Ballot Drive to Oppose KOA Park Stalls
The attorneys for the Chino Valley, Ariz., town government rejected a referendum drive because opponents to a proposed RV park missed the 30-day deadline for submitting petitions, the Prescott Daily Courier reported.
Thomas Kack and Sharon Sargent-Flack notified Candy Blakeslee of Protect Our Rural Lifestyle in a three-page letter dated Thursday (Sept. 30) that state law requires referendum petitions to be filed within 30 days after the approved minutes or portions of them are available from the town clerk.
Those minutes were available from the town clerk July 29, seven days after the Town Council voted 6-1 to rezone 17 acres to accommodate a proposed Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) campground. Protect Our Rural Lifestyle submitted petitions to Town Clerk Jami Lewis Aug. 31.
"The 43 Petition Sheets will not be accepted by the Town Clerk, and are being returned to you along with this communication," the attorneys wrote Blakeslee. They work for Musgrove, Drutz & Kack P.C., a Prescott law firm that the town contracts with to provide legal services.
Charlie Marriott, who chairs Protect, said she learned about the rejection late Thursday.
"I think we are going to try to evaluate our options," Marriott said Friday morning. "I know we have a certain amount of time, a window frame, to make those decisions."
Her group sought to overturn the council decision because supporters believe a recreational vehicle park would conflict with nearby homes. The property is located on the south side of East Road 3-1/2 North, about 400 feet east of Highway 89.
Charlie Arnold, who is representing property owner Jack Tuls Jr. of Las Vegas, Nev., gained council approval to rezone the land from commercial light/agricultural residential with a minimum of 5 acres to commercial heavy.
Arnold said he is "extremely pleased" with the letter from the town attorneys.
"It was a 6-1 vote," he said. "This is reaffirming what the town council decided to do."
He said his group plans to conduct a public forum to present the facts on the project.
Arnold learned about the letter two days after Yavapai County Recorder Ana Wayman-Trujillo certified the validity of 20 of 22 signatures in a random sample from 16 petition sheets.
Lewis, the town clerk, said she submitted the random sample – 5% of 424 eligible signatures altogether – to the county Sept. 23.
Chino Valley town offices are closed Friday, and Lewis could not be reached for comment.
However, Kack said town officials were not legally obligated to tell referendum backers in advance that they missed the deadline.
He referred to a receipt for the referendum packet that states "nothing in this packet should be deemed to constitute legal advice nor as a substitute for compliance with all legal requirements, and it is not appropriate for town staff to give legal advice. …"
Kack said the Arizona Supreme Court has been strict regarding the requirements for referendum petitions to qualify for the ballot because referendum drives enable votes to overturn a majority decision.
Mayor Jim Bunker sided with Kack.
"It is just a matter of the law by their interpretation," Bunker said. "We talked this over very thoroughly with the attorneys. And that was their advice to us."
If the referendum drive succeeded, the earliest election would take place in March 2011, coinciding with the council elections.