To the state Land Department, it seemed like a good way to make money. A group of civic boosters touted it as an economic shot in the arm." But to many of the people who live north of Carefree Highway, the very idea of three 200-foot-high radio towers in the middle of the desert was the height of arrogance.

This was a fight the neighborhood has won-for now, at least.
Last week the latest plan by former Circle K executive Ray Cox to find a spot for his towers all but died-thanks in large part to an avalanche of protest. One staffer at the Maricopa County Planning and Development Department said the four-inch-high pile of letters and petitions was the biggest such outpouring received by county planners in years.

The site is probably on permanent hold. Also last week, the county planning staff recommended denial of the special-use permit. Planners say the little horseshoe-shaped valley of lush desert vegetation where the towers would have gone should be preserved exactly as it is now-untouched.

Cox is a former broadcaster who was chief spokesperson for Circle K during the mammoth chain's halcyon days a few years ago. His dreams for a powerful new AM station called KCCF have taken a beating so far.

This was the third site in the far northeastern Valley on which Cox and his Broadcast Development Construction Corporation have attempted to place the towers. Opposition by, among others, Scottsdale and the developers of Desert Mountain Properties led him to the parcel of state land.

Obviously I have tried several times to get zoning for the towers," Cox says. ÔAnd each time I've withdrawn because of citizen opposition. I don't want to be the guy who messes up the desert and disturbs people's privacy. I want to be a good neighbor. I can't be one if they don't want me."

Cox acknowledged that his latest site was violently opposed." It's a 14-acre parcel of undisturbed, ungrazed desert three miles north of Carefree Highway near 24th Street-if 24th Street existed that far north. The only thing disturbed in the area was the sparsely populated neighborhood.

Both Cox and the towers' opponents engaged in heavy lobbying. Among the most vocal opponents of his latest site was architect Bill Waldrom, who built his home so he would have a prime view of the desert to the west-exactly where Cox wanted to place his radio towers.

When you go out and build your dream house and plan to live there forever," Waldrom says, it's difficult to do when towers are blinking next to you."

Waldrom and a hard-core group of 30 to 40 other opponents wore out fax machines in their fight against the towers.

After a raucous hearing in early April, the Cave Creek Town Council voted 5-2 not to endorse the towers, which would have been adjacent to town limits. The actual decision on Cox's request for a special-use permit is up to Maricopa County because the parcel is on unincorporated land. However, just before a county Planning and Zoning Commission hearing last week, Cox decided to ask for an indefinite continuance.

The staff report was the last blow to Cox's plans. He has applied for another site, along Carefree Highway adjacent to a county landfill at 42nd Street. But Bill Waldrom isn't gloating. He points out that Cox still has to jump many hoops before he can build the towers on the newly proposed site along Carefree Highway. If that site doesn't work out, Waldrom says, he'll be back in our backyard."


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Ward Harkavy
Contact: Ward Harkavy