Neighbors’ appeal of P&Z decision resolved with Council siding with original staff recommendations
By Bill Van Nimwegen
The Hitching Post establishment was granted a conditional use permit (CUP) to expand its attractions and hold various outdoor activities if it complies with 27 recommendations made by the city’s planning staff.
On May 15, 2018, the Apache Junction City Council held a public hearing of an appeal by Evan Bolick, who represents neighbors of the Hitching Post, James and Bambi Johnson, Mark and Kindra Theisman, Nick and Helen Funk, Rich and Kathy Beavers, and Patrick and Diana La Clair.
The amended resolution passed by a vote of 7-0.
The appeal was made after a March 27, 2018 decision by the Apache Junction Planning and Zoning Commission to grant the CUP with fewer conditions.
Lasting until midnight, the city council meeting and the public hearing of the CUP appeal featured presentations by Senior Planner Rudy Esquivias, Mr. Bolick and Ralph Pew, who represents Hitching Post owner Mehmood Mohiuddin. Neighbors of the establishment object to the noise, parking and traffic safety issues, as well as dust and light pollution caused by the current outdoor bull-riding on Thursday and Saturday nights. The activities are currently allowed under an amended development agreement that Mr. Mohiuddin has with the city. At the hearing, videos were shown as evidence of negative impacts to the neighborhood, and solutions were proposed to mitigate them. Speaking on behalf of the Hitching Post, Mr. Pew said that the establishment adds “vigor” to the area and that the proposed expansion would enhance the neighborhood. The conditionally approved CUP will allow the Hitching Post to hold events and concerts, feature sand volleyball, cornhole games, fire pits, bull riding, a putting green and other activities for patrons and guests of the restaurant.
Mr. Pew summarized the council’s options as supporting the Planning and Zoning Commission’s 25 conditions, denying approval of the CUP or supporting the city planning staff’s 27 conditions. For the most part, the conditions of both the staff and commission were in agreement. They differed in the number of events allowed; the starting and stopping times of the activities; who pays for a traffic study; what materials, how high and where screening walls should be located. Council members agreed that the staff recommendations better represented a fair compromise between the Hitching Post and the neighbors. Councilman Dave Waldron made a motion reflecting that choice, but a last-minute amendment was made by Councilwoman Christa Rizzi changing a 10 ft. block wall recommendation to a 12 ft. wooden wall. The amendment passed 6-1 with Councilwoman Gail Evans dissenting, and the resolution passed unanimously.
The 27 conditions approved with the CUP are to be completed within a 6-month to one year period and include: a minimum 12’ high solid wood screen fence be constructed to the south of the restaurant; a 12’ western-themed wooden wall and landscaping be constructed along E. Lost Dutchman Blvd. and N. Cortez Rd. on the frontages of the east parking lot of the Hitching Post; prepare a traffic impact analysis; construct additional permanent restroom facilities; bring all exterior lighting into compliance; limit outdoor amplified concerts to six per year with end time no later than 7 p.m. and that off-duty AJPD officers be hired for security and traffic control.
Additional conditions were recommended concerning the bull riding events on Thursday and Saturday nights: the new hours will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., with lights out by 10 p.m.; other events may be presented in the bull riding arena under the same conditions. The outdoor activities approved for the new east expansion area shall end by 9 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The CUP will be reviewed prior to its one-year anniversary and will be subject to revocation.
In 2014, Mr. Mohiuddin purchased properties surrounding his restaurants, which currently have a CUP allowing bull riding two nights a week. In 2017, Mr. Mohiuddin combined his 5 adjoining parcels into one parcel and then split it into three parcels. They are each zoned differently, and the CUP applies only to the B-1 (General Commercial) zoned property at 2341 N. Apache Trail. The CUP application includes a request for up to 15 outdoor events throughout the year, which may include music concerts, car shows, weddings, charity or fundraising events, corporate parties and craft shows.
On March 27, as in the past, neighbors of the establishment objected to the CUP application citing noise, parking and traffic safety issues. Mr. Mohiuddin withdrew his last application after aggrieved parties challenged its approval.
City council meetings are open to the public and held in chambers at 300 E. Superstition Blvd. in Apache Junction. The meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. Complete agendas, supporting materials and videos of past meetings are available at https://apachejunction.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.
Photo above: A 12 ft. high western-themed fence added to a parking and activity area is one of the 27 requirements that goes with the approved CUP.