Print Town settles wood yard dispute
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 25 August 2010 00:00

After years of talk and more talk, the Town of Camp Verde and a local wood yard have reached an agreement over the future of the business.

A sawyer continues work as usual on Aug. 18 at the wood yard property, formerly known as the Zellner Wood Yard. The Camp Verde Town Council approved a settlement with California HotWood last week after nearly three years of legal wrangling.The Camp Verde Town Council voted Aug. 18 to accept a settlement between the town, Sophie Zellner and California HotWood, the company that purchased the wood yard in 2007.

Jerry and Sophie Zellner started operating the wood yard in question on Murdock Road in the 1960s, and it was firmly established before Yavapai County established zoning rules for the area.

When Camp Verde incorporated in 1986, it at first adopted the same zoning rules.

The area around the wood yard was eventually zoned residential by the county in the 1970s, but the business was grandfathered in. Over the years houses were built around the wood yard, and some neighbors have complained for years that the yard is a safety hazard and a noise nuisance. At issue was one particular plot of land, Lot 69.

The business was sold to California HotWood in 2007, which purchased the business after dealing with the Zellners for years. California Hotwood expected to operate the company on all of its land, including Lot 69.

California HotWood bought the business expecting to operate it at its current size; its attorneys are concerned that altering the scope of operations could have contractual repercussions in regard to what they thought they were buying.

The business originally was granted permission late last decade by a town zoning administrator to expand onto the lot in question, and as far as the company and its lawyers are concerned, that ruling is still valid.

The town, faced with complaints from residents and an interest in making sure its own zoning codes were being upheld, wanted to hold a hearing to determine if the parcel still met the qualifications to be exempted to operate as a part of the wood yard in a largely residential area.

Under the agreement reached last week, the town agrees to pay some of Sophie Zellner’s legal expenses and build a water line to the property accompanied by a fire hydrant. Some residents have expressed concern the wood yard poses a fire hazard.

Camp Verde Mayor Bob Burnside said the company certainly doesn’t want a fire to break out and the water line will be a big help, both to residents in the area and the business.

The town will also grant the company a business license allowing the company to use the land under a nonconforming use status, something necessary given the zoning in the area.

“I think this is a needed compromise,” Burnside said. “Nobody wins, but we’ve covered as many bases as we can.”

The settlement, which still needs final approval from Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Michael Bluff, calls for the town to pay $75,000 of Zellner’s legal fees and to send letters of apology to Zellner and California HotWood.

Burnside said some may question why the town should apologize to the company.

“They bought the business,” Burnside said. “They’re citizens of this town now.”

Burnside said the town estimates the water line and fire hydrant will cost around $130,000.

The case could have gone to court, Burnside said, but that would have meant there was no guarantee of a favorable result.

Before the decision was made Aug. 18, Councilwoman Norma Garrison said she was relieved the issue was finally coming to a vote.

“We’ve already had to update the new council on the issue,” Garrison said. “I would hate to have to see yet another council having to be brought up to speed on this.”