dwelling animals,” he said.

Sherry Scott, who lives kitty-corner across the street from Horne, shared English’s concern.

“My concern is for the safety mainly for the horses,” she said. “Horses are animals of prey. When they are scared, they take off.”

She said the helicopter noise would spook horses into running into fences and, most importantly, if someone is riding a horse or is near one at the time, getting hurt is almost a guarantee.

“It’s not my goal,” Horne said. “Before I land, I can do a visual.”

Paul English raised the point that Horne would face heighten risks in having a helipad in the neighborhood, which does flood irrigation and attracts lots of birds and ducks.

“I’ve seen plenty of airplanes suck a bird up an engine and go down,” he said. “It’s different landing here compared with a ramp in the airport with no trees or animals.”

Another man noted that Sawyer Estates is deed restricted as a horse community and Horne’s proposal would change the use.

Jason Jarvis, who lives across the street, said he doesn’t like the proposal but he sided with property rights.

Jarvis said he doesn’t like it when he’s washed his car and his neighbor’s horses kick up dust and get it dirty but he accepts it and doesn’t look to get rid of the horses.

There’s a reason why he doesn’t live in an HOA-controlled community, he said, adding he enjoyed living in an area where he’s given the most freedom as possible. Jarvis said if he allowed for Horne’s helipad, it would allow him freedom with his property. 

Horne assured the group the town would carefully screen his proposal should he proceed with the application. And staff could put conditions on the permit such as times he could fly the helicopter, he said.

“My goal in this is not to get any animal hurt, not get anyone hurt,” Horne said. “I’m a good neighbor. If it ever gets to the point that anyone gets injured, I’m not going to do it.”

After the meeting, Horne said he will make a decision in two months if he will proceed with his application.

Ashlee MacDonald, principal planner, said the conditional use permit would need to be approved by the Planning Commission and an appeal to the decision would go before Town Council. 

WeSERV – West Valley

State again postpones Goodyear land auction

By Kelly O’Sullivan | Your Valley

Will four be a charm for those wondering who will purchase 1,099 acres of state-owned land up for auction in Goodyear?

The Arizona State Land Department auction scheduled for June 10 has been postponed until 9 a.m. Thursday, July 15, in the department’s basement room at 1616 W. Adams St. in Phoenix, according to a department spokesperson.The move marks the auction’s third postponement.

The state originally planned to auction the land near Perryville Prison on April 21, but postponed it until May, then June.It’s not uncommon for land auctions to be postponed, the spokesperson said.

Starting bid for the land will be $127.7 million, with proceeds going to the state’s schools and penitentiary funds.

READ ON:

Joint Venture to Complete Development on Award-Winning Master Plan in Phoenix Area

inbusinessPHX.com

IHP Capital Partners, one of the nation’s leading real estate investment firms, and Värde Partners, a leading global alternative investment firm, today announced that they have formed a joint venture (JV) to acquire the remaining 3,721 acres of land for development within Vistancia, a 7,100-acre mature master-planned community in Peoria, Ariz. The transaction includes all 3,300 entitled residential dwelling units within the Northpointe at Vistancia community and 370 acres of commercial mixed-use development.

Construction at Northpointe at Vistancia has already begun, with the first phase of 437 lot improvements completed, and the community’s 10-acre amenity site and 5,300-square-foot recreation center, The Sovita Club, expected to be completed in fall 2021. The JV intends to deliver 520 single-family residential lots within Northpointe at Vistancia to homebuilders later this year, with lot sizes ranging from 5,175 to 7,200 square feet. Future phases of development are in the initial planning stages.

“One of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the U.S., the Phoenix region continues to attract new residents from around the country who are drawn to its warm climate and affordable, high quality of life,” said Richard Whiteley, co-president and chief operating officer at IHP Capital Partners. “Vistancia is a well-thought-out master plan with top-tier amenities in a spacious natural setting. It represents an outstanding opportunity to invest in the region and leverage IHP and Värde’s experience and expertise to provide much-needed buildable land for homebuilders.”

“Värde is pleased to team up with IHP for the second time this year to invest in such a well-located and highly sought-after master-planned community,” said Brendan Bosman, managing director at Värde Partners. “This deal reflects our strategy to grow Värde’s footprint across the U.S. residential market, addressing the accelerated demand from third-party builders and meeting the needs of buyers seeking lifestyle communities with ample living space.”

Vistancia is located in the northwest Phoenix metropolitan area of Peoria. Approximately 35 miles from Downtown Phoenix, it is west of the 303 freeway, accessible via W. Lone Mountain Parkway. With a wealth of amenities, the master plan is fully entitled for 10,500 total homes, approximately 7,200 of which are already sold to homebuyers. Approximately 17,000 residents live in the master plan’s first three communities, Blackstone, Trilogy and The Village.

Northpointe is Vistancia’s fourth and final community. Set within the Sonoran Desert foothills, it is located at the northern-most point of the master plan. It sits between the White Peak and Twin Buttes landforms, at a slightly higher elevation than the other Vistancia communities. Designed around the surrounding natural landscape and unique rolling hill topography, Northpointe at Vistancia’s home sites provide panoramic views and access to plentiful outdoor recreation opportunities.

Amenities within Northpointe at Vistancia are planned to include private resort-style recreation centers with swimming pools, community parks, a K-8 elementary school and a 1,100-acre mountain preserve with hiking trails and walking paths.

White Mountain

Will your house survive an ember storm?

Get ready now.

Because by the time the ember storm hits you won’t have time.

That’s the message that emerged from a sobering webinar on preparing your home for a wildfire, put on by the University of Arizona Extension last week.

“It’s going to swirl up and go into eddies in the lee side (sheltered from wind) of your building and create piles of embers,” said moderator Chris Jones of the ember storm created by even the close approach of a wildfire.

“That’s where they can start a small fire and the fire gets bigger and they’re able to destroy the home.”

The warning comes as Arizona heads into one of the most dangerous fire seasons in history, based on the condition of fuels, projected temperatures and the severe to exceptional drought that grips most of the West — and virtually all of Arizona.

Last year, wildfires burned nearly a million acres in Arizona — and that followed the first relatively normal winter snowfall in years.

This year, most areas got less than half the normal snow and the spring has turned hot and dry – despite the brief arrival of cool, wet conditions last weekend.

A megafire can throw softball-sized embers up to a mile ahead of the fire line.

Mostly the embers rain down as small chunks of glowing wood — or flurries of sparks.

“If they’re able to get lodged into places, they can ignite the house,” said Jones. “An ember can be a small spark like you see coming out of a campfire — or they can be much larger. Even small sizes can be enough to set a house on fire.”

Mostly, the webinar focused on steps homeowners can take to protect their homes from such an ember storm — both long before the fire starts and as the flames approach.

“A hot fire can loft material up — much larger pieces of material that are burning. It can carry these materials a mile away — certainly a quarter of a mile,” said Jones. “It is the most common way that houses catch on fire during wildfires — from the embers rather than a flaming front from a burning forest.”

Such an ember storm can easily set several homes on fire at once, quickly overwhelming fire departments.

Once one house on a block catches fire, the flames can spread readily to neighboring houses. Repeated analysis of wildfire flame patterns in residential neighborhoods show that the ember storm starts the process — but flames then spread from house to house until the whole block’s gone.

Preparing for that ember storm can not only save your home, it can save the whole block. Unfortunately, you still face potential disaster if a neighbor hasn’t taken those precautions or left thickets of brush against the house and between homes.

Cities and counties can reduce this risk by adopting firewise codes, which require homeowners to keep dangerous concentrations of brush cleared — protecting both their own home and the neighborhood.

Ultimately, protection from an approach ember storm requires cities and counties to embrace fire-adapted building codes. These codes don’t add much to the cost of a new home, but do incorporate protective designs for things like porches, attics, roofs, building materials and other weak points when the ember storm hits.

So here’s the checklist.

Defense against an ember storm:

• Replace wood shingle roofs with material that won’t catch fire when it collects embers. Metal and tile are best — but composite asphalt shingles also resist heat and fire effectively.

• Plug all roof openings — like ventilation into attic spaces or nooks and crannies under the eves. Any place a bird might nest poses a potential refuge for embers, which can smolder and catch eves on fire.

• Replace plastic skylights with tempered double pane glass. Embers can melt through plastic skylights and fall into the house.

• Cover all exterior vents — including dryer vents. Use quarter-inch, corrosion-resistant materials — vents or wire mesh.

• Use caulk to plug gaps or holes in siding where embers could come to rest.

• Move woodpiles at least 30 feet from the house — although in winter you can keep a small stash of wood closer to have your fires at night.

• Embers will rain down on even covered patios, so consider the patio a danger zone. Replace thin wood decks in poor condition with thicker, high-density hardwoods or plastic composites. Put skirting on raised decks to prevent embers from getting underneath. Put metal flashing between the deck and the house so embers that pile up in corners won’t ignite the house.

• If a fire’s approaching, move patio chairs with flammable cushions, propane tanks, flammable door mats and other materials inside or at least 30 feet from the house.

• Remove window flower boxes, which can catch embers — especially if there’s any browned or dead plant matter in the box. Keep flower beds at least five feet from the house and use non-combustible mulch and dried out plants.

• Enclose open eves with plywood or something that will keep embers from swirling up into the eves and getting stuck.

• Close openings under the garage door and be sure to close the garage door if a wildfire threatens.

• Roll up the windows of parked cars if a fire threatens and make sure they’re parked either in a closed, covered garage or at lest 30 feet from the house.

• Replace plastic garbage cans with metal cans with tight-fitting lids. Embers can melt through a plastic garbage can and set the contents on fire — potentially igniting the house.

• Replace wooden fences that connect to the house with non-flammable material. A wooden fence can act like “a wick to a candle” to set a house on fire. Keep at least a five foot, non-flammable gap between the fence and the house and remove flammable debris or leaves from the base of the fence.

• Regularly clean out gutters and portions of the roof where leaves or pine needles can collect. Make sure no tree branches overhang the house, since they’ll drop needles and leaves on gutters and roofs.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com

Report: Colorado River Basin Tribes Lack Clean, Reliable Water

By MELISSA SEVIGNY

It’s estimated that more than seven hundred thousand Native Americans in the U.S. are living without access to clean and reliable water.  A recent report from the Water & Tribes Initiative surveyed thirty tribes in the Colorado River Basin and found widespread problems with lack of water access and contaminated supplies. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with the report’s lead author, Heather Tanana, a Navajo Nation citizen and assistant professor at the University of Utah.

One of the conclusions of the report is that race is the most significant predicator of whether people had access to plumbing. Can you talk about that?

There are actually a few different articles that focus on what they’ll call ‘plumbing poverty.’…. I think that’s something a lot of people wouldn’t realize is true, you might think it’s more related to the rural nature of where someone resides, but these studies accounted for that and in the end, it’s race, and in particular Native Americans are the most impacted, the most likely to lack plumbing in their homes…. The pandemic has highlighted a lot of inequities in our country and bringing attention to them, and these are conditions that don’t exist in more affluent white communities. They just don’t.

Yeah, the numbers from the Navajo Nation in particular, I think you wrote that one in three Navajo homes doesn’t have running water, that’s an incredible number.

Yeah, you just wouldn’t expect—I think a lot of people aren’t aware of that. The average American has running water. …. and just the usage, right? A lot of these homes, if you don’t have a piped delivery system, you’re having to haul long distances, you have to be really conservative on the amount of water you’re using, and it’s a fraction of what other homes who have easy access are using.

What needs to be done to solve this problem?  

Funding plays a big role, for sure…. The Operation and Maintenance is pretty unique out in these communities, and Indian Health Service is the only agency that has the ability to fund O&M, and yet Congress has never provided the money for them to do that. So overall, I think the government—here we are, 21st century, we know how to solve these problems. We spend a lot of money on foreign aid outside the U.S. to get water systems in. With the pandemic highlighting these inequities that are happening within our own country, if we can just shift our resources, use the knowledge that we clearly have, it’s a real opportunity right now to solve this problem once and for all.

You write in the report that the federal government has a legal and a moral obligation to act on this issue. Will you tell me more about that?

That’s something that’s really unique to Native Americans and tribes in this country…. Tribes gave up millions and millions of acres of lands, and they did that in exchange for something, and it was for a permanent homeland. A lot of tribes were displaced to reservations that often weren’t their original homelands, and the government when they did that, they promised that the reservation would be a permanent homeland for the tribe and their people. Our report, one of our arguments we make, it’s impossible to have a permanent homeland anywhere unless you have water. It’s such an integral part to your survival. You’ll hear that saying a lot tribes in their different languages, water is life, life water. You can’t exist without it…. I guess what I’d stress is, living traditionally doesn’t mean living without water.

Heather, thank you so much for speaking with me.

Thank you, Melissa.

Yuma

P&Z gives thumbs up to proposed code changes

The Yuma Planning and Zoning Commission gave the thumbs up to proposed code changes that would expand the list of acceptable uses for corner markets, streamline the subdivision process and allow site-built homes in Manufactured Housing Districts.

MORE CORNER MARKET USES

After developers and property owners expressed interest in expanded commercial uses for corner markets in residential districts within the Infill Overlay District, the City Council directed staff to expand the permitted uses.

As a result, city staff proposed changing the zoning code to allow the same uses already permitted in the Limited Commercial (B-1) District with a conditional use permit, except for adult-oriented businesses

The Limited Commercial (B-1) District allows a slew of uses, such as retail, repair shops, restaurants and child care services. Corner market uses already allowed by the code include cafés, grocery and produce sales, bakery, deli, hardware stores and personal services limited to salons, barbers, tailors and laundromats.

While the sale or consumption of alcohol was previously prohibited, the proposal would permit it as long as it isn’t the “primary” activity.

In addition, a single dwelling unit located within the same building may be owner-occupied or a rental unit.

The proposal also calls for allowing businesses to operate until 10 p.m. Currently, the hours of operation are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The city hopes the changes will encourage neighborhood investment, mixed-use development and convenient access to goods and services within walking distance.

A staff report notes that previously, in an effort to protect the character of the surrounding residential neighborhood, many commercial uses were excluded from consideration as a corner market.

SHORTER SUBDIVISION PROCESS

The city proposes changes to the subdivision process that would shorten the timeline. The subdivision code provides guidelines for both commercial and residential land divisions.

This proposed amendment updates development standards, such as mylar requirements. Mylar is the type of paper that final plats are recorded on. Staff only wants to require one mylar copy, instead of three, and then the city would retain a digital copy of the recorded plat.

Designers and developers asked for this change because of advancements to digital technology, and the city would also like to limit mylar copies due to cost and lack of storage space.

A major proposed update is the ability to submit a preliminary plat without preliminary construction drawings, allowing staff to begin scheduling necessary public meetings.

While preliminary construction drawings will no longer be required, final construction drawings will need to be submitted within three weeks of applying for the preliminary plat. This will allow staff proper time to review the documents prior to the Planning and Zoning Commission hearing, ensuring that any issues or modifications are addressed prior to the hearing.

Currently, both the preliminary and final plats go before the commission. Usually the final plat has no changes from the preliminary plat. The city proposes taking the final plat straight to the council for approval, which would shorten the process by six weeks.

The city would also like to add a 10-lot subdivision process to encourage development and allow more dense development to occur. Currently, the code identifies a subdivision as the division of land into four or more parcels, requiring the need to complete the full subdivision process.

“Oftentimes people are scared when they realize they have to go through this full subdivision process for four, five or six lots,” explained Alyssa Linville, assistant director of community development.

However, state statute allows a jurisdiction to process subdivisions containing 10 or fewer lots without the need to obtain preliminary plat approval. Therefore, within this amendment, staff is proposing to add provisions for a 10-lot subdivision, which merely requires the need to submit a final plat for approval by council.

City staff has been working with designers and developers on streamlining the subdivision process for about a year. Linville noted that they want to make sure it works for both private contractors and city staff.

Other proposed changes include:

• Approval authority: The proposal calls for giving the city engineer the ability to approve changes to the traffic circulation within a subdivision. Currently, the code gives this authority to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

• Roadway widths: This amendment would remove the existing reference to outdated roadway widths and will in turn reference standard construction drawings and the Transportation Element of the General Plan.

• Process outline: An overall outline will provide a quick overview of the subdivision process, eliminating the need to search through several pages of the code.

SITE-BUILT HOMES IN MANUFACTURED HOUSING DISTRICTS

The city also proposed changes to the housing types permitted within the Manufactured Housing Subdivision District. Currently, the code only permits the installation of manufactured homes, generally defined as factory assembled structures, in this district.

However, staff has seen an increase in requests for site-built homes in this district. The proposed text amendment is similar to the Recreation Vehicle Subdivision District, which allows both types of housing options.

Staff noted that allowing site-built homes could encourage the redevelopment of older manufactured housing subdivisions.

San Luis installs outdoor exercise equipment for residents

  • By CESAR NEYOY BAJO EL SOL

SAN LUIS, Ariz. – Residents who jog or walk for exercise will soon be able to pump the pedals of a stationary bike or row while they’re at it.

The city will install outdoor exercise along a walking track it previously created along Cesar Chavez Boulevard.

The San Luis City Council recently approved the purchase of the stationary bikes, rowing machines and other equipment to exercise the arms, legs and abdominal muscles. The equipment will also be installed at PPEP Park on the city’s west side.

Davebang Associates, a Mesa, Ariz., firm is providing the equipment at a cost to the city of $15,666

San Luis Parks and Recreation Director Louie Galaviz said the city is purchasing the equipment at the request of residents and at the instructions of the mayor and city council.

“We have been working on this for some time, looking at options, and the (Mesa) company can deliver the equipment before June 30,” Galaviz said.

“The residents go to other cities and see that their parks have exercise equipment,” Mayor Gerardo Sanchez said. “This is an investment in health – the people want to exercise.”

Money for the purchase and installation of the equipment is coming from the budgets of the parks and recreation and public works department.