Road Kill

An innocuous road near Sedona is all that remains of Ken Parker's dream of a grand resort. Now Yavapai County is joining megadeveloper SunCor to take that away, too--with the county providing condemnation powers and SunCor paying the bills.

Parker says he'd never seen the document before it turned up in SunCor's filings in 1995. Parker says he asked that Department of Real Estate staff find the document, but the search was fruitless. Ed Ricketts, deputy real estate commissioner, signed an affidavit that not only stated the department had no record of the questionnaire, but also that the documents the department does have in its files are consistent with Parker's version of the facts.

Parker also questions the nature of the questionnaire itself, pointing out unexplained scribblings and incorrect page numbers.

He claims the document is not only a fake, but a sloppy fake.
"I categorically deny that. There isn't a doctored document in the entire case," says Lawrence Dunlavey, an attorney who represents the homeowners association, which was a co-litigant with SunCor in Parker's bankruptcy. Dunlavey says he found the questionnaire in the Department of Real Estate's files in 1992 while gathering evidence in the bankruptcy case. The document was eventually submitted to Case last year by SunCor's attorneys.

"If it's not there now," Dunlavey says, "then you'll have to ask the folks at the Real Estate Department what happened to it."

Parker is confident he'll convince an appellate that Judge Case erred in relying on the questionnaire--and made other errors in judgment--and will give Parker back his road.

By then, however, Yavapai County probably will have made the victory hollow.
"It's very simple," Parker says. "SunCor knows we really own the road, and the only way for them to gain title is to condemn it."

In order to do that, SunCor and Yavapai County have danced a complex tango--the county dips when SunCor wants it to, and SunCor picks up the tab.

Among the most willing to be led is Yavapai County Supervisor Carlton Camp, who represents the Oak Creek area and who has helped push through rezonings and agreements necessary before the county could condemn the road. (Camp refused to talk with New Times, deflecting all questions to the county's principal planner, Richard Parker--no relation to Ken.)

First on the list of necessary tasks: The resort had to be completely rezoned, and that meant reversing decisions about the roads and traffic that the county had made only three years earlier.

In 1992, Yavapai County decided that private roads with one major outlet--onto Highway 179--would best suit the resort and the community around it.

Three years later, the same county officials concluded just the opposite--that public roads with several access points were the way to go.

Many people disagreed. The county received 200 complaints about the zoning plan from residents, and only one letter in support of it--from SunCor employee Jim Binick.

While the county claimed the zoning served the interests of Oak Creek village, some locals thought otherwise.

"The only benefit is to SunCor," says Jake Webber, an Oak Creek village grocery-store owner who has attended many of the county's meetings about the resort. "It really comes down to dollars and cents, and it doesn't get much bigger than SunCor. That's APS and Pinnacle West. The county obviously has more interest in what SunCor wants than in what Ken Parker is saying."

After the county had approved the zoning which called for the road to be public, it could then move to condemn the entrance road.

County officials say condemning the road is necessary to keep the public road system open and intact. But that wasn't enough incentive for the county to start condemnation proceedings on its own.

Only after SunCor requested the county's assistance to quash Ken Parker's claims of ownership did the county decide it was in the community's best interest to step in.

Yavapai County planner Richard Parker spreads out a large map of the Sedona Golf Resort and explains that he's been dealing with the Ken Parker matter since he took the job in 1986. By then the resort had already been a headache for the county for several years. It's been Richard Parker's headache ever since.

But even though he's repeatedly locked horns with Ken Parker, Richard Parker can't help admitting to some admiration for the developer.

"Ken Parker is the most resourceful, tenacious individual I have ever met. He's never given up on this."

The planner disagrees, however, that the county's relationship with SunCor is inappropriate. "Yavapai County doesn't take this lightly, let me tell you that. The county does not rent this power out."

And until recently, that was true. According to minutes, when the Board of Supervisors ratified the condemnation pact with SunCor, both Richard Parker and Supervisor Carlton Camp remarked that the county had never entered such an agreement before.

SunCor's Steve Gervais says that such agreements may be rare in Yavapai County, but they're much more common in Maricopa County. As an example, he points to Phoenix's downtown baseball stadium--an ironic citation, given widespread public antipathy for the stadium project.

Many Oak Creek locals are just relieved that something, anything, will be done to complete the long-planned resort. Bob Brandin, president of the homeowners association at the condominium complex, points out that only a large and respected builder such as SunCor could come in and straighten out such a convoluted mess.

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