After two brush fires ravaged through Cave Creek residents’ homes, cars and barns last May, leaving behind major damage and a six-digit bill to pay to nearby municipalities, the town realized it needed a solid firefighting strategy to protect its town.
To prevent another tragedy, the town council voted unanimously at the November 16 meeting to approve an intergovernmental agreement between the town of Cave Creek and the city of Scottsdale for deputy fire chief assistance and to help the town in exploring options for establishing contemporary fire services.
The city of Scottsdale is going to, in essence, loan Deputy Fire Chief Jim Ford to Cave Creek for at least a year. In exchange for Ford’s services, the town of Cave Creek will pay for his current salary and benefits, which is $170,958.52. Ford was instrumental in the creation of the Scottsdale Fire Department.
“We need a fire expert who’s done this before who can help us through the steps of developing the plan for the interim, shorter term and longer term and how we implement it,” Town Manager Carrie Dyrek said before the vote.
Ford will weigh in on important fire-service-establishing decisions like the necessary number of staff members, equipment and facilities as well as where the facilities will be placed, Dyrek said, adding that he will participate in budget requirements.
The fire chief deputy will work with the staff on cost and financing options to ensure there’s buy-in from the council and community to work to implement those steps over the next year and a half “to put something in place for this community that works for us and we can afford–or we can have a plan to afford over a period of time,” Dyrek explained.
“We can’t just go out and put one system in place right now. We have to plan for it, and we have to take the steps,” she said, adding that the current town staff doesn’t have fire service expertise.
The intergovernmental agreement will secure at least one year of Ford’s services and recommendations to the town on how to implement plans to establish fire service in the town of Cave Creek.
With the help of Ford, the town of Cave Creek as well as its staff and council will look to find a strategy that will eventually establish an automatic aid system, Dyrek said.
George Riley issued a public comment at the meeting stating how he is in favor of the intergovernmental agreement.
“The automatic aid, we definitely need it here,” he said, adding that “I’d rather see it come sooner than later.”
He said he’d like to see money allocated in the soonest budget plans because “the desert is not going to get any cooler; it’s going to get warmer.”
Harold Shell, a retired firefighter, also issued a public comment voicing his support for the agreement, adding that he is impressed with the town’s progress.
Before the vote, Councilwoman Susan Clancy voiced her support for the intergovernmental agreement, quoting Scottsdale Fire Chief Tom Shannon’s letter recommending assistance to the town of Cave Creek, mentioning how Ford has an intimate knowledge of the community and the “wildland-urban interface challenges their topography presents.”
The letter also mentions how Ford is a “household name” in the Arizona Fire Service, has worked in the Rural Metro system that still exists today and has extensive knowledge of municipal fire department environments.
“I can’t think of a better person than Deputy Chief Jim Ford,” Clancy said before the vote. “We’re lucky to get someone like him given the complexity of this whole process.”
The process that led up to the intergovernmental agreement started post-fire when the town held a public meeting on June 2 to update residents and the public on the details of the fire where a number of fire officials were present to answer questions and offer knowledge, Dyrek said.
Later in June, the Cave Creek staff started meeting with local organizations in search of information on fire and emergency medical service options, which led to an ordinance on Stage I and Stage II fire restrictions.
On August 10, Kevin Roche, an independent fire consultant, issued a discussion and presentation on possible options for fire and emergency services as well as mutual and automatic aid. Several other fire service representatives were also present, Dyrek said.
Later in August, the town started to receive invoices from the surrounding towns’ and cities’ fire organizations for the costs of their fire service. Those dues were paid, as mentioned during the November 16 town council meeting. In addition, negotiations began with the city of Scottsdale that led to the intergovernmental agreement that was presented and approved at the meeting.
“I’m 100% in favor of this,” Councilman Robert Morris said. “Let’s get it going. We can afford it.”
The Town Council also unanimously voted to approve the site plan for Galloway Crossing, a 32-unit apartment complex with an upscale pool and spa as well as a clubhouse, barbecue and gathering areas.
The apartments will be located on 4 acres of land on Cave Creek Road and Galloway Drive, an area that has an existing zoning classification of multiple residences within the Town Core Specific Area Plan.
A similar development was approved on this property in 2017 but did not proceed, said Luke Kautzman, the planning director.
During the October 15 meeting, the Town of Cave Creek Planning Commission voted 6-0 in favor of recommending approval to the town council.
Despite the architect’s plans to “raise the standard of the leased residential community in Cave Creek,” multiple residents issued public comments, voicing concerns that the apartment complex would be government-subsidized “hut” housing.
The owner, Scott Whelan, was present at the meeting and addressed the residents’ concerns, saying, “100% no,” explaining that these are luxury apartments that are “setting a new market” in Cave Creek.
On the low end, the two-bedroom, 1,500-square-foot apartments will run around $2,000 a month and the three-bedroom, 1,800-square-foot apartments will range from $2,650 and $2,900 a month, he estimated, adding that the leases will likely be two-year minimum due to high interest and demand.
“Galloway Crossing is a welcomed departure from the norm,” the architect, Greg Zimmerman, wrote in his architect narrative. “Galloway Crossing promises to raise the standard of the leased residential community in Cave Creek with nonapartment-style design.”
Rather than use a typical “barracks” type of design that many multiple-unit residential properties have, Galloway Crossing will have a “low density” concept, featuring smaller, more intimate structures that house eight residences in each building, Zimmerman described.
For aesthetic value, there will be a variation in materials and paint schemes, where materials like real cut stone, rustic metal and adobe brick will be used for window awnings and other accents, the architect narrative says.
There are existing wells on the property, which will be used to irrigate landscaping and the pool, Whelan said, adding that the historic windmill will remain a part of the final project as a “cosmetic showpiece.”
The council members were pleased to hear that the windmill would remain a part of the project and voiced optimism about the development before unanimously approving the site plan.
“I think that it is in a good place, It’s across the street from a major commercial development. If we are going to have apartments, that’s probably the best place for them,” Councilwoman Kathryn Royer said before voting “yes.” “I hope and I feel very confident that the builder is true to his word. I think that it will be good for our community.”