Neighbors seek to overturn commission decision on Hitching Post permit

Regular patrons at The Hitching Post Saloon contributed their time, building supplies and western memorabilia to construct an Old West town facade at the restaurant at 2341 N. Apache Trail in Apache Junction. They are, foreground, Hitching Post owners Tina Lovelady and Mehmood Mohiuddin, and background, from left, Shawn Kukuk; Wes Sanders, standing; Karen Evans; Jamie Mathis; Bonnie Goldsbury, standing; Eileen Raffaelli; Heidi Erickson; Shannon Lorance; Mike McFadden; Mike Schaub; Jeff Goldsbury and DeeAnn Sutter. (February 2016 file photo)

Neighbors have filed an appeal to overturn the approval of a conditional use permit allowing Hitching Post and HP Steakhouse restaurants, 2341 N. Apache Trail in Apache Junction, to conduct various ancillary outdoor entertainment activities on the property.

The Apache Junction City Council will hear the appeal of the CUP that was approved in a 6-1 vote by the Apache Junction Planning and Zoning Commission, Rudy Esquivias, senior planner, said.

As of press time a date had not been set for the appeal. Mr. Esquivias said the meeting will be published in a public notice.

The Hitching Post and HP Steakhouse restaurants’ owner says the enhancements are needed to better serve clients, while some neighboring residents have expressed concerns over noise already emanating from the venue. Many of those who were against the permit played videos at a recent commission meeting of noisy vehicles and loudspeakers from bull-riding events held at the Hitching Post.

The restaurant owner is Mehmood Mohiuddin, represented by Ralph Pew of Pew and Lake PLC.

The city’s Planning Division recommended approval of the CUP, but was not in full agreement with the applicant’s request, Mr. Esquivias said in a memo to the commission.

“We recommend approval subject to very specific conditions and very specific performance items for the applicant to accomplish within one year of approval. Staff believes these conditions are necessary to mitigate the impact of both the existing and proposed expanded uses on the property, in light of the impact it has had on the neighborhood thus far – in accordance with the evaluation of the CUP criteria) – and to try and preclude future secondary negative effects,” he said.

Just beyond the subject site there are large-lot single-family residential neighborhoods, Mr. Esquivias said in the memo.

“Development Services staff is aware of complaints from neighbors, including about the new fencing around the bull-riding arena – people can’t see around the corner as easily as they could in the past; noise complaints related to loudspeakers used during bull-riding events and concerts; and, noises and odors coming from the truck storage lot – not a part of this CUP and being dealt with separately through code compliance,” he said.

The new events planned include concerts, a sand volleyball court, cornhole games, fire pits, bull-riding, a putting green and other similar activities for patrons and guests of the restaurants.

“The Hitching Post opened its doors in 2008 and has been an enormously popular entertainment venue along Apache Trail,” Mr. Pew said in a project narrative dated Dec. 22 and revised Feb. 27.

“Since its opening, the owner has continuously updated the site and has invested significant time and money into the business. With this CUP application, the owner is looking to enhance the appeal of the site even further,” he said in the project narrative.

“Capitalizing on the phenomenal weather in the Valley for most of the year, the property owner is seeking to create an indoor/outdoor experience for his patrons,” he said.

The vision is to create an environment where a customer can have dinner at the Hitching Post or HP Steak House and linger afterwards in a courtyard area with a sand volleyball court, gazebo and water feature, a small putting green, corn hole area and fire pits, he said.

“This type of activity area is very popular among Valley restaurant establishments such as The Vig, The Monastery, Culinary Dropout at the Yard and San Tan Flats,” Mr. Pew said.

The Apache Junction Planning and Zoning Commission sat through nearly five hours of testimony March 27 by people for and against the CUP. Commission members voting yes were Chairwoman Theresa Nesser, Vice Chairman Peter Heck and members Willie Howard, Steve Kridler, Michael McGraw and Robert Schroeder. Commissioner Michael Frank voted no.

Editor Richard Dyer can be reached at rdyer@newszap.com

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