By Machelle James
When you build a commercial property in your town, there needs to be something called a neighborhood meeting. Now this is not required by the planning and zoning department, but it is a highly recommended meeting to have. This is a way to include your immediate neighbors so that they can see the plans of your project before the rest of the town does.
This makes sense because it addresses their concerns, fears, questions or anything they may have to say, and we can answer them privately. We had 12 neighbors show up to this meeting and I would say overall it went very well.
We previously met with a graphic designer who made artist renderings of our campground. When I saw how they came out I almost cried with joy! It truly showed our vision of what our campground is going to look like, with the roads, RV parking, ramadas, club house and check-in store. This was so important as it was visuals to show our neighbors, and I think it helped immensely in easing their fears of a “mega” campground.
After introductions of our family, I went into why we chose this location here in Heber-Overgaard. As most of you know already, it’s our favorite places to camp in the forest. It’s a place where we can reconnect with nature and stars, and with each other.
The questions the neighbors asked weren’t really a surprise for us. There were mostly questions about how high the fencing was going to be and what material was going to be used. Also, what our season was going to be (April – October). Other questions were how are we going to address side-by-side dust on the public road to the trail riding.
Believe me this is a concern of ours also. The road to the forest is dirt and the dust can get kicked up pretty easily. This is already an issue from locals as summer guests speed up and down the access road. I suggested to have someone get in contact with a water truck company, and have us homeowners pitch in to have the road watered once a week. They liked that idea and I do hope someone will take charge. That is just something I can’t fit into my plate, but I do support it.
I also recommended to call the Sheriff’s Department to report speeders. We have two new officers for our town and we may finally have some enforcement of speeders down our road. I also want our guests to respect and be accountable for the 25 mph speed limit outside our Campground. This will be written into our Campground Rules and Regulations, so this will not be a surprise to them to drive 25 mph on the public road.
What was so amazing is what happened after our meeting. We were offered a business proposal, we were hugged by the neighbors to welcome us to the community, and we were invited to go to church. Also, we were thanked for purchasing this property as there were some shady dealings going on here before us.
I think change is hard for people and they automatically think the worst is going to be built near them. I do believe the neighbors breathed a sigh of relief when they saw what we were building was small and seasonal. This seemed to put their minds at ease.
There was one family that we couldn’t please no matter what we said. As you all know, you are never going to please everyone. So we answered their concerns and let it go.
We also had another meeting with Planning and Zoning. We are being pushed back to the March meeting as they needed more information. We needed more description of landscape, sound control, road maintenance internally, ADOT confirmation of the emergency exit road, and a few clarifications on our Engineering plans. So we are working on all of this right now.
Another hurdle we are facing is bank financing. Our SBA loan is going at a snail’s pace, as our bank recommended we go to Campground Management School. So guess who is going to Campground Management School next week? I am. I’ll be going to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to learn about the ins and outs of how to run a campground. I could not be more thrilled! I need to learn about the everyday tasks – from ordering inventory, reservation systems, ADA regulations, hiring practices and so much more. I’ll come back and share my knowledge with AJ, and together we will have a much better idea on what we really need to focus on.
I’m so thrilled to be able to show you what our preliminary vision of what AJ’s Getaway is going to look like.
Thank you for following our journey and as always, see you in the trees. And please leave a comment!
Read Machelle’s previous articles here.
Machelle James and her husband, AJ, are building, from the ground up, a 15-acre RV park in Heber-Overgaard, Arizona, in the beautiful White Mountains 140 miles from Phoenix. Follow them on Facebook @ AJ’s Getaway RV Park or on Instagram at ajsgetawayrvpark.