B&B dispute may head to court

Suzanne Starr/Scottsdale Republic

Jim Langan owns the Full Circle Ranch, a five-star bed and breakfast that Cave Creek says violates town code and should be shut down. Some critics of the feud call it selective enforcement.

'Cave Creek made one hell of a mistake,' owner says

Thomas Ropp
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 30, 2004 12:00 AM

CAVE CREEK - Despite being ordered to close in May for violating Cave Creek ordinances, the owner of a popular bed and breakfast has remained open.

In October, he plans to host a giant wedding party from Czechoslovakia.

Jim Langan, owner of the Full Circle Ranch, 40205 N. 26th St., said he has defied the town's orders because "Cave Creek made one hell of a mistake" that has pushed him to the brink of foreclosure.

Town officials maintain they did the right thing by not renewing Langan's special-use permit because he did not make his inn comply with town codes.

Specifically, Cave Creek said Langan operates five guest units. The town ordinance limits bed and breakfasts to four. The town also insists that Langan should not be hosting large weddings and other special events. Langan admits to holding at least 74 weddings.

Town Attorney Bill Farrell said there is no way Langan should still be in business. Cave Creek Marshal Adam Stein did not know Langan was still operating.

"No one said anything to me," Stein said. "If he's in violation of the town code, we need to file a complaint with the prosecutor and see where it goes from there."

7-year permit at risk

In 1997, the Full Circle Ranch began operating and was granted a special-use permit because it is in a rural environment that is zoned residential.

Over the years, Langan built up an international clientele, received major industry awards and worked up to a five-star rating.

Current and past Town Council members used Langan's facilities for gatherings and meetings.

Critics maintain that Langan became used to special treatment because of his former cozy relationship with the town's movers and shakers.

Town Manager Usama Abujbarah said Langan's permit had actually expired two years ago.

When the issue surfaced at a Town Council meeting in March, only Councilman Gilbert Lopez voted to revoke Langan's permit. Lopez argued that the town had to "stick to the rules."

A few months earlier, Planning Commissioner Robert Moore had called Langan's violation a "total usurpation of the original charter."

Selective enforcement?

Others say Langan has been the victim of arbitrary selective enforcement.

Councilwoman Shea Stanfield said this case is a prime example of how Cave Creek picks and chooses whom to come down on.

Planning Director Ian Cordwell said Cave Creek has a dozen bed and breakfasts.

Langan insists that most of them have skirted codes at one time or another and says, "But I'm the only one that got caught."

Langan said he finds it "strange" that he has been holding weddings for years, including one for Councilman Terry Smith, and no one said a thing.

Abujbarah said no action had been taken because no one had filed a complaint until recently. Cave Creek still uses a reactive form of code enforcement in which officials become involved only after a complaint is filed. A more proactive enforcement plan is under consideration.

Neighbor's complaints

Langan said the complaints have surfaced because of a vendetta against him by neighbor J Wesley Smith, whom Langan campaigned against two years ago when Smith ran unsuccessfully for a Town Council seat.

Smith is the brother of another neighbor, Terry Smith, who also recently turned against Langan after initially supporting, and even encouraging, his bed and breakfast.

The Smiths have testified at council meetings that they are opposed to the noise and garbage strewn all over the desert after Langan's special events.

Abujbarah said other neighbors have complained, too.

Langan said what he wants from the town is a change in the ordinance to allow bed and breakfasts to operate more units, and to adopt Professional Innkeepers International standards, which allow special events during certain hours.

Stanfield, whose art group has held meetings at Langan's B&B, agrees that reworking that ordinance is essential.

"Right now, nobody knows what the rules are," Stanfield said. "They are so loose and obscure they would never hold up in court."

Both Farrell and Abujbarah admit this ordinance may need some updating, but Abujbarah said special events are not possible without a permit for each event.

Claims for losses

Langan also wants the town to reimburse him for money lost during this controversy. Langan said that although he has honored bookings made before being asked to close, he hasn't booked into the future. He has also been made to remove wedding information on his Web site, www.fullcircle

Stein said he's not supposed to have his Web site up anyway.

Most of all, Langan says, he wants an apology.

Reach the reporter at thomas.ropp@ or at (602) 444-6880.

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