Construction was halted at this work site on Harshaw Rd. when the town became aware that no use permit had been issued for the project. Photo by Robert Gay

On Oct. 22, 2020, a letter to Patagonia’s town officials alerted them to an ongoing project on a recently poured slab at 868 Harshaw Road, to be used in a South32 modification to its current Water Treatment Plant at the Hermosa Project. Construction was being done without anyone having applied for a Use Permit.

The Harshaw Rd. property was sold in August 2019, for $525,000 to a Phoenix construction company, Tallin LLC, owned by Denver Whetten. The sale did not include records of a Use Permit for the property. The property had been owned by the Tree of Life Foundation, and has a home formerly used by “the Tree” for selling supplements and herbal preparations.

The forms being constructed were for about a dozen roughly six-foot square components resembling spread footings. South32 had contracted the project to the large regional construction company Sundt Construction, as general contractor, and Sundt had subcontracted to Whetten’s construction company, Degan Construction, of Phoenix.

The state’s exemption from county regulation of land use by mining ventures, ARS 11-812 (A)(2), does not apply to this lot because the exemption only applies “if the tract concerned is five or more contiguous commercial acres.” The Harshaw property is 2.28 commercial acres, less than half the lower limit of the current legal exemption.

When the Town brought this matter to the attention of South32’s local officials, they claimed no knowledge of the component fabrication site not having a use permit, and immediately terminated the project. By Oct. 27, the rebar and wooden formwork had been disassembled and removed.