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Season of Magic: Winter at the Canyon


Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Participants in an improv class geared toward the 55+ crowd work together in the clubhouse at Flagstaff Senior Meadows. The weekly classes are open to all. For more photos, visit azdailysun.com.


Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

John Propster, center, leads an improv class at Flagstaff Senior Meadows.


News
Residents gather to review Bellemont area plan

More than 100 Bellemont residents gathered Thursday night to join in a discussion on the most recent draft of the Bellemont Area Plan, a 96-page document that will shape land use and development in the area for the next 20 years. Coconino County staff agreed it was the most attendees ever seen at such an event.

Melissa Shaw is the county long-range planner who is overseeing the plan. She said the Bellemont community has remained interested in the process throughout its many stages, resulting in a detailed plan essential to future developments.

“Bellemont is a special place. It’s pretty unique in how it’s running and its proximity to Flagstaff, but it has its own identity reflected in the vision that this community has come up with,” she said.

By the start of the open house, there was standing room only in the Robinson Readiness Center Drill Floor at Camp Navajo, with families and individuals of all ages streaming in to hear more about the plans for their home.

The meeting was the second of its kind and allowed the public to provide additional comments before the draft is sent to the Planning and Zoning Commission, then the Board of Supervisors. Final public approval is scheduled for April.

Once the plan is in place, county staff will analyze future developers’ proposals to determine if they fit the vision of the community as written in the area plan. If not, the proposals would be modified or denied.

“We try to work with the developer to change their plans to meet those goals and policies,” said Zach Schwartz, senior planner with Coconino County Community Development.

The area plan is an official amendment to the 2015 Coconino County Comprehensive Plan and has been in development for nearly two years, when the Board of Supervisors noted the former plan – created in 1985 – no longer represented Bellemont accurately.

An area plan committee of about 15 community members and volunteers has met monthly since then to create a plan that now details everything from community character to water resources, important factors in a community with a population expected to jump from about 800 to 3,000 by 2035.

Upcoming projects incorporated into the area plan, including the installation of postal cluster boxes and road updates, were also described during the meeting.

Residents will transition from P.O. boxes at the Pilot Travel Center to neighborhood cluster boxes assigned to each address. The county is finalizing the box locations, with plans to start installation this summer.

ADOT will also be replacing the Transwestern Road bridge with a prefabricated bridge in the late summer or early fall. A nine-day closure is expected during construction; residents will be notified officially as plans are finalized. The much-anticipated roundabout to improve traffic congestion between Transwestern Road and Shadow Mountain Drive is still in the works, with construction scheduled for 2020.

John Sutherland represents Capstone Homes on the area plan committee. He said he never expected the commitment to last for two years, but that it has been a beneficial process to allow for more community-driven development in the area.

“There’s been a lot of input from everybody from ADOT to Forest Service,” he said. “It’s not just the county officials determining this, it’s the local citizens and volunteers on the committee. It’s not a top-down thing. Hopefully, it will be from the neighborhood up.”

Participation has extended beyond the committee, though, to include the public, who was invited to every meeting along the way.

Jess McNeely, assistant director of the Planning and Zoning Division, said, “This has been robustly attended by the local community. The residents, the citizens in Bellemont really care about their area and have been incredibly engaged in this process.”

Supervisor Matt Ryan, whose district includes Bellemont, said the planning process throughout the county allows residents to get involved in decisions that will inevitably affect the area where they live.

“They love their community, they usually want to keep a similar character associated with it, so if growth is going to occur, how do you do that?” he said. “You have a choice as a citizen.”


News
Victim testifies in trial against co-worker for sexual assault

After two years of continuances, the allegations against Noah Best of sexual assault and impeding an investigation finally made it to trial on Thursday.

Best’s defense attorney, Jason Lamm, is not arguing against the charge of obstructing criminal investigations or prosecutions. But Best’s counsel is vehemently denying the idea that there is proof of sexual assault, partially blaming police investigators and the victim for their varied testimony. Prosecutor Ammon Barker defended the thoroughness of the investigation, and attributed the varied testimony to the crime’s complexity.

The alleged sexual assault took place in 2016 after a work party. After having drinks, a group of co-workers went back to Best’s home, where the alleged sexual assault took place. The victim met Best through work and described him as a good boss before the alleged events in this case.

Christopher Green was a witness to the alleged crime and also alleged that Best attempted to pay him in off in order to secure his silence. The victim also alleged that Best attempted to pay her for her silence, which the defense does not deny.

“I have more money than I have friends, and I need friends more than I need money,” Best allegedly said, according to the victim.

Green was the designated driver that night and a key witness in this case who testified on Thursday. On the stand, Green alleged he saw intercourse occur after he dropped off one of their co-workers, received texts from the victim saying “It’s not what I want,” and heard the victim yell no as he entered the home. He then loudly barged into the room to stop what he alleges was a sexual assault.

Best’s defense hoped to undermine Green’s version of events by pointing out that he had not told police officers that he had seen evidence of intercourse until he was asked on the stand by Barker on Thursday.

Barker accepted that fact, but emphasized that Green had entered the room and had the vantage point needed to determine the truth. Through his questioning, Barker posed that it is not Green’s job to determine the facts necessary in the case.

“Defense counsel asked you if you provided all important facts to law enforcement officers,” Barker said. “Are you law enforcement? Do you know what all the important facts are in the case?”

Green testified that he saw Noah and the victim kiss earlier that night, which the victim alleged was forced. Green also testified that he came back to the home after dropping off a co-worker, heard the victim yelling no from Best’s bedroom and alleged that he saw the victim and Best engaging in intercourse.

Throughout Barker’s questioning of the victim, he emphasized her alleged thought process that night to explain why she didn’t leave and why the victim felt like she needed to hide the truth from her significant other and investigators. The victim responded by outlining feelings of shame and concerns for her boss and how that might affect his family.

“It’s a hard thing to decide, what the right thing to do is when it affects multiple people,” the victim said on the stand. “I was unsure if I should take everything on my shoulders or not.”


Local
Flagstaff CSA accepts Double Up Food Bucks program

Ten years ago in Detroit, a program to help provide healthy and affordable food was introduced to five farmer’s markets. The Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks program was designed with the goal to help low-income consumers and local farmers while also keeping money circulating within the local economy. Ten years later, the program is active in 24 states across the nation.

The Flagstaff Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) & Local Market became the first grocery store in Arizona to accept the Double Up program, managed by Pinnacle Prevention, in September. Earlier, in May, Flagstaff CSA received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility. The Double Up program is meant to benefit those who use SNAP, previously known as food stamps.

Pinnacle Prevention is a nonprofit organization founded in 2014. Kelly Villa, farm-to-form manager at Pinnacle Prevention, wrote in an email that Pinnacle Prevention launched the Arizona Double Up Food Bucks program in 2016, which is modeled after the Fair Food Network's original Double Up program. She said SNAP customers can earn up to $20 in Double Up tokens per day.

“We have a variety of funding partners, including multi-year funding from the USDA under the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant Program,” Villa said. “We were also recently awarded state funding from the Arizona Department of Economic Security to expand the Double Up Food Bucks program into more counties and high-need areas in Arizona.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the program is meant to help SNAP recipients purchase healthy, high-quality food at affordable prices from local farms, which ultimately keeps money flowing within the local economy.

“[Double Up Food Bucks] is really like a win-win-win,” Flagstaff CSA owner Genevieve Perkins said. “The program is only directed toward local produce. That directly benefits those farmers and the state economy, and then it helps support local residents who receive SNAP to have more choices and more to spend each month.”

Since its introduction in late September, Flagstaff CSA has had about 40 Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) purchases. EBT is an electronic funds system that allows the recipient to transfer government benefits from a federal account to purchase products. According to Villa’s email, $362 SNAP dollars have been spent and $230 Double Up tokens have been redeemed at Flagstaff CSA since September 2018.

“We don’t have anything that isn’t eligible for EBT,” Perkins said. “We would match [the money spent with EBT] with these little [tokens] for you to take home that don’t expire. When you bring them back, you can spend them, but you can only spend them on local Arizona produce.”

Flagstaff CSA has three seasons, or shares, spanning approximately four months each. Currently, it is in its winter share, which lasts from Oct. 25 thru Feb. 21.

Throughout each season, customers can sign up for full or half shares. Flagstaff CSA cashier Nina Porter said full-share members receive a weekly order of 7-9 items and half-share members receive the same amount but on a biweekly basis. Customers do not have to sign up for full or half shares, and they don’t need to be a SNAP recipient to shop.

“The Double Up Food Bucks program has been increasingly used at farmer’s markets around [Arizona] over the last couple years, but this is sort of a trial run for the program in a grocery store,” Porter said.

Perkins said it is important for those on SNAP to know they are eligible to receive Double Up Food Bucks.

Flagstaff CSA is located at 116 W. Cottage Ave. and is open seven days a week.


Courtesy 

Noah Best