CAMP VERDE – What is a buffer? What can be done with it? What cannot be done with it?
In a Nov. 12, 2008 special session, the Camp Verde Town Council approved the master plan of the community park it is currently working to take to bid.
But a 100-foot buffer between the now-named Camp Verde Sports Complex and property owners on McCracken Lane is in dispute because the collective parties have a different understanding of what a buffer is.
The dispute exists, in part, because minutes from the November 2008 meeting did not note how council defined buffer.
Town of Camp Verde’s current Planning and Zoning Ordinances has defined buffer as “Undeveloped or landscaped property used to separate the activity from surrounding properties. Required landscaping or setbacks do not qualify as buffer.”
In a statement read to council on Feb. 17, McCracken Lane resident Cheri Wischmeyer stated that the Town graded dirt around the sports complex property “approximately 20 feet or less” from her property line.
The “gist of the complaint,” Wischmeyer continued, was that the grading was “an incursion into the agreed-upon buffer zone.”
On Feb. 8 and Feb. 9, the Town of Camp Verde graded dirt that Wischmeyer described in her statement as “adjacent and parallel” to her residence.
With several properties in line with the grading, the distance between the Town’s grading and the fences to those properties varies between 15 and 30 feet, The Bugle found by walking off the separation.
Though at first glance the grading appears to be the width of a road, Camp Verde Town Manager Russ Martin explained that the grading area was to “clear vegetation so we could show bidders the general limits of the project.”
Martin also said that the Town planned a storm water drainage ditch that would also be within the buffer zone. Because of the drainage, Martin said the trail planned to be part of the complex would be farther from the residents’ properties than previously planned.
Drainage will be built “to protect the development of the park, as well as drainage going in either direction,” Martin said.
But McCracken Lane resident Carol German told council on Feb. 17 that she believes the drainage ditch “could potentially be a flood hazard to area residents.”
And McCracken residents Bill and Erin LeBeau also stated to council that they are “worried about how any drainage project might affect our property.”
German also told council that the 100-foot designated buffer is “undeveloped land and should be left in its natural state.”
“Because the buffer area backs up to the property line of several residents, it should also be protected by an 8-foot fence to ensure the safety and welfare of residential properties,” German told council. “Without a fence, the ability to access the park land and the buffer area would be wide open.”
Imagine a wall
In the world of municipal governments, documenting the decisions rendered by the governing bodies is no less important than the decisions themselves.
The way John Wischmeyer sees it, the buffer is like a wall. And the Town’s actions were a breach of the wall.
“I’m waiting to see whether they will comply,” he said about the formal complaint her and his wife Cheri Wischmeyer filed on Feb. 12.
In a letter to Martin dated Feb. 10, John Wischmeyer requested that the “100-foot buffer zone be enforced and that the already installed roadway construction and use of it cease immediately.”
Martin said that the buffer is “something clearly to maintain separation from the fields and the back yard fence.”
“That’s how it was built to me, how it was understood,” Martin said. “I don’t understand how building a drainage swale and taking out a track in exchange is somehow a violation of their privacy or their expectations.”
Martin also said that the Town’s plan to build a drainage ditch between the complex and the backs of residential properties on McCracken Lane was “an extra step to protect their rights.”
Though planning and design engineering consultants Kimley Horn are not privy to the Town’s decision-making process, Project Manager Andrew Baird said that Kimley Horn “received direction from the Town and acted accordingly” with its design plans for the complex.
“I believe what we’ve done fits in with that definition” of buffer, Baird said.
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42
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