Plans to build a 20-room motel in Pine is drawing considerable interest from residents, evident during a recent meet and greet event last weekend as well as an earlier online meeting.

Two dozen residents came out for the meet and greet Saturday at the Rusty Pine Cone and 90 people attended a Zoom hearing Feb. 22 hosted by Gila County’s planning and zoning commission.

Everyone is interested to learn what property owner Marc Pendergraft has planned. Pendergraft has applied for a special use permit, the first step in the process to build a 20-room motel project on a commercially zoned property on Highway 87 in Pine. It is the same property where his parents Gene and Leigh Pendergraft own and operate the Rusty Pine Cone.

The special use permit notice caught community members by surprise, and 90 people attended the Zoom hearing on Feb. 22 to voice their concerns over the proposed project. There will be at least one more hearing before a permit is issued. Gila County officials said a date had not been set for the next permit hearing.

On social media, almost 50 residents voiced concerns about the project, some saying they believe it could be detrimental to the community.

“This is affecting the rural small town that Pine has been for generations,” said Melanie Bailey, who attended the Zoom hearing.

Pendergraft, who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur, and his business partner, John Abhay Modi, were surprised by the vehemence with which some community members spoke about the project.

The partners held the meet and greet on Saturday at the Rusty Pine Cone, inviting community members to come talk to them about the project.

“Twenty to 30 residents came in to ask questions and offer suggestions, one or two even stated, ‘I just don’t want to see Pine grow,’” said Pendergraft.

“We want to work with everyone,” said Modi, “to be sure it is safe and beneficial to the town.”

About a dozen protesters walked along Highway 87, just north of the Rusty Pine Cone, toting protest signs and gaining supportive honks from drivers.

The protesters have voiced many concerns. One of the first is water.

This property is served by the Pine Water Association Domestic Water Improvement District (PWADWID), confirmed Melvin Clement, water district chair.

“We have the ability to provide them water,” Clement said. “Legally, I have to provide them with water.”

PWADWID has no connection to or affiliation with the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District. PSWID serves most Pine-Strawberry.

PWADWID secured surface water rights to Pine Creek in the late 1800s and have maintained those rights. They can only serve the 58 properties that are in their district, most of which are the commercial properties on Highway 87 in Pine.

Concerned community members asked about the visual change to the charm of downtown Pine. The proposal is for a two-story building with solar panels on the roof.

Pendergraft and Modi sighted the Pine Strawberry Community Plan completed by community members in 2014 and adopted by Gila County as a guideline for how Pine-Strawberry sees growth and change in the future.

“Future development should be focused around Pine-Strawberry being a tourism hub. Development supported by the community includes lodging and bed-and-breakfasts,” according to the plan.

“We want a mom and pop feel,” Pendergraft said. “We want to preserve the small town look, and use environmentally friendly, sustainable building practices.”

There are about 160 Airbnb properties in Pine-Strawberry, according to Pendergraft’s research. This has some residents questioning if they need more lodging. Others suggested visitors stay at hotels in Payson.

A motel in downtown Pine affords people a place to stay where they can walk to local businesses and festivals, as opposed to adding to more traffic in the more rural part of Pine, said Pendergraft.

Those opposed also cite the community plan as to why they are opposed.

“Traffic flow and a walkable” community are listed as desirable, something protesters foresee this project damaging. Several had concerns about the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department having ingress and egress to the property and the added cars coming in and out of Highway 87.

They also made comments as to why a more thought out plan was not submitted.

A use permit is the first step in a lengthy process. Pendergraft and Modi will have to follow all Gila County codes and there will be ample time for the PSFD to review plans not only for ingress/egress but also compliance of fire codes.

If approved, then Pendergraft and Modi will work with architects, engineers and the county where the proposed project will meet the reality of what they can accomplish.

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(8) comments

Michael Pastika

We wholeheartedly support the approval of a Use Permit for the development of a two story lodging facility on the site proposed since it is compliant and consistent with the Community Plan and appears to be a reasonable improvement to the economy, appearance, spirit and charm of our community!

We were charter participants in the multi-year project to revise and clarify part 2.1.1 Pine-Strawberry Community Plan, the Pine/Strawberry component of the Gila County Comprehensive Master Plan for adoption by Gila County.

The use is fully authorized by the current zoning.

There have been no fact based reasons to withhold a Use Permit in the opposition to the motel presented at the hearing and in posts to the Payson Roundup, Facebook and Nextdoor sites. The most common statements are just NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), fact statements without supporting facts or speculative, mean spirited and unsubstantiated commentary not relevant to the Use Permit decision. For example: “there is not adequate parking for guests, staff, and required handicap considerations / motel is not needed or wanted / There are a ton of ADA requirements / Noise and light pollution / sure to open unimaginable flood gates to more developers / It could also mean a crime perpetrated by the people staying in the motel room / neither Marc or Abhay are professionally capable / 90% of the participants opposed the motel / two inexperienced boys / those that favored it were mostly friends and family / Democracy should prevail …”

It’s an allowed use of the private property with no provision or requirement for public voting!

Mike & Maureen Pastika

Michael Pastika

We wholeheartedly support the approval of a Use Permit for the development of a two story lodging facility on the site proposed since it is compliant and consistent with the Community Plan and appears to be a reasonable improvement to the economy, appearance, spirit and charm of our community!

We were charter participants in the multi-year project to revise and clarify part 2.1.1 Pine-Strawberry Community Plan, the Pine/Strawberry component of the Gila County Comprehensive Master Plan for adoption by Gila County.

The use is fully authorized by the current zoning.

There have been no fact based reasons to withhold a Use Permit in the opposition to the motel presented at the hearing and in posts to the Payson Roundup, Facebook and Nextdoor sites. The most common statements are just NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), fact statements without supporting facts or speculative, mean spirited and unsubstantiated commentary not relevant to the Use Permit decision. For example: “there is not adequate parking for guests, staff, and required handicap considerations / motel is not needed or wanted / There are a ton of ADA requirements / Noise and light pollution / sure to open unimaginable flood gates to more developers / It could also mean a crime perpetrated by the people staying in the motel room / neither Marc or Abhay are professionally capable / 90% of the participants opposed the motel / two inexperienced boys / those that favored it were mostly friends and family / Democracy should prevail …”

It’s an allowed use of the private property with no provision or requirement for public voting!

Mike & Maureen Pastika

Vincent Saccio

In response to George and Andrea Mansor post: George and Andrea you are not seeing the larger picture. First it is a 22 or 24 room motel. If the county allows a two story structure then others will follow and Pine will be lined with two story or more structures everywhere. You may one day turn on your faucet and there will be no water. As far as the County, Mark and his partner having the expertise to build this Motel I suggest you read Julia Bode's post on Nextdoor if you haven't already. Have you ever seen the structure on the corner of 87 and Lothian in Strawberry, I think it was suppose to be a Harely-Davidson Dealership. The owner and the county did a horrific job on that one. I now have 395 signatures against the motel. I will post photos of the eyesore on Nextdoor of the attempt by novices and the county to build the Harely-Davidson Dealership.[sad]

George Mansor

IN SUPPORT of Proposed Pine

We are writing today to express our opinions IN SUPPORT OF the proposed 20 room motel to be built behind the Rusty Pinecone business on Hwy 87 in Pine. We are full time residents of Pine since 2012. We were part time residents before that, having bought our property in 2005. We were originally visitors to Pine and the beautiful surroundings and quaint charm of Pine are what attracted us to this area.

We understand and respect people’s concerns and desires to maintain the “charm” of Pine. But we do not agree that this motel tucked behind a two story building and in front of an alley and lower hanging electrical wires will detract from the charm our small town. We question if it will even be noticeable from the highway. After reading both the “Gila County Community Plan” and the “Pine Strawberry Community Plan”, we do not feel this proposed motel conflicts with the guidelines of those plans. The Gila County Community Plan stresses the plan is a “guide” and “designed to be flexible”. The Pine Strawberry Plan, based on the Pine / Strawberry Visioning Survey in 2015, specifically was designed to keep out Big Box and chain stores from our town. That is reasonable. It is not reasonable, in our opinion, to prohibit Pine business owners from using their own commercially zoned property to build a business that will benefit our town.

The owners of this proposed motel have reached out to the community to answer questions and clarify their proposal and intent. They appear to be very open to the opinions and suggestions of residents and have expressed their desire to build a small motel that is in keeping with the character of Pine. They have addressed aspects of the Visionary Survey and Community Plan r/t design, water use, traffic, and sustainability. We believe speculation and fear of change is driving much of the opposition. They do not represent us. We also don’t agree they represent the majority of Pine residents.

We were once tourists, visitors, to Pine before deciding to make this our permanent home. As were many residents in this town. In reviewing the Pine Strawberry Visionary Survey we noted that "87% (of survey respondents) stated that tourism is important to the development and sustainability of the community. It was clearly communicated that any future development should be focused around Pine/Strawberry being a tourism hub based on the exploration and enjoyment of an unspoiled wilderness". The types of development supported by the community included: "Lodging and Bed and Breakfasts". In tandem with tourism was economic stability. This motel supports both. We are hearing the opposition is “the Will of the People”. But what people? We have spoken with many business owners and local neighbors who are not vocal but are in support of this motel and see the benefits it will bring our town. Many residents do not have homes large enough to accommodate visitors and would welcome a small nearby motel where friends and family might stay. Visitors love to attend our festivals, eat in our restaurants, walk our streets to shop in our quaint stores. After parking in the motel lot, not on Hwy 87, they will be able to walk around town and not worry about having to drive somewhere to get lodging for the night. Driving on Hwy 87 at night can be dangerous and having the option of staying in Pine may prevent a potential accident. We have limited lodging for visitors who want to stay in town to avoid driving and who do not wish to stay in an expensive rental property or who need last minute lodging. This motel also means more potential revenue for local restaurants and businesses. While we are not in favor of “Big Box” and chain stores coming to Pine, we do not agree that local Pine residents or business owners who own land in commercially zoned areas of town should be prohibited from building on their property what is, in our opinion, a benefit to our small community. We feel this proposal is a welcome addition to our town.

Those in opposition have their opinions, many based in speculation and fear of change, but they should not be viewed as the "Voice" or “Majority “ of Pine. "We the People" includes all residents of Pine. Resident concerns can and have been addressed by the proposed motel owners and/or the County Code. We have confidence that the Gila County Planning and Zoning Dept is able to guide the building of the proposed motel to be built to County Code. We hope the County will approve a Use Permit for this motel for both the economic benefits and convenience it will provide to visitors, business owners, and residents of Pine.

George and Andrea Mansor

Pine

Vincent Saccio

The proposed two story motel in Pine AZ is not in the Spirit, Aesthetics, or Harmony of the Pine-Strawberry Community Plan written by its citizens and given to the Gila County Government of the State of Arizona. First and foremost if this 2 story motel is built it will set a precedent, others will follow and the old town charm and appearance of Pine will be lost forever. A myriad of other negative issues exist. Water is scarce in these communities, sewer & septic, more traffic, too close to a nearby school. Pine & Strawberry together have 170 VRBO and Airbnb that is in addition to already existing motels and cabins. This motel is not needed or wanted. I urge all who are against this motel to sign this petition on change.org

Julia Bode

It's important to note that these kids - Marc Pendergraft (< 30 years old) https://www.linkedin.com/in/marc-pendergraft-22ba72a0/ and his partner Abhay Modi https://www.linkedin.com/in/abhay-modi-b9193b9/ have no experience building or running a hotel. Marc lives in Chandler running two small business. His "serial entrepreneurial" businesses amount to Etsy. https://www.etsy.com/shop/EngraveMyMemories and backupsoles.com (risky website as they haven't updated their security certificates. Mr. Abhay Modi is listed as the business analyst for backupsoles.com and currently works at UHaul. In addition to the myriad of other issues associated with the hotel in Pine is the plain fact that neither Marc or Abhay are professionally capable of building, maintaining or understanding what it takes to "successfully complete and run their project". It will fail just as their other businesses are. It's one thing to present a proposal with legitimate data and considerations, it's another thing to have two inexperienced boys attempt to play "Lincoln Logs" with us.

Darwin Huber

Concerning the upcoming County Zoom meeting on March 23rd (Pendergraft Use Permit Hearing), I’d like to submit the following comments for the record - concerning the proposed Pine motel.

I am opposed to the motel, as it is not in the spirit of the Pine Strawberry Community Plan.

Some of the main reasons being:

• It’s obvious local residents don’t want this motel. At the County’s February 22nd Zoom meeting around 90% (by my count) of the participants opposed the motel. Those that favored it were mostly friends and family.

• The Pine-Strawberry Community Plan calls for local public input in the County’s decision making. Democracy should prevail - residents should have the ultimate say.

• When the Pine-Strawberry Community Plan was adopted in 2017 there was more of a need for lodging. That need has been filled by lodges, condos, and many rental cabins.

• This two story 24 room motel is not small as promoted. It would be the largest rental facility in the area – the closest is 8 rooms.

• Its size and location in central Pine would change the town’s character and charm.

• Not the best choice for experiencing our mountain and forest community. It’s a small single motel room versus a rustic outdoor cabin.

• If the motel is unsuccessful, what will become of it? An abandoned building or apartments – both definitely not wanted in Pine.

• There is not adequate parking for guests, staff, and required handicap considerations. Overflow parking is strictly against the Community Plan.

• Employee challenges – existing businesses currently struggle with hiring and maintaining sufficient staff.

• Adequate supply of water is on most people’s minds – Pine has experienced severe shortages resulting in building moratoriums. Our well water is ultimately limited.

• Sewage/Septic is a real issue for 48 plus people in such a confined area.

• Noise and light pollution from such a large congregation of people is a potential problem.

• Potential increased crime activity would impact our peaceful community.

• Pine – Strawberry residents are not saying no to growth, they want to be proactive and control growth to maintain the Community’s charm & character in harmony with our natural environment.

• This motel is in conflict with the current Community wants and desires and why they choose to live here – its unique small town atmosphere.

• The developer is using the reputation of his parents in the Pine community to promote his Limited Liability Corporation - LLC.

Darwin Huber

Pine, AZ

Pam Mason

I agree with all previous comments made against a two story motel being built here in Pine. Therefore I won't elaborate on what has already been said. So what I want to focus on is the potential for increased crime in the Pine/Strawberry area. I found the following information.

From a crime/victim lawyer. About staying in a hotel/motel.

"Unfortunately, it's also a big part of the crime trends that are currently on the rise throughout the country. What this means is that there is a large number of crimes occurring within hotel and motel rooms. However, it does not necessarily mean a crime against the person who is staying in the room. It could also mean a crime perpetrated by the people staying in the motel room."

Rape/Sexual Assault.

Aggravated/Simple Assault

Robbery

Household Burglary

Motor Vehicle Theft

Property Theft

Drugs and drug manufacturing/dealing

Prostitution

Just looking at the Roundup newspaper headlines concerning motels and drugs I list a few.

Meth bust at local motel

Motel Manager charged with selling meth

Police seize marijuana, meth at local motel

2 arrested on motel room meth lab charges

Father of two arrested on drug charges

$125K in cocaine, marijuana seized

Man arrested for providing meth to minors

Certainly the County wants increased tax revenues but at what real cost to us the tax payers? We know it is expensive for County Sheriff's Office (who is already stretched thin) to attend concerns of crime in our communities not including the time it takes to get help. One wonders what actually is the bottom line tax benefit to Globe?

Hopefully County decision makers will consider all the well versed reasons previously submitted by concerned citizens who don't support a motel in Pine.

We can only hope the powers to be honor their position and apply due diligence.

Pam Mason - Pine

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