False accusations. Wasting of city resources. Police report filed. Website policy changed. All of which surround a simple variance request.
On Monday, Sept. 25, Rob and Christine Adams appeared before the Sedona Board of Adjustment regarding a newer fence in their front yard, which did not meet city code. But how they ended up there is where things get interesting.
After receiving a complaint against Adams, a former Sedona mayor, on its website, the city investigated. On April 26 Adams was given a notice of violation — not to be confused with a citation. A notice of violation states the problem, how long the recipient has to address it and their options.
Adams then proceeded to go through the process to obtain a variance.
“Obviously I have learned something here,” Adams said during the hearing. “Before we got turned in we did go in [to City Hall] because we were intending to fence the rest of the property. We came in knowing that if we built a new fence, we’d have to get a permit. So we came in and pulled a permit for the rest of the fencing thinking we were in full compliance. This wasn’t something we were trying to sneak through.”
The city’s Land Development Code limits the height of a fence placed in the front setback to three feet, with a provision that allows another footand-a-half to be added to the fence, as long as that portion is not opaque. The new fencing installed by Adams himself is solid wood poles and stands a few inches shy of five feet in height.
“While not increasing the overall height of the existing fence block posts, the alterations from non-solid to opaque constitute an increase in nonconformity, and would not be approved through the permit process,” Assistant Planner Matt Kessler wrote in his report.
Adams said the fencing was necessary to keep wildlife, specifically javelina, out of their yard. In the past, the javelina have done extensive damage to their garden and landscaping. He said they also plan to get another German shepherd. He felt the fence will protect pedestrians by avoiding the possibility of being bitten.
The variance was approved by Board of Adjustment hearing officer John O’Brien with the following stipulations:
- That this variance only apply to modifications to the existing, legal nonconforming fence. Any newlyconstructed fence shall comply fully with all applicable regulations.
- That the applicant submit a complete building permit for review within 30 days.
Twists and Turns
In all, the city received 13 anonymous complaints against a handful of residents on its website under the Report It section. Most of the complaints were against those who live on Arrow or Paramount drives, off of State Route 179. These complaints were filed between March 26 and April 12.
The one pertaining to Adams was the only valid complaint, said Glenn Sharshon, the city’s senior code enforcement officer. He said the city investigates every complaint and with just two employees in that department, it wastes its resources when it receives false reports. After the first 11 complaints during that time period were deemed false, the city changed its Report It policy to no longer allow people to anonymously report a complaint.
After that, the city received two additional complaints against residents in that area, one of which listed Rob Adams and his email address as the complaining party and the other Eric Shrode. Sharshon said Adams and Shrode were contacted and both denied filing any complaints.
“Given the streak of frivolous online complaints we received in March and April of this year, which included two instances of false attribution to real citizens of Sedona, we made some modifications to the system to better enable us to respond to any future abuses,” Sharshon said.
One complaint — the one listing Adams’s name — stated that a resident had “illegal manufacturing of aviation parts.” That one turned out to be a resident who makes model airplanes in his garage. Another stated, “Doing business in a residential.” That was a Boy Scout meeting.
Others simply were not true at all, Sharshon said, including a pair that stated that a resident was digging up sewer lines.
In regard to Shrode’s complaint, Shrode took things one step further and filed a complaint with both the Sedona Police Department and code enforcement for identity theft. The complaint listing his name is the one regarding Adams’s fence.
“That’s how it came before the city — someone who had a grudge against Rob and/or me, decided to use my name to file against him,” Shrode said at the hearing. “I understand once it came to the city’s attention that they couldn’t ignore it if it was, in fact, not compliant. That’s the first time I ever heard about it and the first time Rob ever heard about it that it wasn’t compliant.”
In all, five people spoke in favor of the Adams’s fence including Rio and Bill Robson, owners of Son Silver West. Both Rob and Christine Adams spoke against the Robsons and their business during a recent Sedona Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in which they were seeking a major plan amendment to add an adjacent parking lot.
“I wanted to take some time out of my day because I feel it’s very important that we’re all on the same page here,” Rio Robson said. “That fence is beautiful. That fence should stay and should not be taken down. You have my full support of keeping that fence.”
Andrea Smith spoke and said she was confused because she said it was her understanding that the Robsons were the ones who brought this complaint regarding Adams’s fence. O’Brien said there was nothing in his report that listed who filed the original complaint with the city.