MUNDS PARK is growing!
Can We Preserve Our Small Town Charm and Not Trample on the Rights of Others?
Growth is coming to Munds Park – with expanding and planned RV parks catering to an increasing demand for seasonal housing at a vacation town known for outdoor recreation, a cool climate and a friendly atmosphere.
What that growth will look like, and how to preserve the community’s natural beauty and old-time charm, are matters of current debate.
“How do you keep a balance?” said Cindi Eagleton, owner of Munds Park RV Resort, the Chevron gas station and a shopping center. “How do you add to the community and not make a ruckus?”
The Munds Park RV Resort, with 370 units, is adding 122 more units in Phase 4, expected to be completed in August. The shopping center is getting a new storefront this summer — Mary Coyle’s Ol’ Fashion Ice Cream, founded in Phoenix in 1951. Mary Coyle’s has a retro vibe with black-and-white tile flooring and classic sundaes, including its specialty “mountain” of ice cream with multiple flavors and toppings.
In the planning stages, but not a done deal, is a new RV park with 125 RV spots and 20-30 rental cabins on about 10 acres behind Munds Park Community Church. Prospective buyers Ari Levenbaum and Adam Sandoval have a contract with the seller and hope to close in April. The property is going through rezoning from residential to commercial, which is considered likely to happen.
Also in progress up the freeway is the proposed new Windmill Ranch RV resort, which would bring 151 RV sites and 147 cabins to a 61-acre property between Munds Park and Flagstaff, just south of the Newman Park exit. In late February, the Coconino County Planning and Zoning Commission forwarded the proposal to the Board of Supervisors for consideration.
Trendlines on multiple fronts are driving the growth.
A shortage of housing and escalating prices in Arizona and nationwide are pushing people to consider alternatives like RVs in rural areas like Munds Park.
The pandemic taught people they can work from anywhere, not bound to an office or a house.
Munds Park has only one RV park, and it has a wait list.
Baby boomers are retiring and looking for affordable options in pleasant surroundings.
Phoenix metro has 4.7 million residents, according to 2017 population estimates. Rising summer temperatures are motivating more of those people to head north for weekend getaways and summer homes.
Levenbaum and Sandoval considered those trends when they explored building a mobile home park on land behind the church. The land has been for sale for five years — originally zoned commercial, then residential, and now proposed back to commercial again. Concerns about flooding and its current status as a patch of residential property bordered by commercial property made the land challenging to sell.
The investor pair hired hydrologists, engineers and surveyors to evaluate the land. They have met with the sewage district, the church, local business owners and the county, he said.
As required by ordinance, a neighborhood meeting of residents within 1,000 feet of the proposed development was held March 17 at Provident Partners in Munds Park. More than 20 people from outside the boundary area showed up. Space was limited, but to accommodate as many people as possible, names were drawn and seven additional people were allowed to attend.
Concerns expressed included more traffic through the main drags; slower internet connections as population and demand grows; noise and foot traffic; and the environmental impact on night skies and the forest.
“Like anything else in this world, if everybody had their way, they would keep everything the same as what they grew up with,” said Bill Spain, CEO of Provident Partners, listing agent for the seller. “Growth is a difficult thing to calibrate. You want to make sure when growth does occur that you can work with the people who own the project to maximize benefit to the community.” Spain is a 30-year Munds Park resident who founded his company more than 20 years ago, serving the Valley and Munds Park.
Levenbaum said he and Sandoval are respectful of the Munds Park community and will be good neighbors.
Government requirements will be met to address flooding, water, environmental and power needs, he said. More trails will be created to give people another option. Limitations will be placed on noise, with quiet hours and speed limits enforced, he said. High-speed Internet service is scheduled to be installed along I-17 in two to three years, he said.
“I’m a resident of Munds Park. It’s been my vacation home for four years. I love it and plan on staying there the rest of my life,” Levenbaum said.
Levenbaum is chief operating officer of the American Association of Motorcycle Injury Lawyers, a national marketing and advertising company. He is not a lawyer, but graduated from Northern Arizona University with a master’s degree in education and taught school for eight years before joining the association. He and his wife Kathy bought a home in Munds Park and spend two or three months a year there. He grew up in Scottsdale and has a home in Phoenix.
Sandoval is a resident of Moyers, Oklahoma, where he owns a campground for motorcyclists. A self-described entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sandoval created ScootinAmerica, a two-year road trip to raise money for military veterans. He is active on social media.
Though Levenbaum and Sandoval are both motorcycle enthusiasts, their proposed park would not become a motorcycle mecca, Levenbaum said.
Munds Park is a popular destination for off road and all-terrain vehicles. The area has an expansive trail system designated for hiking, mountain biking and ATVs.
If their plans for Munds Park become reality, Sandoval would move here to develop the property and manage it, Levenbaum said.
Most of the proposed park’s rentals would be long-term seasonal rentals, not short-term, Levenbaum said. “We will be bringing in more people but also bringing in more money and taxes and people supporting local businesses,” he said. “We want to provide people with a home away from home – a sanctuary to share in what makes this place special.”
Steve Bowyer, pastor of the church next to the property, thinks it is likely that the land will sell at some point to a business that will develop it. “My hope is that it would be developed by owners we can work with in Munds Park, who think about what the people want. I feel like the partners working on the RV park are eager to be part of our community,” Bowyer said.
Dick Drinen, president of the Pinewood Property Owners Association, said the association does not take positions on development issues. Residents are free to bring questions to the association’s attention and everyone will get a response, he said. The association is a nonprofit supported by voluntary dues.
Eagleton believes the property next to the church should remain residential zoning because of the flood plain issues. She also is concerned about the roadway not being sufficient for RV traffic and about the proposed park attracting short-term renters who come and go, with no investment in the community.
The Munds Park RV Resort, which Eagleton describes as “adult camp,” offers activities for the community with bands, dancing, bingo, the sports bar, a pool, and the Wandering Donkey Mexican food restaurant at the strip center, she said.
Most of the resort is for park models, which Eagleton said gives the residents “ownership pride.” Another pool will be added for phase 4, she said.
“My family has been here 50 years,” she said. “I’ve been here 17 years full-time. We won’t develop things unless we know it is good for the community.”
Levenbaum feels the same way. “Someone is going to purchase this land,” he said. “Someone like me who is part of the community will develop it in a respectful way and make it a high-end park.”
NEXT ISSUE OF THE PINEWOOD NEWS
We will review existing Munds Park organizations that can help make positive change and welcome our new neighbors.
After all, we are Mundsberry USA!