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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : the villager : the villager May 1, 2016

7/25/2014 2:10:00 PM
Big Park Council embraces dark-sky preservation
Yavapai College, U-Haul signage also discussed
Bell Rock Milky Way, photo by Susan Amon
Bell Rock Milky Way, photo by Susan Amon
Lana Tolleson, president and CEO of the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce, right, presents Yavapai College President Dr. Penny Wills with a donation for the Southwest Wine Center at last years groundbreaking ceremony for the SWCs Teaching Winery.
Lana Tolleson, president and CEO of the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce, right, presents Yavapai College President Dr. Penny Wills with a donation for the Southwest Wine Center at last years groundbreaking ceremony for the SWCs Teaching Winery.
Lynda Exley
Contributing Reporter

When it comes to preserving the pristine beauty of the Village of Oak Creak's night skies from being obliterated by light pollution, the Big Park Regional Coordinating Council is betting on "Lucky 7."

There are currently only five communities in the United States that have earned the International Dark-Sky Association's (IDA) Dark Sky Community (DSC) designation, according to Joanne Kendrick of Keep Sedona Beautiful, a DSC advocate and speaker at BPRCC's July 10 meeting.

The City of Sedona is in line to earn the sixth designation. With BPRCC passing a motion to pursue Dark-Sky designation and forming a new DSC Committee to achieve such, it is the hope of BPRCC members the Village of Oak Creek will be the seventh Dark-Sky Community.

An IDA designated Dark-Sky Community is a town, city, municipality or other legally organized community that has shown exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of quality lighting codes, dark sky education, and citizen support of dark skies.

"The stunning night sky is one of the primary reasons why people move or visit the area," says Kendrick.

Other than the obvious benefit for VOC residents - the assurance they will always be able to enjoy spectacular night-sky viewing - other benefits of being a DSC include:

• DSC distinction improves property resale values

• Aiding astronomy research, a significant part of Northern Arizona's economy

• New business opportunities in the astronomy-travel niche

• Lower energy usage/cost

• Enhanced awareness by residents and visitors of light pollution and dark-sky issues

• Entitles VOC to display IDA Dark-Sky Community logo on official publications and community signs, and retain use of logo by community groups

• An economic boost for tourism

• Benefits wildlife

• The pride of being one of a handful of distinguished U.S. dark-sky communities

DSC requirements VOC must meet include having a dark-sky compliant ordinance for outdoor lighting; educating the public on dark-sky compliance and more effective, energy-efficient lighting; having broad community support for dark-sky and for obtaining the designation; night-sky light measurements in the community; showing 10 successful efforts made to reduce light pollution; and submitting an application to IDA.

BPRCC's Dark-Sky Committee is headed by Lynda Exley. Anyone interested in serving on the committee and preserving VOC's dark skies for themselves and future generations should contact her through BPRCC at with Dark-Sky Community in the subject line. For more information on IDA's Dark-Sky Community designation, visit

Yavapai College stays

Despite rumors, Yavapai College at Sedona Center for Arts & Technology (YC-Sedona), 4215 Arts Village Drive in West Sedona is not going away, stressed Yavapai College President Dr. Penelope Wills at the July 10 BPRCC meeting.

A land issue involving noncontiguous parcels of land owned by the college did make YC-Sedona's future volatile. However, a recent five-acre land swap gave YC-Sedona a large swath of land adjacent to its current campus, making it possible for the college to expand and better serve students and the community. Acquisition of the new plot offers YC-Sedona direct access to 89A and will provide the campus with easy-access parking.

Furthermore, the film school is being put on hold for evaluation, not axed.

"Because of new technologies, the film industry says it is not current in its curriculum," says Wills of the film school. "The program has been suspended for one year for study. We would also like to have closer ties with the high schools and dual enrollment classes related to film, as well."

Other changes at YC-Sedona include the opening of the Regional Economic Development Center, which offers assistance to small businesses, the Sedona Chamber and municipal development.

"This will offer the business community economic forecasting, training in current and future industries, as well as entrepreneurship. If somebody wants to open a shop that offers gourmet dog biscuits, a bookstore or any other new business, we will be able to help them," says Wills in a later interview.

In addition, the Verde Valley Campus at 601 Black Hills Drive in Clarkdale will soon open its Southwest Wine Center, which includes an estate vineyard on the campus. Enrollees learn everything from growing grapes to wine production, sales and everything in-between. The center's grand opening is 6 p.m. Aug. 29. Interested students should contact the Admissions Office at the Verde Valley Campus, 928-634-6520.

As for bringing more programs to VOC, Wills says the demographics don't make it feasible to offer college credit classes, but they are looking into bringing more Osher Lifelong Learning Institute programs to the area. Residents can also take advantage of the school's online classes as well as the many offerings at the Verde Valley Campus just a few miles down 89A in Clarkdale. To learn more about YC-Sedona or any of its other campuses, visit

U-Haul may return

Michael Eich, who owns The Worm Book & Music Store in the Oak Creek Factory Outlets on SR-179 is seeking a variance that would allow him to continue the U-Haul operation he ran in the mall's back parking lot, reports BPRCC Planning & Zoning Chair Bill Kusner.

Earlier, Yavapai County ruled the business violated current zoning laws, which allowed for customers to park there, but did not permit "selling" in the lot. Residents also objected to seeing the U-Haul trucks from Jacks Canyon Road.

For Eich to continue his U-Haul business, Kusner says, "Different zoning or a variance to the existing zoning to operate the U-Haul franchise at the mall would be required."

The P&Z Committee met with Eich to discuss his pursuit of the variance. The committee will review his request and make recommendations, which may include using directional signage rather than parking a U-Haul truck alongside roadways, restricting trucks to the far side of the parking lot away from Jacks Canyon, limiting the number of trucks permitted and adding foliage to conceal the trucks. Once approved, BPRCC will forward a formal reply to the county.

Proposals have not gone to the Board of Adjustments yet, and the committee will continue to monitor the situation.


In the spirit of community cooperation, BPRCC, Keep Sedona Beautiful Litter Lifters and the Sedona Verde Valley Association of Realtors met to discuss temporary open house signs along SR-179, reports Kusner. The three groups are working on an official "memo of understanding" that will outline where open house signs will and will not be permitted along SR-179.

Although they are still working out the language of the official document, they verbally came to an agreement that open house realty signs cannot be in the roundabouts or connected traffic islands. However, they are permitted on the outside of the sidewalks between the sidewalk and adjoining private property -- not the highway side of the sidewalks or on the sidewalks themselves. Signs should be placed to avoid plantings and irrigation, and should be removed immediately after the open house.

This agreement does not prevent ADOT from enforcing their ability to remove the signs from the right-of-way.

Once the language of the memo has been approved by all three associations, the P&Z Committee will publicize the final version.

Kusner also says the P&Z Committee is still in discussion with Ann Budrow of Baceline Investments, the owner of Tequa Festival Marketplace, concerning the plaza's additional signs along SR-179. Two of the three signs proposed are within the prescribed 4-square-foot size. However, the third proposed sign is 9 square feet.

Lastly, Kusner is seeking a volunteer to fill the opening on the P&Z committee created by the passing of Joan McClelland.

Other news

Cheryl Yeatts, manager of the VOC Sedona Public Library, reminds area residents to compete the library's survey available at

"We would like your opinion about library services," says Yeatts. "Your input is important."

Those without internet access can visit the library, located in the Tequa Festival Marketplace, or visit the library and pick up a hard copy of the survey to complete.

Upcoming area events of interest mentioned at the meeting include the July 12 "Old Bags" Tea Party & Fashion Show from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Verde Valley Senior Citizen Center, 500 E. Cherry St., Cottonwood. The event supports Meals-on-Wheels.

The Arizona Humanities Council program is at 1:30 p.m. July 21 at Sedona Winds, 405 Jacks Canyon Road. Jay Cravath presents "Instruments and Music of Arizona's Pioneers." The program is free and open to the public.

Tickets go on sale soon for the Celtic Harvest Festival, held on Sept. 20 at Verde Valley School, and volunteers are still needed. Info:

Big Park Regional Coordinating Council meetings are open to the public and held at 9 a.m. on the second Thursday of every month in the Sedona Fire District Station #3 Conference Room, 125 Slide Rock Road in VOC. The next meeting is Aug. 14. Guest speaker is Alex Rovang of Sedona Recycling.

For an agenda or more information, visit

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