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home : opinions : commentary May 26, 2016

4/5/2014 11:30:00 AM
Commentary: Camp Soaring Eagle will be a good neighbor to Cornville
Eric Meyers
Eric Meyers
Eric Meyers
My Turn

There is no greater feeling in this life than the feeling of giving back to others. This is one of the many reasons that I am honored to be a part of the Camp Soaring Eagle Foundation's (CSEF) Board of Directors.

As a father of six healthy children I am very blessed.  The world is at their feet, there is nothing that they can't do if they want to - no physical restrictions or limitations. 

However, there are hundreds of thousands of children living in the state of Arizona who are not so lucky. There are hundreds of thousands of children suffering from serious, if not terminal illnesses and they are fighting for their life every single day. 

Those children have limitations and are restricted by their disease. They can't do things that healthy children can do. 

Camp Soaring Eagle changes that!  We offer medically supervised camping programs to these sick children so they can meet other kids with like needs and the chance to laugh and have fun, the chance to live their life for one moment, one weekend or one week without the feeling of being "not normal."

Camp Soaring Eagle provides these children with comfort and friendship and a chance for these kids to just be kids!  Being a part of that and seeing these children laughing and having fun is truly an amazing feeling that cannot be put into words!

Over the past three months, I have been heavily involved with the local Community Outreach efforts for CSEF's rezoning request.  I have personally met with dozens of neighbors in the area, sat in their homes and listened to their concerns. 

I've had the opportunity to present the facts about CSEF and their true intentions on the property and in the neighborhood.  Over 100 letters in support have been submitted on behalf of CSEF's rezoning request from immediate neighbors as well as concerned residents throughout Verde Valley.

Some of these letters include immediate neighbors who have recently rescinded their premature opposition.  Needless to say, the volume of support speaks to the facts of this project!

It is quite disappointing, to say the least, that a handful of people in the neighborhood including some of the Cornville Community Association members won't listen to the facts.  These individuals are continuously sending out speculative and completely erroneous information about CSEF and its proposal. 

Camp Soaring Eagle presented its rezoning application to the Cornville Planning and Zoning Committee on 3/5.  At which time we received valuable input from the Cornville Committee, neighbors in the audience as well as Yavapai County Planning Staff. 

CSEF then revised its application based on all of these suggestions/comments and was told that we could present the revisions at the next Cornville Planning and Zoning Committee meeting on 4/2. 

Despite these assurances from the Committee's Chairperson, CSEF was NOT allowed to present any of the revisions or address any of the recent untruths circulated by the opposition at Wednesday's meeting.  

Nor were we asked any questions from the Committee.  During the motion to recommend denial of the rezoning request, CSEF was unfairly criticized by the Committee's Chairperson for making changes to the application.  Remember, these are changes that were suggested by the Committee at the 3/5 meeting!! The Committee quickly voted to recommend denial, 6-0. 

One Committee member made a statement after the vote that the Committee had met in private between meetings - which if this was a public body would be a violation of the open meeting laws and the County attorney (or the Attorney General) would be called to investigate. 

Debbi Segall, who is a Cornville Board Member was in the audience and demanded that public comment be heard even though the Cornville P&Z immediately voted to adjourn. She stated that she wanted to  stay and listen to the public testimony - CSEF thanks you for this!  Neighbors lined up to speak and the supporters outnumbered the people who spoke in opposition.

Seeing that CSEF was not provided the opportunity promised to present its revisions to the application based on County and public comments - now it's my turn to present the facts:

This property was built and has operated as a religious retreat for the past 33 years.  The existing buildings were constructed with care in order to accommodate up to 120 attendees whilst remaining rural in character and sensitive to the surrounding area. 

Religious retreats/camps have been ongoing on this property for the past 33 years and the neighborhood has grown up around it.  The current property owners have publicly stated that they will continue to operate as a non-conforming religious retreat/camp if the property is not purchased by CSEF. 

This location is the right location for a children's camp. 

If approved, CSEF could begin immediate operation by utilizing the existing buildings with no need for expansion or new construction. CSEF voluntarily requested a preliminary code review which as conducted on 2/4.  

At which time the County concluded that the existing facilities on the property are adequate to operate the proposed use.  CSEF is NOT proposing a higher use than what has been operated and/or what can currently operate by right on the subject property with no public rezoning process required (ie: up to 15 single-family residential lots or a school). CSEF voluntarily placed many restrictions on their own use of the property including the number of events per year.

If the PAD zoning is approved, it will be Site Plan specific with the following restrictions at all times:

• Limited use of the property (only 32 programs per year); 

• No outdoor noise after 9 p.m. (no amplified music, no drums);

• No use of Oak Creek;

• No large bonfires;

• Attendees shall utilize group transportation provider as approved by CSEF;

• Maximum 120 attendees for each use;

• Annual Event Calendar will be provided to County at beginning of each year and posted on website for public access at all times

If approved, the above restrictions will run with the land. Should the property change ownership in the future, they would need to abide by the same restrictions. 

Any other use not shown on CSEF's Site Plan will be required to go back through public hearing process.

Additionally, the recently completed Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) which was approved by County Public Works concludes that CSEF's use on the property will decrease the potential trip generations by 55 percent from the existing non-conforming use. 

It is because of all of the restrictions and limitations listed above that we conclude with confidence that CSEF is the least impactful use of this property!

For those who are interested in reviewing our current camp program calendar, please visit our website www.campsoaringeagle.org.  For those who are interested in learning more about our rezoning proposal please feel free to contact myself or one of our representatives. 

We would be more than happy to sit down with you at your home and explain how Camp Soaring Eagle will be a good neighbor to Cornville and an asset to the county.

Eric Meyers is a member of the Board of Directors for Camp Soaring Eagle.

Related Stories:
• County decision on Camp Soaring Eagle an obvious railroad job
• Editorial: Sense of fair play missing from Cornville P&Z decision process
• Letter: Cornville P&Z's handling of our case does not pass the smell test
• Cornville P&Z rejects Camp Soaring Eagle

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Article comment by: debbie wheaton

Hmmm? Such interesting comments from so many unknowns. I first came to Cornville in 1966 and then returned in 1983. I have been there ever since. I lived on N. Aspaas in 1985-86 when Living Waters was up and running. My then teenage daughter worked there on weekends. This is probably long before many of the current N. Aspaas residents lived there. You know, the ones who are complaing about more people moving in to the area, a big facility re-opening for a good cause, etc. I don't ever remember traffic being a problem, I don't ever remember trespassers on our property, I don't ever remember a water or wastewater problem (CSE is not proposing more visitors than the property is capable of accomodating). What I do remember is a great, helping hand community of Cornville where our parents and grandparents would have extended a hand to such an organization to help them with such a worthy cause rather than berate them. Maybe we should have tried harder to keep all you newcomers out and it would be much quieter and peaceful here. We could still be the 'hicks' that we are.
My perspective is the reason the CSE lists all the things they WON'T do is because the residents have asked for all those things.
I would have to agree with Kyle K.--what are the options? Things could always be worse. Be careful what you wish for.
I wish for terminally ill children to have a chance to live out an adventure while they can.

Posted: Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Article comment by: @ Why The Big Picture...

To evaluate trustworthiness?

Try scrolling the image down so only the eyes are showing. Can you not see the predatory gaze of a high-pressure used car salesman?

Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Article comment by: Say What?

Hmmm. There are less than 1.5 million children under 18 in AZ. You say there are hundreds of thousands of terminally ill and disabled kids in AZ. Really? Seems the numbers you are throwing out are solely to invoke an emotional reaction so you can have your way?

Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Article comment by: Larry Martin

More noise, more traffic, more people. I see ALOT of available acreage away from Cornville. Did I mention ALOT
more traffic?

Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Article comment by: WAKE UP To the cool refreshing wet facts

This is about water rights, wine industry and property value. Did I mention water and water?
Sure, set a campsite and wait 20 years while the value of this land goes through the roof. Grow some grapes too. It remains basically undeveloped and ripe for the picking.
All the investors make money and live the high life while helping sick children camp.
When they left the VOC(which I expect will someday be turned into a boutique bed and breakfast or hotel, now that all the trees are cut down and cleared and the road paved and it sits seasoning) That make the elite neighbors happy. As long as they can manage to keep the red rock crossing closed too. When we finally open that crossing, it will all develop back there. Just a matter of time now.
We have a wine industry and you must remember that every time. The vineyards are scooping up all the water rights too even though it does not take much water to grow the grapes. Buying land keeping the water rights. Why you ask?
Money. Investment in the future. Life. Water.
Prescott already put you in a separate redistrict from the rest of VV with them, just Cornville. Why? Water. Ask Thurman, he did it with Springer. Last minute surprise.

Better start looking for access points to that water before there are none.
Keep them out.

Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Article comment by: Kyle Kickbush

So what are my options?
Camp Soaring Eagle- A Place for terminally ill children to get away and forget about life?
Religious zoned, space ship riding, Kool-aide drinkin cult of secrecy?
I really hope the community gets behind this camp and what they do. Regardless the property is there and will be something at some point. I follow this camp via social media and it's a great thing for ANY community to have. Pick your fight people because the next person obtaining that property might not care what you think.....Sherry, Tom, Jan, Mary I hope you get the answers your looking for, Beyond the political mumbo jumbo, This is a GREAT organization bottomline............

Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Article comment by: Slater Slater

Look up House Bill Hr 2847 to open your eyes
as to this gov backdooring every citizen.

Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Article comment by: I Believed You

Mr. Meyers, in the second CSE meeting held on the Property, you introduced yourself as the fund raiser for CSE. You excused yourself as not being involved with the zoning issues, that that was another board memberís responsibility. As the fund raiser for CSE, will you be able to constantly, year after year, raise the donations to pay for a mortgage on a $4.5 million aging property and for the operating, support, maintenance and advertising costs associated with the Camp?
If you believe that you can pay for the Camp expenses from donations, will you personally guarantee the mortgage? Put your net worth and family security on the line? Put your home up as collateral? If not, then why are you imposing yourself on the residents of this rural community, assuring them that having CSE and PAD zoning as a neighbor will improve their community?
I believed you when you described how you came to Cottonwood to live, work and have a family, unlike many of the other board members that made their money elsewhere and then chose to live in Sedona. The CSE board members see this property as a development, not as a great place to live. If CSE changes the zoning to PAD, you will have taken away their great place to live. We donít want to live in Sedona, we donít want the traffic, we donít want the noise and commotion associated with a camp, we want to keep our peace and quiet lifestyle here in the valley that weíve been living for decades.
Go find another place to build your development.

Posted: Monday, April 7, 2014
Article comment by: Tweetie Byrd

Jan Albright has a very good point to make which I hope will be considered! The county can't take water needs into consideration, but certainly can consider the sewerage impact next to the creek! This scenario reminds me a lot of what went on with the "non-profit retreat" with the giant statue out Bill Gray Rd. Please be careful about things not always appearing as they may seem!

Posted: Monday, April 7, 2014
Article comment by: To Neutral Observers

To Neutral Residents: It is our understanding that a NON-RESPNSE to the County hearing on 23 April will be interpreted as a "YES" vote to the PAD zoning. If you are leaning toward a "NO" vote, you MUST tell the County on or before 23 April. Call Yavapai County Development Services at 928-639-8151 to ask how best to register your vote. A non-response is a "YES" vote to the PAD rezoning, so make your opinion known if your leaning "NO".

Posted: Monday, April 7, 2014
Article comment by: Why The Big Picture of this guy?

Friend of yours?

Posted: Monday, April 7, 2014
Article comment by: Mary Heartman

@ Neutral Observer
Same here. The rezoning doesn't affect me except as a general precedent. But judging from what I've read, Camp Soaring Eagle is a bad credit risk. They can't get financing for this project without a PAD, which means the lender is more interested in the PAD than in the success of the project. That's what doesn't meet the smell test.

Posted: Monday, April 7, 2014
Article comment by: Jan Allbright

Since I live on Aspaas I have a dog in this race.

I am curious about how CSE is going to support the water and wastewater needs of this many people.

I am also curious on how this increase in traffic is going to impact the Cornville Rd intersection. This intersection is at the top of the hill climbing out of Oak Creek. It is already becoming a choke point.

Posted: Monday, April 7, 2014
Article comment by: Tom Babbitt

I'm a resident of Cornville. The people of Cornville would love to have Camp Soaring Eagle here. Don't listen to any self appointed committees we did't vote for these people.

Posted: Sunday, April 6, 2014
Article comment by: Neutral Observer

I've been reading about this story for a few weeks. I live in rimrock, this doesnt impact me, Im neutral.

Having said that, I thought your application was creepy.

One does not, in this or any other culture, ingratiate oneself to a potential host community by describing what you are NOT planning to do.

You just come off sounding like youre dodging the community and their concerns. And all this verbage you and your fellow board member(s) have hit this news site with since the judgement against you looks even more creepy.

Just saying

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