My favorite line from this video: "In other words, all possibilities are contained in the tenth dimension." If you think about it, it's really comforting to realize that somewhere, in some other parallel universe, certain outcomes worked out better for you.
If you're one of those hikers I've seen taking to the Tortolita Mountain Park by way of the mountain loop road that goes through Saguaro Ranch, then by all means get yourself to the Marana Town Council meeting on Feb. 3 at 7 p.m., at the Marana Municipal Center, 11555 W. Civic Center Dr. in Marana. This past month has been part of a long strange trip for Saguaro Ranch neighbors who filed a lawsuit against Saguaro Ranch developer Stephen Phinny, asking the court for a declaratory judgment regarding a public easement that Phinny built on and a prescriptive easement Phinny blocked (although residents in that area have rights to the road according to their deeds).
Yep, we've been writing about it a lot these days, but the past month has been particularly intriguing. The town administration is bringing before the Feb. 3 town council meeting two emergency abandonment proposals--one for a public right of way and another for a public easement that depends on the public right of way. What's particularly interesting about this is that the town took an early hands-off approach on this. When Phinny called the cops on neighbors who continued to use the road even after he blocked it with boulders, they told him it was a private matter. Then they encouraged those neighbors--upset that the county and town neglected to notice that Phinny was building and developing on a public easement--to get a declaratory judgment. That's why they headed to court back in June. The town's interest in abandoning the property took them by surprised, but perhaps it shouldn't have; the town has a vision for the area that is inspired by the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain resort. Between Saguaro Ranch--with or without Phinny's money woes--there is another property nearby owned by an LLC (Tapestry) that is destined to be a resort. That's what Marana wants to see happen in this area, and it's part of their town planning. And perhaps these public easements, due to the efforts of those pesky neighbors, are just getting in the way of allowing business to continue for Phinny and any future buyer for the 1,035-acre property. Phinny's neighbors want to pack the house at the Marana town council meeting, and they hope anyone interested in everything from access issues to property rights and open spaces will show up. Calling the council members and FAXing in a statement of concern would probably help, too.
Tracy Chamberlain, who is one of the neighbors asking the courts to maintain the easements, has been outdoors much of this past week and weekend at information stations answering questions with her other neighbors. She's perplexed, especially after being told by town staff why they decided to get involved, and they told her pressure came from the town council members. But Chamberlain says council members she's talked to told her they didn't know anything about this decision or why the sudden rush to get these abandonments approved. The Weekly obtained a document included in the council members’ packets (not in the public packet) that explains that the town is telling the public that this is just a preliminary meeting and that a decision won't be made, but that no, a decision will be made. The timing is strange, considering parts of Saguaro Ranch are going to auction in a few months and the development is in the early stages of foreclosure proceedings.
Chamberlain got to the heart of the craziness that is Saguaro Ranch in this latest e-mail to town and county officials:
This began with the Saguaro Ranch Developer obtaining plat approvals for his development. Which, as explained by development staff, are platted to include all recorded easements as shown on Schedule B of a title report. This approved plat included the recorded public easement for public access (7718), which is the southern portion of the dirt road that leads to the Tortolita Mountain Park, and has been used by the public for more than 70 years to access the Tortolita Mountains. 7718 has also been maintained by local residents for many years.
After receiving the first original approved plat; which clearly identified the easement for public access, it appears that the developer wanted to remove any further evidence of public access from future title reports in hopes of preventing the public easement from being platted into future plats for the development. To that end, the developer's legal counsel recorded a "Relocation of easement for ingress, egress and utilities" on March 30, 2004. (See Docket 12269, pages 466-488) which, on the surface seems quite innocuous. That appearance was deceptive. Anyone looking at the easement relocation document would have no reason to believe it was extinguishing a recorded public easement. Moreover, that it was legally insufficient to extinguish/abandon a "recorded" public easement. To abandon a recorded public easement they would be required to go to court and obtain a declaratory judgment, or the Town of Marana would have to take formal action to abandon following public hearing. Apparently the developer did not want the scrutiny of a public hearing. So the developer simply recorded the relocation document, and then proceeded to ignore the public easement and develop Saguaro Ranch, building a restaurant in the middle of the public easement.
This strategy was orchestrated by someone with legal sophistication, who knew without bringing any attention to what would result in a Title Report as an extinguishment/abandonment of the recorded public easement and replace the original easement with their new easement recording. No one would see it as anything more than an easement that had been relocated and rights exchanged by all affected parties signed, notarized appearing quite valid. (See attached: 12269) By doing so, the developer and his attorney would be assured that any future title reports would never show the recorded public easement through the Saguaro Ranch Development. As such, the recorded public easement would be platted into any future development plats. Once successful in being able to obtain approved development plats without the public easement included, the developer then attempted to use the defense that the Town abandoned the recorded public easement by approving the Saguaro Ranch Development plats without the recorded public access.
Chamberlain says town officials keep reminding her that the development has paid almost $1 million to the town in development fees - as if that's suppose to make everything OK - as if that's the price tag for a public easement - who knew?
"While it is a mess, it is not something that requires the forfeiture of public access to fix. The public does not have a debt to this development! Nor should the town be willing come to the defense of this developer in an effort to try to save him from himself and his own wrongdoing. Like many Town officials have so often stated: civil matters and personal matters are not the Town's place to be involved or responsible for resolving, that is the job of the courts," Chamberlain writes. "... If the Town of Marana votes to give away public access to public lands and to take away private property rights and access for neighboring landowners that means the price for Stephen Phinny's wrongdoing is being paid for by the public. Again, the public has no debt to this man, his business failings or deficiencies."
As we continue to wrestle with land use in our region, and towns like Marana grow, helping out the developer seems like a never-ending story around these parts. Where's Atreyu when you need him?
This is making the rounds among the dwindling members of the Media Elite:
Our good friend Max Cannon, the twisted genius behind "Red Meat," brings us the news that alt-weeklies around the country are cutting comic strips from their pages. This week, Village Voice Media--the folks who own the Phoenix New Times and a bunch of other alt-weeklies around the country--"suspended" publication of all their comics, according to Editor & Publisher.
This is, obviously, lousy news for cartoonists, since they depend on wide circulation of their work to (a) make a living (since they don't make a lot from each individual paper) and (b) reach an audience. If too many papers drop the strips, then cartoonists will stop drawing them, which would suck.
If you're in a market where alt-weeklies are dropping comic strips, why don't you write a quick letter to the editor explaining that you like reading the comics? It's more effective than faxing a picture of your butt.
Here's hoping The Suits reverse course.
Students from the three state universities marched on the Capitol Wednesday demanding legislators re-think the proposed budget cuts that would reduce state support for public universities by as much a 40 percent by Fiscal Year 2010.
The protesters carried signs saying “budget cuts are nuts” and “invest in me” and chanted “Hey, hey, Ho, ho, These budget cuts have got to go!”
Officials from the three state universities rallied the crowd and denounced the cuts, saying it would be the “end of the university system as we know it.”
Members of the Democratic caucus came out in support of the protest, taking the microphone to declare their dedication to public education. Democratic Sen. Paula Aboud of Tucson stood in front of the estimated crowd of 2,500 students pumping her fist in the air and crying, “Fight! Fight! Fight!”
The protest was held from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on the capitol lawn in Phoenix. Students from the three state universities were encouraged by teachers and administrators to take the day off school and catch the free buses from UA, ASU and NAU to make their voices heard.
They were definitely heard--it was a hard thing to miss looking out the windows of the capitol building--but it’s still unclear what difference it will make.
Republican Rep. Frank Antenori of District 30 says the protest may actually work against the cause.
Giving the students the day off school and spending university funds to bus them down to the Capitol to complain is a bad way to go about it, he says.
“I don’t think it’s a smart move,” he says. “It doesn’t help.”
UA President Robert Shelton says he believes almost all the legislators want to hear the student voice and know that the students understand the impact these cuts would have.
“The decisions that are made here are going to affect these students and probably some of their younger siblings for years to come,” Shelton said. “I think (the protest) will make a huge difference.”
But Spencer Smiley, a UA student who rode a school-provided bus from Tucson to the protest says students will “most likely have to do it again.”
“Most definitely!” somebody passing by shouted.
This morning about 20 people filed out of Judge Jeffrey Zlatow's courtroom in Tucson City Court hugging and shaking Dave Huff's hand to congratulate him on his win today against the city to remove the red tag placed on his business in mid-October.
The red tag was the result of a series of complaints made by the manager of the Laurence Court apartments next door to the LGBT bar at the corner of Oracle and Prince roads. Arguments between Huff's attorney and the city attorney went back and forth on definitions of unruly behavior and specifics regarding the red tag ordinance.
Zlatow told those in his courtroom that he wasn't able to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the red tag - that would have to be heard in a federal or state court. He had to go by the current law which defines that unruly behavior can be made by a group of five people or more pestering one or more people; and only one person has to make a complaint for a citation to be considered.
Testimony from Woody's bartender Jeffrey Branch conflicts with any definition of unruly behaviors. That October night the bar was hosting a wine tasting, and Branch says they had a keyboardist doing jazz, soul and oldies standards. He described the crowd as traditionally older that night - average age 50.
"We pride ourselves in that we don't have typical bar problems," Branch says.
Besides testimony from Linda Howeth, the apartment manager and her husband, the city relied on a report from a TPD officer that said he heard noise coming from the bar that necessitated the need for the red tag. Problem for the state was that the officer never showed up.
Zlatow told the courtroom crowd: "Remove the tag. The city has not carried its burden."
Outside, just as Huff was asked to describe the red tag fight he was moved to tears.
"It's been an ordeal," he says.
"It's taken a personal toll on my lover and me. I hope nobody has to go through this."
Huff says his case is a good example of why these ordinances don't work and why they are unconstitutional by allowing one person to make statements that can potentially ruin someone's business or life.
When asked how he might respond in the future if the apartment manager complains again, Huff says, "I can't respond to someone who isn't telling the truth."
Huff added that he doesn't feel safe, like he's the victim of a rape and the perpetrator has been released.
Due to a printing error, the complete top 10 Casa Video rentals list is not on page 34 in the Jan. 29 issue. Here is the whole list:
The Jan. 29 issue is online and ready for readers. Feel free to comment on its contents here.