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Preserving the vibe of the small, quiet, western town with low-density housing is a major priority for many residents, as voiced in public comments on the redline draft for Cave Creek’s general plan. 

Protecting desert land for the town’s human and animal residents was also a predominant concern.

“Residents are very protective of the lifestyle, the low-density rural nature of development and sound, and rightfully so,” said Luke Kautzman, the town’s planning director. 

“The biggest theme is protecting rural low-density land use,” he said. “That’s something that, through the land use map and the guiding policies and actions, is actually going to be more protected in this draft than it was in the 2005 general plan.”

A general plan is a community’s long-term guide for physical, economic and social growth for a period of over two decades. Each Arizona city and town is required to have a general plan, as mandated by state law. 

It serves as a policy document for the future of Cave Creek as envisioned by its residents. A vision statement, as well as plans, policies, goals and implementation guidelines that address topics like land use, growth, environment as well as open space are included in the general plan.

The planning commission will have a multiplatform public hearing on Thursday, October 1. During this meeting the commission will take public comments and will also make recommendations on a draft to hand forward to the town council for their consideration. A vote will be held to determine whether or not to recommend the general plan to council.

From there, the town council will conduct hearings and listen to additional comments so it can further refine and tweak the plan as needed before it is voted upon. After that, the general plan will be turned over to the voters and “hopefully passed this time,” Kautzman said. “Third time’s the charm.”

The general plan on which Cave Creek relies was implemented in 2005. Ratification attempts were made and failed in 2016 and 2018.

“Ultimately this process would culminate with a voter ratification election date in May of 2021,” Kautzman said.

If the general plan isn’t passed by voters, “We are still living in 2005 apparently,” Kautzman said. 

On September 24, the planning commission held a workshop to discuss the redline draft and review the comments made during the 60-day review input period, which ended September 11. Common themes were brought to the planning commission’s attention and those will be addressed in the document that will be considered during the October 1 meeting, Kautzman said. 

Protecting Cave Creek’s dark skies was another common concern brought up by residents. Some said not enough was being done to address this priority, however, Kautzman said the general plan serves as policy guidelines, and that the dark skies, and many other issues brought up by residents, are protected in the town’s ordinance. 

“The ordinances that we have on the books specific to outdoor lighting are actually much more restrictive than the model lighting ordinance that the (International Dark-Sky Association) would’ve had us adopt in order to become a (International Dark-Sky Association) community,” he said.

The long process of gathering community input started in June 2019, Kautzman said. The consultant, Matthew Klyszeiko, with Michael Baker International, did an initial meeting with stakeholders as well as multiple other meetings and informal meetings too. The consultants also established their presence at various community events like Taste of Cave Creek as well as the Cave Creek Craft Beer Festival to speak with residents about their visions for the future. 

When COVID-19 started in Arizona, the consultants had to get creative. On the side of the road, “roadside fruit stand” type of pop-up tents were set up with a sign that said “Stop and ask me about the general plan,” Kautzman said. 

A website, cavecreekgp.com, was also launched as a clearinghouse for all things general plan related to provide residents with various presentations and FYI documents. 

“As a resident and also as an employee of the town, I’m very proud of the community for all their input and effort and also just taking the time to educate themselves on what a general plan is and how it affects the community today, tomorrow and beyond,” Kautzman said.