Justices Could Decide If Residents Must Be Harmed Before Suing To Protect Against Government Threats

Justices Could Decide If Residents Must Be Harmed Before Suing To Protect Against Government Threats

By Terri Jo Neff |

If government officials threaten to force you from your home because of a zoning violation, should you be able to seek a court order blocking the forced removal? Or must you wait until you are actually homeless to fight back?

That is a question the Arizona Supreme Court could consider next year, in a case out of Sierra Vista that has garnered the attention of the Goldwater Institute and private property advocates across the state.

Among the plaintiffs are several longtime city residents of a mobile home park who filed a lawsuit in early 2021 arguing that city zoning officials should not be allowed to force them to move the recreational vehicles (RVs) they live in and that anti-RV ordinances violate their constitutional rights.

A Cochise County judge and the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled there is nothing that can be done in advance to stop the city from enforcing the ordinance. The lawsuit can only proceed if the city actually moves forward with making the residents leave, according to the court rulings.

The Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation took issue with the city’s position as well as the legal reasoning of the judge and appellate court. The organization has filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief asking the Arizona Supreme Court to hear the case which the RVers are appealing.

Timothy Sandefur, attorney for the Institute, notes that prospective injunctive or declaratory relief against a threatened future unconstitutional government act “is a routine procedure.” As such, the amicus brief asks the justices to order the requested injunction to protect the residents.

“This case is like a hypothetical situation in which a plaintiff files a lawsuit for an injunction to prevent a defendant from converting her personal property, or building a factory that will pollute her land, and the superior court tells her the case is unripe because no theft or pollution has yet occurred—before adding, ‘come back after your property has been stolen or ruined,’” Sandefur wrote.

Under city zoning definitions, RVs are considered temporary shelters that are not allowed as permanent residences in a manufactured home subdivision. RVs are, however, permitted as permanent residences in up to 30 percent of the total spaces in a manufactured home park.

The 160-lot Cloud 9 property involved in the dispute is considered a manufactured home subdivision despite being called a mobile home park for decades. In July 2020, a notice of non-compliance gave several residents, including Amanda Root, 30 days to remove their RVs despite the fact most had lived at Cloud 9 for years and did not have funds to move elsewhere.

The city agreed to take no action on the zoning order while attorneys for the residents and the city attempted to resolve the matter. But in February 2021, the city council rejected a proposed amendment which would have allowed Root and the other impacted residents to continue living in RVs at their current locations.

A lawsuit was filed a short time later seeking an injunction preventing the city from enforcing any evictions while the case was litigated. The city’s twofold argument contended the restrictive ordinances related to RVs are constitutional and that there is no legal basis for a court injunction at that time.

Judge David Thorn of the Cochise County Superior Court denied the injunction, pointing out there was no “injury” caused by the threats of enforcement. The Arizona Court of Appeals also passed on hearing the case due to no showing of actual harm, although the appellate court noted there could be harm in the future.

The Arizona Supreme Court will decide in early 2023 whether to hear the case or to leave in place Thorn’s decision that nothing can be done until Sierra Vista officials try to enforce the zoning violations.

Three Radio Stations In Arizona Part Of Acquisition By Major Media Company

Three Radio Stations In Arizona Part Of Acquisition By Major Media Company

By Terri Jo Neff |

The third largest owner of radio stations in the U.S. is getting bigger with the announcement that it is expanding into Arizona and Utah by acquiring Cherry Creek Broadcasting LLC.

New York-based Townsquare Media confirmed last week it has agreed to pay $18.75 million to add Colorado-based Cherry Creeks’ 43 stations in 9 markets to Townsquare’s holdings The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2022, pending regulatory approval.

Townsquare is a community-focused digital media and digital marketing solutions company with 321 stations in 67 markets focused outside the top 50. Its only stations in the southwest U.S. have been in Texas, but that changes with the Cherry Creek deal.

Three stations based near the border in Sierra Vista -KTAN Thunder 98.1 (1420 AM and 98.1 FM),  KWCD Country 92.3 FM, and KZMK All Hits K101.(100.9 FM)- are part of the deal, as well as three stations in southern Utah.  

“Folding Cherry Creek’s quality brands and digital platform into Townsquare is the natural next phase in our growth journey and offers Cherry Creek employees access to a deep bench of resources and guidance to continue their shared mission.” said Jonathan Brewster, Cherry Creek CEO.

“As we’ve grown with the help of partners like Bain Capital Credit, we have maintained our focus on serving small-to-midsize communities and leveraging this platform to build a robust digital-solutions business that advertisers desperately seek.” Brewster added.

Kalil & Co. Inc. acted as exclusive broker for Cherry Creek.

Four Arizona Mini-Metro Areas Will Retain Their Federal Status And Funding Opportunities For A Decade

Four Arizona Mini-Metro Areas Will Retain Their Federal Status And Funding Opportunities For A Decade

By Terri Jo Neff |

It is an example of typical government-speak: “The Office of Management and Budget today announced the 2020 Standards for Delineating Core Based Statistical Areas.”

But the OMB’s July 13 announcement was something several Arizona cities were anxiously awaiting, because the 2020 Standards could have disqualified them from qualify as a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). And that would have meant losing their advantage over other towns and cities when applying for federal funding for healthcare, housing, infrastructure, and transportation projects.

Since 2010, at least 50,000 residents must live in the core city to obtain federal recognition a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), even if it is more of a mini-metro area. In Arizona, there are seven designated MSAs: Flagstaff, Lake Havasu City-Kingman, Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, Prescott, Sierra Vista-Douglas, Tucson, and Yuma.

However, every 10 years the OMB recommends changes to its standards, and earlier this year a federal interagency committee suggested a major change for the 2020 Standards – doubling a MSA’s minimum core city population to 100,000. That would have resulted in Flagstaff, Lake Havasu City-Kingman, Prescott, and Sierra Vista-Douglas losing their MSA status.

And along with the loss of the MSA designation would have been one of those cities’ key qualifier for federally funded Community Development Block Grants and USDA Rural Development Grants. Flagstaff receives nearly $600,000 a year just in CDB grants, while Prescott and Sierra Vista have been the recipients of more than $200,000 in annual CDB grants.

The Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Area Standards Review Committee received letters of opposition from the cities of Flagstaff and Prescott among more than 700 other public comments about the significant change in MSA criteria. In the end, the committee submitted a revised recommendation to stick with the 50,000 population threshold.

Mignonne Hollis says the MSA designation ensures communities like Flagstaff and Sierra Vista-Douglas can advocate for their needs by giving them a seat “at many tables.”

Hollis serves as executive director of the Sierra Vista-based Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation and of the Aerospace Arizona Association, is past president of the Arizona Association for Economic Development, and is a member of the International Association for Economic Development.

She was one of the first in Cochise County to sound the alarm on the devastating affect a 100,000 core population prerequisite would have had on the Sierra Vista – Douglas.

“This funding is vital to bring investment in our local communities and spur on economic development,” Hollis said of the opportunities available to a MSA. “In addition to funding decisions at the federal level, the loss of a MSA designation could also negatively impact a community’s ability to attract and retain businesses and top-talent employees.”

While good news for Arizona communities this year, the OMB’s July 13 announcement provided a heads-up that a MSA threshold change will likely be incorporated in 2030.

“Recognizing the committee’s concern that MSA thresholds have not kept pace with population growth, OMB will work with the Standards Review Committee to conduct research and stakeholder outreach to inform the 2030 standards update,” the announcement said.

There has also been bi-partisan federal legislation introduced by Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, a Democrat, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune, a Republican, to look into how MSA core city population thresholds are determined in the future.

Arizona’s Aerospace Industry Benefits From Variety Of Advocacy Efforts

Arizona’s Aerospace Industry Benefits From Variety Of Advocacy Efforts

By Terri Jo Neff |

A number of aerospace manufacturers now have a footprint in Arizona, including Boeing, General Dynamics, Honeywell Aerospace, Northrup Grumman, and Raytheon Technologies. In fact, aerospace is one of the largest economic sectors in Arizona, and with more than 1,200 companies engaged in the market, the state ranks 5th in the country for aerospace-related employment.

​But it is not just the big boys who find Arizona’s 65,298 square miles of rural airspace beneficial. Many small- and medium-sized designers, developers, and manufacturers have also flocked to Arizona to build or test their wares.

Earlier this week, the Arizona Technology Council hosted its annual Arizona Aerospace, Aviation, Defense, and Manufacturing (AADM) conference in Scottsdale. And of particular interest was unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), which until a decade ago were considered in terms of military application.

In recent years, the UAS and UAV technologies have been embraced on a smaller scale by law enforcement, civil search and rescue, meteorology services, construction and engineering firms, farmers and ranchers, insurance company claim adjusters, even delivery companies.

And it is through the efforts of organizations such as the Arizona Aerospace Association and the Arizona Commerce Authority that the state continues to be a favored location for aerospace companies, large and small.

Arizona Aerospace promotes Arizona’s ideal meteorological conditions, protected airspace, favorable cost of doing business, and business-friendly regulatory environment.  It also educates stakeholders as well as elected officials and their staff at all levels of government about the need for responsible industry-related legislation and public policy to facilitate a thriving aerospace industry in Arizona.

The group has a test site with hangar available for rent at the Benson Municipal Airport for use with test flights just a 30 minute drive from the U.S. Army’s Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista and the Davis-Monthan U.S. Air Force base in Tucson.

On July 15, Aerospace Arizona staff attended the AADM event in Scottsdale, and next month will be in Dallas to promote Arizona at the InterDrone Conference & Exposition. Then in September, staff will be in Las Vegas for the Commercial UAV Expo Americas Showcase which brings together the world’s leading commercial UAS technology companies from airframes to sensors, software to services and more.

Arizona is also promoted to the military and civilian aerospace industry by the Arizona Commerce Authority, which established its AZSkyTech program in 2018 to help grow the state as “the premier place in the world to responsibly test, deploy and advance Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) technology and policy.”

That endeavor is supported by coursework and degree programs at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University, as well Cochise Community College.

Meanwhile, Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista continues to be a leader in the Army’s testing of UAS technology, which is helped by its rural location which includes mountain range, desert land, and more than 960 square miles of restricted airspace. It is estimated that Fort Huachuca has trained thousands of military members and support personnel in the use and management of UAS technology over the last decade.