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11:57 PM Fri, Sept. 21st

Ranch ownersface lawsuit over airstrip

CHINO VALLEY ­ The owners of a remote ranch face possible legal action from the Town of Chino Valley for allegedly building an airstrip without obtaining the required permits.

The Town Council met behind closed doors with Town Attorney Cathy Knapp for 30 minutes Thursday evening to discuss Perkins Ranch Inc.

Vice Mayor Joel Baker then introduced a motion to instruct the town attorney's staff to take legal action against the ranch's owners.

The council members present ­ Ron Minnich was absent ­ unanimously voted to approve the motion.

Mayor Karen Fann would not say what kind of legal action the council would take against the ranch, which is on Perkinsville Road about eight miles east of Highway 89.

"The town needs to follow its codes and policies and enforce them equally amongst all property owners," she said, adding that she has received numerous complaints about the airstrip, starting with phone calls at 7 a.m.

Margaret Perkins of the ranch said Friday she was unaware of the council's agenda item, and referred calls to the ranch's law firm, Norling, Kulsrud, Sifferman and Davis PLC in Phoenix. Two calls to the law firm on Friday went unreturned.

Knapp, who works for a Prescott law firm that contracts with the town government, supplied a copy of a cease-and-desist letter dated Sept. 1 and a stop-work order dated Tuesday. The town sent the letter to the ranch's attorneys via overnight mail. They sent the stop-work order to Vascto Contracting, bearing the signature of Public Works Director Ken Winckler.

The cease-and-desist letter, which bears the signature of Planning Director Gerald Stricklin, refers to a development agreement that the town, Perkins Ranch, Lonesome Valley LLC and the Perkins Living Trust dated Sept. 27, 2001.

"Perkins Ranch has not applied for, nor has it obtained, any approvals for the indicated activities either from the town or, to the town's knowledge, other agencies having a jurisdictional interest in such matters," the letter states.

The alleged violations drew comments from three people during the Call to the Public section of the council meeting, including Art Fetter.

Fetter, a retired veterinarian who lives about two miles from the construction site, told the council that he saw survey markers on Aug. 24.

He urged town officials to find a way to stop the "illegal construction."

Contacted after the meeting, Fetter said he first learned of plans for the airstrip in December 2002.