By Machelle James
Imagine having someone sitting on your chest. You are paralyzed and you can’t breathe. When AJ and I were getting ready for our Zoom meeting with Planning and Zoning Thursday night, we were just sick to our stomachs. We didn’t expect to be so nervous but we were. What if everything we’ve worked so hard for didn’t get approved? What if selling our home and everything we own to open our campground was in vain? The thoughts of doubt and fear are real when you have to prove your vision and dream is a good idea to the people you need to get approval from.
Thursday night we finally had our Planning and Zoning meeting after months of postponement due to missing information on our end and then COVID-19 and the government shutdown. We were having our meeting via Zoom, which is a first for our tiny town.
We had our supporters on the Zoom meeting as well as our opposition. We all had 3 minutes to speak and I went first. I was told that I didn’t need to speak about subjects that they already read about from our Letter of Intent or our Project Narrative (which you have to submit to P&Z when you are proposing opening a business in a town). I had to speak of issues that the opposition was concerned about as well as any new ideas or additions that we had.
We knew the neighbors were concerned with our security measures. So we spoke about our Emergency Plans that we are currently working on. We spoke about having a local retired Sheriff from the Valley being our nighttime security guard and how another local Auxiliary Sheriff offered to patrol our grounds at night.
We knew they were concerned about us becoming a year-round park so we addressed that issue. No, we are definitely not becoming a year-round campground. I think we would crash and burn from having to do this year-round. We look forward to the months where we can recuperate, refuel and get re-energized for the next season.
Another concern from the neighbors was they wanted our campground entrance to be on the busy highway, not on our quiet county road. After explaining our entrance would only go onto the road 300 feet and not past their driveways, I think that helped quell their concerns. They were worried about dust, speeding and road deterioration. I was pleasantly surprised when one of the P&Z members spoke and said he is an avid RVer and one can’t speed pulling a motorhome while turning 300 feet later.
The dust is and always will be on our dirt road and we were told there are no funds to asphalt or improve the road. It can be maintained, but not improved upon as our guests are by far not the only ones using that road to access the forest traill riding system. Also, ADOT does not want the entrance to be on the busy highway side as it would be an unsafe entrance because cars drive so fast on that road.
Our opposition also wanted a cap of our RV spaces at 40. Forty spaces for 15 acres. We politely reminded them that we could have well over 150 spaces here, but that was not our vision to pack campers in here. We also wanted to make it known that we are open to growth in the future. Who knows if in five years down the road we want to build more RV spaces or add more cabins or more buildings. I just wanted it out there that we are legally allowed to grow as we see fit, and we certainly have the space and the septic system to handle it.
I will say after hearing our supporters speak up for us, I had tears in my eyes. We left a fantastic community we had in Queen Creek, AZ, and we traded it for another fantastic community up here in Heber-Overgaard. The kind words of our character, our integrity and how we touched other people’s lives, really made me choke up.
Sometimes you don’t get to hear how much you mean to someone until they are gone, but I got to hear it while I’m still alive. It was humbling and a truly remarkable experience. I have been blessed with making true friendships over the years and sharing very unique bondings with them. Whether it be from our special needs community, our old subdivision community, or our off-road community, we have met amazing people on our journey in life. And I am thankful.
I would say the meeting was respectful, and everyone had their voices heard. We were unanimously approved to move forward with a recommendation to build here. Next month is our final meeting with the Board of Supervisors. We were told the BOS approves the suggestions of P&Z approvals 99% of the time.
The Board has heard every single rebuttal out there we were told. Their job is to bring businesses into town as long as all the requirements have been met. Our requirements have been met. It is going to be so exciting to see the dirt starting to turn over and the spaces begin to form. It will be a process for sure, and I am sure we will have bumps in the road. We will learn to be flexible and to appreciate what is coming our way!
As we celebrated last night with a warm campfire and close friends by our side (at a safe distance, of course), we cheered and cried and laughed. The most stressful part of this whole project was last night.
As for today, we had HUGE tree stumps and shrubs pulled out, and the ground is starting to get graded for our RV Storage. We were allowed to start working on that project as long as we don’t place RVs there for rent yet. But in the next couple of months we will have it ready for our RV storage guests!
We appreciate all of the messages, support and kind words. It means so much to us!
Thank you for following our journey and SEE YOU in the Trees! And please leave a comment!
AJ, Machelle and Jenna
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.