TWO STORIES OF JUSTICE: CABLE AND CHICKENS

Cable television is coming to the Westward Ho.
A tentative deal has been reached with Dimension Cable that's leaving smiles on the faces of the 300-odd residents who live in the once-ritzy downtown hotel that's been converted into a government-subsidized home for the aged and infirmed.

As New Times first reported on June 27, Westward Ho officials had been fighting for years with Dimension Cable, the cable monopoly for most Phoenicians. Management said it was impossible to meet Dimension's original price of $60,000 to wire the building for cable. That left many residents complaining that their main source of entertainment was limited to the offerings of local commercial television, without all the sports, movies and news shows available on cable.

But under new talks under way, wiring the building will cost between $7,000 and $10,000, says Don Miner, a lawyer helping out the old folks for free. "We're pretty excited," Miner says. "This is one fourth what the company was asking for. This is something we can afford."

They're calling it the "chicken memo." It means Maricopa County zoning officials have finally decided to lay off mobile-home owners who were facing eviction.

As New Times reported on May 30, the problem arose when upscale neighbors moved into the remote rural area around 143rd Avenue and Buckeye, built posh single-family homes and filed complaints that the mobile homes were illegal and a "eyesore." County officials agreed, citing a 1988 law on "farm exemptions" that says mobile homes are only permitted if the landowner is making a living from agriculture, which none of these folks do.

The mobile-home owners tried to fight back, pointing out they'd all been given approval for their homes under the old farm exemption laws in the mid-Eighties. Zoning cops weren't moved. They fired off letters telling owners to get the mobile homes off their property or be prosecuted. The County Attorney's Office took a number of the owners to court and some were ordered to pay fines.

But an internal county memo obtained by New Times shows officials now are admitting the mobile-home owners were right all along. The June 30 memo is from chief zoning representative Peter Vicari and principal planner Bob Brittain to zoning inspectors. It acknowledges the mobile- home owners were legally on their own property and also admits these folks were singled out for prosecution. The memo says that because some zoning officials were following the old rules, while others followed the new ones, there was "confusion and nonuniformity in administering provisions of the zoning ordinance."

Mobile-home owners like Art McBrayer have labeled this the "chicken memo" for two reasons. First, because you only need one chicken to comply with the new farm exemption rules and second, because the county didn't bother to tell residents that pending lawsuits and investigations against them had been dropped. Residents didn't find out until informed by New Times.

The county now says that anyone who has any agricultural use, "no matter how limited," passes muster and their mobile home can remain. A fruit tree or a single farm animal are all that are required. And if an inspection by the county reveals they don't even have a lemon tree, they will be given a "reasonable time to establish some level of agricultural use.

 
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