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12:43 PM Sun, Sept. 23rd

Chino, ranchers make headway on resolving lawsuit over airstrip

PRESCOTT – The Town of Chino Valley and the Perkins family made headway Tuesday on resolving a lawsuit over the stalled construction of an airstrip on the family’s ranch.

“We are going to hold the litigation in abeyance,” Mark Drutz, a Prescott attorney representing the town government, said after a settlement conference Tuesday afternoon in Superior Court. Presiding Judge Robert Brutinel conducted the conference with Drutz and representatives from the town government and the Perkins family.

Drutz said the parties agreed not to proceed with the lawsuit for two months to enable the Perkinses to meet with town officials. Drutz’s firm filed the suit in Superior Court in September, contending the Perkins family began construction on the airstrip without obtaining necessary permits and rezoning the property.

Both sides had scheduled to go to trial Oct. 25, and the significant lead time gave them an opportunity to settle the case.

“My guess is they will meet with Jerry Stricklin, the planning director, to see whether they can formulate the development plan which is acceptable to both sides and will, of course, require the approval of the P&Z (Planning and Zoning) Commission with public input and, ultimately, the Town Council,” Drutz said.

Ranch family members Tom and Marge Perkins were unavailable for comment. The proposed airstrip is on the ranch off Perkinsville Road about eight miles east of Highway 89.

However, the Perkinses and their attorney, Russell Kolsrud of Scottsdale, contended during the hearing before Judge David Mackey in October and November that town officials “grandfathered” their right to build the airstrip as a condition of annexing about 8,400 acres of their property into the town in 2001.

Going through the process provides no assurance that the council will approve the Perkinses’ request, said Mayor Karen Fann, who attended the conference and testified during the two-day court hearing. She also cited previous opposition to the Perkinses’ plans from homeowners in the Haystack Ranch subdivision and the Buddhist temple.

“You’ve got to go through the legal process of having things rezoned,” Fann said. “They (the Perkinses) are going to have to come to the town with a proposal of what they want to do.”

Contact the reporter at khedler@prescottaz.com