|Development or the wide-open spaces?|
|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Wednesday, 20 February 2008 13:25|
When Camp Verde incorporated in 1986, its new borders contained a great deal of National Forest land.
Fully aware that their voices will not likely affect how the U.S. Forest Service conducts business, members of the Camp Verde Town Council narrowly voted last week to send a letter asking that the Forest Service not sell off public lands inside town limits to private developers.
It was an ideological debate, with Mayor Tony Gioia arguing that the town should strive to guarantee its wide open spaces that have drawn many residents to the area and Councilman Ron Smith arguing that town government has no business telling anybody what to do with their land.
When all was said and done Gioia was joined by Vice Mayor Brenda Hauser and Councilwoman Norma Garrison and Councilman Charlie German in supporting the letter.
Councilmen Greg Elmer and Bob Kovacovich sided with Smith in voting against it.
Congress recently changed the rules to allow the Forest Service to trade or sell off land, Gioia said.
Smith argued that that had enabled the government to trade off some lands in order to obtain more valuable wilderness areas worth preserving.
Gioia maintained that the open lands inside Camp Verde give the town much of its appeal and character.
“We own the land as citizens of the United States,” Gioia said. “We don’t want to see that land developed.”
see that land developed.”
Smith countered that between the Yavapai-Apache Nation picking up as much land as possible for expansion and other features of the landscape, Camp Verde needs as much land as possible available for future growth and development.
“I’m opposed to any government telling property owners how to use their land, including the Forest Service,” Smith said. “I don’t believe that government should have that power.”
Gioia said the letter wasn’t telling the Forest Service anything, and was simply making a suggestion on behalf of the Town of Camp Verde.
As for selling off land in Camp Verde to protect other areas, Hauser said that argument didn’t sit with her.
“I don’t think there’s any land in Arizona more important than our land right here,” Hauser said. “We’re not going to see that. All we’ll see is rooftops. It’s worth asking.”
Gioia added that as far as commercial development goes, the town already has empty land waiting for infrastructure and development.
It probably won’t matter anyway, German said, who has had family members with careers in the Forest Service.
German, who owns property adjacent to Forest Service lands, said when he bought it he was told that only an act of Congress would change the nature of the landscape.
“That’s exactly what it took,” Gioia said.
Camp Verde resident Jennifer Dutton voiced her opinion in support of the letter.
“People love the feel of Camp Verde,” Dutton said. “They like our surroundings in the community, the public lands. We’re just blessed. I feel like we’re trading ourselves away when we do this.”