Eviction deadlines looming, the county is stepping up to help save the Roosevelt Lakeview Park.
The Gila County Board of Supervisors agreed at its Dec. 18 meeting to serve as the applicant in hopes the U.S. Forest Service will sell the small community of manufactured homes as a Townsite. The board is sending a letter of intent regarding the Townsite to stall the January 2013 eviction the U.S.F.S. demanded because the existence of the community conflicted with the forest plan.
“The Forest Service policy is to deny exclusive use or preferential use of the national forest and to provide accommodations in a manner that ensures availability of the facilities for general use,” said Tonto Basin District Head Ranger Kelly Jardine in an interview last January.
David Buckmaster, the owner/ operator of the park, and representatives of the Forest Service have been exploring alternatives to having the residents relocate, county manager Don McDaniel told the supervisors.
The Townsite alternative was suggested in August.
The National Forest Townsite Act allows the designation and sale of Forest Service lands adjacent to established communities in 12 western states, including Arizona, for Townsite purposes. It requires that an application to the Forest Service be made by designated officials of the county, city or local government subdivision.
McDaniel said Buckmaster knows Gila County cannot purchase the park (a private business) with taxpayer dollars.
“We have indicated our strong support and willingness to serve as the applicant, provided a satisfactory financial plan outlining the use of private money to purchase the park from the Forest Service is approved by the board of supervisors first,” McDaniel said.
“We believe that while the economic impact of having these residents move and discontinue RLP would be relatively small to Gila County overall, the impact on this area of the county and the residents themselves would be great. We would like to do all we can to prevent this facility from closing.”
Buckmaster, for his part, must develop a financial plan, which will be critical to the success of the application and the transaction. The county would be serving as the applicant only.
After the financial plan is submitted by Buckmaster and approved by the supervisors, staff would immediately begin work on the zoning and development standards and preparation of the Townsite Act application, McDaniel said.
The community has been on the shores of Roosevelt Lake for more than 30 years, but in 1995 the U.S.F.S. cited the conflict with its plan.
It could take up to three years to complete the process, but outgoing supervisor Shirley Dawson said since the Forest Service moves slowly, if the county and Buckmaster act quickly, “it could result in a good solution.”
“Anytime we can turn public land into private land, I’m all for it,” supervisor Tommie Martin said. She then echoed Dawson’s advice to move quickly. “We really need a financial plan in hand before we can go forward.”
Buckmaster told the supervisors he is not sure how much land the Forest Service considers as the park. He said he has been told it is between 25 and 30 acres. He said he would like a good faith estimate to know how much land, so he would know how much it would cost.
“Even a ballpark figure would be good,” he said.
Martin suggested Buckmaster get a rough appraisal on the high and low acreage.
“Don’t wait for them. They’ll be talking about how to remove you,” Dawson said.
“Get the ball in your court and keep it there,” Martin advised.