BULLHEAD CITY — Jamie Starr announced Tuesday she would not seek re-appointment to the Planning and Zoning Commission when her term expires in June.
”I feel the adversarial nature of this project, I’d be unlikely to be reappointed,” Starr told City Council members during the call to the public portion of Tuesday’s meeting.
Starr was appointed to a two-year term in 2016 by City Council members.
“I fell constrained about speaking out on topics as a commissioner, but somebody’s got to say something,” Starr said Wednesday, adding that she expects to fill out her term.
Starr notified council members of her decision after speaking about her concern regarding grade work taking place at the Colorado River Union High School District’s Fieldhouse 15-acre construction site near the southwest end of the Bullhead Parkway.
“When this project was before the planning commission, I specifically questioned the fact that the property appeared to be in a flood zone and suggested that fill dirt would need to be brought in to raise the grade, which would result in the final height (being) in excess of the unprecedented 80-foot height limit extension,” Starr told council members. “The commission was assured that this was not the case and that 80 feet above the grade would be the limit. So why have trucks been running non-stop today bringing in dozens of truckloads of dirt and piling it up in what appears to be preparation to raise the grade.”
Starr requested the city determine if the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council members were misled in whether or not construction would require raising the grade of the building site and if that knowledge would have affected the city council vote to approve the height limit increase.
City Public Works Director Pawan Agrawal responded by email to a request for comment and said there is no elevation change for the fieldhouse being proposed.
“They are removing top soil (sugar sand) as per their soil engineer’s, Sunbelt’s, recommendation,” Agrawal wrote. “The top soil can be used by us at Rotary Park so they are dropping it there on their way to haul the soil they need from Community Park. We have excess material at Community Park and we would have hauled it off as part of our grading work at that location. So it is a win-win for both the city and the contractor for CRUHSD. We don’t have to pay to remove excess material from Community Park and we are getting sand for free at Rotary Park. They are getting appropriate material for their site for the haul cost.”
Agrawal added that the question of why a plan was not available at the time of variance was not for the city to answer, nor was a grading plan relevant for the variance.
“We were requested to approve variance for the needed height of the stadium and we approved it on it’s merit,” Agrawal said. We assume (Sunbelt’s) grading needs became known to them at some point later on when they tested the material. Whether they need to remove and replace the top soil is a separate issue from what height they can build the stadium to.”
CRUHSD Supt. Riley Frie confirmed the current activity on the fieldhouse site is to compact and stabilize the soil.
“A large volume of material was removed from the site — sand and vegetation — and is being replaced with soil that will compact with water,” Frie said. “The elevation and grading plan remains exactly as it was presented on day one.”
CRUHSD voters approved a $35 million bond last fall, with about $32 million for the fieldhouse and about $3 million for improvements at two schools, and groundbreaking began in October. The 125,000 square-foot structure will provide locker rooms, cushioned artificial turf for regulation football and soccer fields, an interlocking floor for basketball and volleyball courts and an industrial kitchen, along with bleacher-style and floor seating for up to 8,000 people. The site also will host permanent parking for about 1,000 vehicles.
In October, City Council members voted unanimously to approve a height ordinance change that would set city sports facility height limits at 80 feet. Staff recommended approval of the ordinance but the proposal came with a negative recommendation from Planning and Zoning commissioners.
Starr addressed the council members at that meeting as a private citizen and said the proposed height for the fieldhouse would triple then-current building height codes, and in her opinion, would result in lower property values, views and quality of life in surrounding neighborhoods.
“People do not get yet the impact this is going to have,” Starr said Wednesday. “Cocktails bar is about 100 feet above the river and depending on the grade the roofline of this building is going to be 10-20 feet below the elevation of Cocktails. So it’s going to be nearly as high as the terraces and the hills of town south behind Target.”