Cave Creek resident Mary Vraa

Cave Creek resident Mary Vraa—shown here with her dogs Luna and Ruby—has concerns about PetSuites coming into her town. She’s unhappy that the animals won’t be supervised at night and the facility could cause traffic issues.

Cave Creek Town Council will soon make a decision on whether or not to approve the planning commission’s rezoning recommendation to potentially develop Arizona’s first PetSuites location. 

If approved, the proposed 10,604-square-foot pet resort will be located at the northeast corner of Carefree Highway and North 52nd Street within the Carefree Highway Specific Area Plan. 

PetSuites has more than 30 locations across the United States and offers services like boarding, day care, training and grooming for cats and dogs.

The rezone request and site plan were submitted concurrently by Brian Moll, representing PetSuites. Moll said letters were mailed to businesses and residents within a half-mile radius of the site and PetSuites held a neighborhood meeting on September 10 to discuss the project proposal. 

The community has voiced mixed reactions about the potential one-story pet resort. 

Some residents have voiced support, saying how the pet resort would be a great resource for pet-watching services.

An email received by resident Timothy Spence, who couldn’t attend the meeting, said: “I believe that Cave Creek needs to embrace all commercialization that wants to be in Cave Creek. It would be a great advantage to the community and the town.”

Others at the neighborhood meeting voiced major concerns.

Eight neighbors attended the neighborhood meeting and discussed issues like potential traffic problems and possible light intrusion. Residents were also concerned about the animals being left alone at night unsupervised in case of emergencies. 

These issues were also brought up at the October 15 planning commission meeting held via Zoom, where it voted 6-0 in favor of recommending approval for the rezoning request. The site plan received a 4-0 vote. Two commissioners did not formally vote, citing concerns about water usage and whether the business would provide ample tax revenue generation for the town.

The council will vote on the site change as well as the rezoning request, which would change the 2-acre parcel of land from desert rural to commercial buffer. The rezoning change request requires the council to hear the item at two town council meetings; the first will be November 16 and the second reading will be held on December 8. 

The proposed location will feature a small retail area with various pet products and will have a supervised outdoor play area with small pools, misters and canopies to keep the dogs cool during the hotter months of the year. The proposed site will provide 25 parking spots for its customers and employees.

Nearby resident Mary Vraa said she addressed her concerns during the planning commission meeting.

She said the parcel of land should absolutely be rezoned to commercial but coming and going from that intersection is very challenging, especially during rush hour, she explained.

“It’s a narrow road,” she said. “There’s only enough width for one car at a time to get out onto the Carefree Highway. If somebody wants to turn left, there’s going to be a backup.”

Kimley-Horn proposed one point of ingress and egress on 52nd Street and a future cross access point to the parcel adjacent to the east of the potential PetSuites location. Vraa mentioned concerns about this future proposed access point where people will be able to use the light on 53rd Street. 

“The problem with that is there is absolutely no plan at this point for that to occur, because it would require that the owner of the corner of 53rd (Street) and Carefree Highway start development, and then, and only then, would that egress be allowed,” Vraa said.

She mentioned how she anticipates that people will come up one block to the street she lives on, East El Sendero Drive, and use that to get to Cave Creek Road, which will create additional traffic. 

“That’s not what we want,” she said. “What residential neighborhood wants to become a drive-thru for a traffic shortcut?” 

Another solution proposed during the meeting was widening 52nd Street so there’s room for a left turn lane, but that would require additional re-engineering and approval because it would cut into the pre-existing lots, she said.

“This is something that they need to give some thought to.”

Vraa also mentioned the potential nuisance of barking dogs. She said her neighbors agree with her about this. 

“I have three dogs,” said Vraa, who has lived in Cave Creek for eight years. “When one of my dogs barks when Amazon comes to deliver, it’s loud. Now you multiply that by 25. I did not sign up to live next to something like that. Seriously, that’s outrageous.

“I had moved to Cave Creek because I wanted to have the dark sky. I wanted to have peace and quiet.”

The building may conform to the aesthetic standards of Cave Creek, she said, but it’s not just about visual conformity—it’s audible, too.

“I believe that to be a good neighbor, you need to accommodate who’s already there,” she said.

Vraa was “appalled” that PetSuites will not have overnight staff to watch over animals—especially when there’s an emergency.

“We were appalled that they have this policy at a pet resort,” she said. Moll said  it is a standard operating procedure for all their locations and there are employees on call 24/7 and safety measures in place, like cameras and alarms. But, Vraa said,  “I would never imagine taking my pet someplace that someone’s not there nearby.”

Vraa and resident Cheryle Carmitchel plan to speak at the upcoming town council meeting and have created a group to get signatures petitioning the site plan proposal. 

Carmitchel has lived in Cave Creek for 17 years and shared many of the same concerns as Vraa. She agreed that the commercial rezone isn’t the problem; the issue is that “what is going in there doesn’t belong in a residential area,” she said.

“I just think it could be less of a busy business,” she said, echoing the traffic concerns.

“A lot of us are animal people,” she explained. “We are just pretty concerned with nobody on the premises, and this is how they operate basically.”

Vraa and Carmitchel’s hope is that the town council doesn’t approve the site plan request. 

In the past, Carmitchel said she has seen rezoning changes get approved but not the site plan, which forces the applicant to sell it to someone else that will develop a more ideal business for the town. This is what she hopes happens again this time, she said.

“You really got to stay on your toes as a resident to ensure that what goes in there is something that is conducive to the neighborhood,” Carmitchel said. “That’s sometimes hard to do.

“We’re not really bad people,” she said. “We don’t holler and scream and call names and stuff like that, but we do like to be heard.”