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Merchants protest Rio Verde decision
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 24 September 2008 12:35

Downtown merchants and concerned residents filled Camp Verde Town Council chambers last week to express their concern over the recent decision to demolish Rio Verde Plaza.

The town bought the shopping center four years ago for $380,000 with the idea of tearing it down to possibly make way for new town facilities. That idea got put on hold, and the town has been in the commercial real estate business ever since.

The building is in need of repair, and earlier this month the council decided it would be more cost effective just to tear the building down.

The council recently changed the rent structure for tenants in the plaza after deciding the rates were tantamount to subsidizing commercial businesses.

The plaza is home to a handful of businesses including a toy store, an art gallery and a pizza restaurant.

Lawman’s Pizza was bought by its current owners since the town purchased the building; the business recently spent thousands on an expansion of its dining room.

“We really like this town,” said Mark Kipena, Lawman’s co-owner. “We came here to serve the people of Camp Verde, and that’s what I hope we’ll be able to continue to do.”

Kipena said that his business had paid for a lot of the upkeep on his establishment, and that if everyone works together, repair costs for the building can be reduced.

That’s not to mention the pizza itself, Rimrock resident Patrick McDowell said.

McDowell said that with the limited dining choices in Rimrock, his family often comes to Camp Verde to eat. They enjoy the food at Lawman’s Pizza, McDowell said, and he’d like the council to take a “hard look” at its decision.

The Artisan’s Gallery calls the plaza home, and artist Vada Lavato said the business has been a boon to Camp Verde.

“The gallery is run like a co-op,” Lavato said. “We love sharing our work at good prices. Everyone wants to save the plaza. I want the council to step up and say ‘We were hasty.’”

The town also needs to consider the state of the overall economy, said Harry Rhodes.

“I don’t know if you watch TV, but the economy’s gone to pot. I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of it,” Rhodes said, adding that forcing businesses to relocate or shut down just doesn’t make sense.

The anger over the council’s decision has been simmering for two weeks, but Councilwoman Norma Garrison said she didn’t take part in the unanimous vote to raze the plaza without looking at all the facts.

Garrison said she looked at what keeping the building would cost the taxpayers of Camp Verde — her primary responsibility.

“I didn’t make this decision without looking at what it would cost all the citizens of Camp Verde,” Garrison said. “ … I didn’t take it lightly.”
Garrison requested that the Rio Verde Plaza issue be placed on the council’s agenda at the next regular meeting in order to further elaborate on why the decision was made.

The issue was on the agenda at last week’s meeting, and the council couldn’t legally discuss it.

No one from the plaza or business community was present to speak at the meeting when the decision to demolish was made.

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