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The county gate at Piñon Woods Drive in the Village of Oak Creek will close again once a gate that meets the fire code is installed.
By Trista Steers
Larson Newspapers

The county gate at Piñon Woods Drive in the Village of Oak Creek will close again once a gate that meets the fire code is installed.

The gate, which cuts off access from Piñon Woods Drive — located east of Hwy. 179 — to the Hwy. 179 and Bell Rock Boulevard intersection, doesn’t meet the fire code, so Sedona Fire District told Yavapai County it had to be opened.

Residents in subdivisions east of Hwy. 179 aren’t happy about the closure. They want the gate to remain open.

“They’re making a public road private,” VOC resident Rena Olson said. Olson lives on Alta Vista Drive in the Piñon Woods development.

Piñon Woods Drive is a county road, paid for with county tax dollars.

Olson said there are a few people who live on Piñon Woods Drive that don’t want traffic in front of their homes, but county money shouldn’t be used to accommodate them. The county shouldn’t pay for a gate to satisfy a handful of people by blocking a county road.

The gate has been closed since an agreement was made between the county and the Piñon Woods subdivision developer, according to Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Chip Davis.

“A deal’s a deal,” Davis said.

VOC residents put Davis on the spot at a SFD town hall meeting at Station No. 3, in the VOC, on Tuesday, Aug. 28.

SFD staff hosted the meeting to get input from VOC residents and they heard about the gate.

“I have nothing to do with it being there or not being there,” SFD Fire Marshal Will Loesche said.

Loesche opened the gate when Hwy. 179 Improvement Project construction started on Jacks Canyon Road so that SFD emergency apparatus could access neighborhoods to the east of the highway.

The gate was opened because it doesn’t meet SFD fire codes, Loesche said. SFD requires a gate be equipped with a control system that allows trucks to open it while on the move.

The county is buying a Compliant gate that will be installed in the next couple of months, Loesche said. At that time, the gate will be closed again.

The gate costs more than $30,000.

VOC resident Anne Meiggs doesn’t want the gate closed either.

“I really appreciate having that as an alternate access,” Meiggs said. Meiggs lives on Concho Drive in the Cathedral View subdivision.

When the gate is closed, Jacks Canyon Road serves as the only access to more than seven subdivisions.

Traffic backs up Jacks Canyon Road making it hard for residents, many of which are elderly, to get out. Meiggs said older people have doctor’s appointments they need to get to that may not be emergencies but are vital to their health. Cutting off access to Piñon Woods Drive makes leaving the area difficult.

“As we move to the roundabouts what we’re doing is flooding what will be the busiest roundabout [at Jacks Canyon Road],” Meiggs said. Some of the traffic could be diverted to the Bell Rock Boulevard roundabout.

Olson is concerned about what might happen if another wildfire, such as the La Barranca Fire in 2006, starts in the area.

“In an emergency, you have to have two ways out,” Olson said.

Davis said people have gotten used to using the alternate route since SFD opened the gate and now they don’t understand why the county has to close it.

Yavapai County made a deal with the developer of Piñon Woods in 1995 at the time of the subdivision’s construction, according to Davis. The agreement allowed the developer to build Piñon Woods Drive and use it for access until Suncliffe Drive was built. Once Suncliffe Drive was ready, the agreement said a gate had to block access on Piñon Woods Drive.

According to Davis, residents in the neighborhoods between Hwy. 179 and Piñon Woods Drive were worried about traffic, prompting inclusion of the gate.

“I believe I have to honor the commitments that were made,” Davis said. Davis was not on the Board of Supervisors when the agreement was made.

In the meantime, Davis said he asked the county’s public works department to put a counter on the gate while it is still open to monitor how many vehicles actually use Piñon Woods Drive. Davis plans to also meet with residents on both sides of the issue but can’t assure either side anything.

“It has to be dealt with carefully,” Davis said.

From a planning perspective, Davis said, that type of agreement wouldn’t have been made today.

Trista Steers can be reached at 282-7795, Ext. 129, or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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