A California-based luxury lodging company has formally withdrawn its application to build a “glamping” site on an unused parcel of land near Sedona but left the door open to return with a revised plan.
The proposal was met with opposition from local residents and tribes, who objected to plans to turn approximately 18 acres at the base of Bear Mountain into a campground for “glamping” — glamorous camping.
The development would have included amenities such as a 4,500-square-foot clubhouse, over 85 Airstream trailers and around 100 fire pits.
“AutoCamp looks forward to being a responsible and respected part of the Yavapai County community,” Corea wrote. “Although our project has yet to be evaluated in any public hearing by the County, we have also listened and tried to understand concerns raised among some in the community, including Board of Adjustment appellants, Charley and Rhoda Pitcher.”
Charley and Rhoda Pitcher are the local residents who founded the Save Bear Mountain coalition to oppose the proposal. With leaders from the Hopi Tribe and Yavapai-Apache Nation, they said the development would endanger nearby cultural tribal sites and increase the area’s wildfire risk.
“It feels like our voice matters. Our coalition is made up of a nonpartisan group, who are just passionate about maintaining public safety and making sure our environment isn’t loved to death,” Rhoda Pitcher said. “Save Bear Mountain is going to stay active to make sure our local community has a say in things. We are not against development, we’re against stupid development that’s not safe for people.”
Charley Pitcher may have a greater voice on whatever comes next for the plan. He was appointed to the Yavapai County Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this month.
Rhoda Pitcher said the coalition’s next objective would be to preserve the 18 acres of land AutoCamp had originally proposed to develop. The coalition is working with environmental organizations and a few members are exploring the idea of purchasing the land.
“Our timeline for this is to discover over the next three to six months the most effective path forward and save this land from any further threats to fire and public safety risks, more traffic, more noise and more pollution and environmental and cultural harm,” Rhoda Pitcher said. “Our vision is for this land to become part of the Coconino National Forest where it will have the protection it deserves and needs.”
If the land is added to the national forest, it would be under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service, which manages and prohibits camping and campfires in the area surrounding the 18-acre parcel.
While the application was formally withdrawn, Corea left the door open for AutoCamp to submit a revised application, at some point in the future.
“AutoCamp looks forward to meeting further with the Pitchers and with others in the community to continue to learn more about their ideas and concerns, and to bring forward a revised application that illustrates both the value of AutoCamp’s plans and the value AutoCamp places on being a good neighbor,” Corea wrote.
Hanna Baumann, a representative for AutoCamp, confirmed the company’s intentions, saying “AutoCamp is stepping back, but not away.”
“AutoCamp looks forward to resubmitting their application and to participating in the traditional county review process,” a part of the statement from Baumann read. “As part of the resubmittal process, AutoCamp looks forward to continuing its community outreach as we seek to create a unique, world class, outdoor hospitality experience, not yet offered in the area.”
Before the withdrawal on Feb. 16, the proposal was awaiting a public hearing with the Yavapai County Board of Adjustments. The board would have evaluated a zoning exception for AutoCamp that would allow the company to use trailers for short-term lodging.
If approved, the decision would have eventually gone to the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors. The development would have been in District 3, which is represented by Donna Michaels.
Michaels began her term in 2021 and ran on a platform promising to “protect, preserve and promote” the district.
“I’m relieved to hear about the withdrawal because from everything I know about the application, there was not one aspect of it that was a fit for our community, our county, our land or the values we hold,” Michaels said. “There’s all kinds of tourist attractions that protect the land and respect it and AutoCamp didn’t fit that.”
Under Statute 11-802, Michaels — as a district supervisor — has the right to appoint two planning and zoning commissioners, who would serve as her advisers.
Through their work with the coalition, Michaels said she got to know the Pitchers well.
According to Michaels, when it came to deciding on a commissioner, it wasn’t a tough decision. She appointed Charley Pitcher, who she described as a critical thinker who shares the values of “protect, preserve and promote.”
“He understands how to put big ideas into operation with broad engagement from all stakeholders,” Michaels said.
Charley Pitcher was approved as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission representing District 3 during a public board of supervisors meeting on Feb. 17. His term lasts through the end of June 2023.
Pitcher said he is looking forward to learning about the county and “being part of the team that contributes to the creation and implementation of the 2022 Comprehensive Plan. He said he’s excited to be “a voice for rational development that contributes to a sustainable future for our county.”
Michaels said one of her priorities is to make sure the values of “protect, preserve and promote” are represented in the plan, which is due in September 2022.