Special Use Permit
Court Ruling Raises Fire Risks in Rio Verde Foothills
Author: Holly Wagner
Residents of Rio Verde Foothills community know living in the area public services for fire, police, and other emergency services are limited. In this fast-growing area with lack of long term planning has created problems which not only affect the quality of life for residents but their safety as well.
Experience has proven Fire Stations do not have fire trucks with adequate water capacity, or tanker-trucks to provide reasonable services to the RVF area. Currently the single fire truck in the community carries only 1,000 gallons of water. To improve their performance capabilities, without Rural Metro investing the capital to solve the problem, the company has entered into an agreement with local provider, Dynamite Water LLC of residential water delivery services to the Rio Verde area. They are contracted to provide back-up water resources for Rural Metro & Fire Stations.
For fire, rural property owners are not only at risk, so are the residents of Trilogy developments and other higher-density settings. Without back-up water arriving quickly, the capabilities of Fire Stations to fight fires for a simple structure to any major fire is very limited. House and structure fires are a serious risk to igniting the surrounding desert and Tonto National Forest. Most residences in rural Rio Verde have desert landscaping right-up to the front door. Countless fires happening regularly are putting the whole community at risk of setting the desert ablaze.
A recent fire located just West of Rio Verde in another Maricopa County island went from a small event to almost catching an entire neighborhood of estates with desert landscaping ablaze as Phoenix Fire ran out of water. Fire-fighters had to make a stand in a wash to halt the wall of fire, as screams and panic filled the air. Drifting embers and smoke clouded the mind as neighbors evacuated, or stood watching it all unravel. A two-mile long hose the firefighters stretched to a hydrant saved the day, as did their individual efforts and working together as a very large team of more than fifty.
In the RVF community neither the large team of firefighters nor the two-miles of hose to reach a hydrant exist. Instead Fire Stations rely on the local water hauling companies to come to their rescue. It sounds far-fetched however water trucks racing to the rescue have already saved-the-day more than once, in fact many times when time of response is critical.
Without any reasonable planning for the growth in the area, a lack of commercially zoned properties forced many service providers and horse ranches to operate out of residentially zoned properties. Over time it has become commonplace to see non-conforming use of properties in the RVF community and today there are likely a hundred or more of technically non-conforming uses. Now, as the area becomes pressured by uncontrolled growth more property owners are pushing back against these non-conforming uses.
In the case of the folks in the water hauling business, their trucks have been parked at their properties that are zoned residential. Although they are performing as a public utility providing water, they are not exempt from meeting the zoning standard if pressured, which is exactly what has happened now.
When water hauling companies discovered they needed Special-Use-Permits to park on their private properties, action was taken to meet that need. Currently three water hauling companies in the RVF community have signed Code Compliance Agreements with Maricopa County to obtain Special-Use-Permits for parking. Holly Wagner states, “To date Dynamite Water LLC has been the first company to fully apply for the SUP. The application process for Special-Use-Permits is time consuming, and during the process Maricopa County staff has recommended continuing to provide the service while the permit process proceeds”.
Meanwhile, a local resident who feels the parking of trucks are a nuisance sought injunctive relief in the Courts asking for a remedy to cease and desist water hauling operations. On December 3rd, 2019 Arizona Superior Court Judge Daniel Kiley handed down the preliminary injunction ruling against the use of parking water trucks until the SUP’s are obtained through Maricopa County to allow parking of the water trucks at private residences.
This Court action effectively eliminates an adequate water supply, stationed nearby, to meet the needs of Firemen and the community. For an area of residents who understand the risks the anxiety level has risen. Many residents are now in fear for their homes, ranches, and livestock.
“This is a known hauled water community,” states Rio Verde real estate agent Denise Dunning-Ricketts. “Leaving an entire community at risk in such a fashion, with extremely limited emergency water resources, puts the entire Rio Verde Foothills community in jeopardy and potentially facing great liability. How could this happen, and what can the community do now to protect itself? This is frightening for all the residents!”
The solution is to expedite the Special-Use-Permits at Maricopa County, and appeal the Court Ruling removing the trucks. In order to expedite the SUP process, we are requesting input from local residents to define if the issue is important, or not, to local officials. To make your voice heard here are the channels to pursue.
Community members should contact Raymond Banker at the Maricopa County Planning and Development with their thoughts,
questions or concerns prior to the case being heard at the Planning and Zoning commission.
- Email Maricopa County Planning and Development contact Raymond Banker at Ray.Banker@Maricopa.gov and express your positive feedback or concerns.
- Call the Maricopa County Planning and Development contact Raymond Banker at 602-506-2364 and share your positive feedback or concerns.
- To inform the Officials that YOU support the water haulers - fill out this form, take a picture of it and text-message to 602-616-8363.
I reside in the Rio Verde Foothills Community and Support Dynamite Water LLC Special Use Permitting