Sun, July 21

Water worry puts church cemetery on hold

Water conservation concerns are forcing the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix to reevaluate its master plans for the Immaculate Conception Church and All-Souls Cemetery.

The Diocese requested a zone change from the Cottonwood City Council. But because of the proposed cemetery, a typical high-water use area, the council decided to table the issue so the plans can be looked at for closer study and review.

The area that the church owns is north of Arizona 89A, off of Bill Gray Road. The site was part of the recent Dead Horse annexation and is now a part of Cottonwood, rather than county land.

The zoning is currently a county classification and must be re-zoned to a Cottonwood classification. It was requested that the land be changed to a CF classification, or Community Facility, to accommodate the church's plans for an eventual cemetery and school on the site.

A community meeting was held in February regarding the plans for the site, and the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the request, subject to some conditions, including detailed plans for the church's water use on the site.

Council member Randy Lowe was the first to object to the water usage portion of the proposal at Tuesday night's council meeting.

According to the landscaping and irrigation plans, the cemetery will eventually total 17 acres, with turf covering as much as 14 of those acres. The plans call for 3 acre feet of water, per acre a year. According to a staff report, the proposed cemetery water use would be equivalent to about 168 single-family homes when completed.

Mike Mongini, serving as an agent of the Catholic Diocese, was at the meeting and said that people want to be buried in grass, not desert landscaping.

"The diocese is sensitive to the water usage," Mongini said.

He continued to state that the cemetery will start off small and won't need the 3 acre feet for years.

Council candidate Bob Rothrock spoke on the subject as well. He said he believed the water use aspects of the zone change could turn out to be irresponsible.

"This ordinance is going to outlive us," Rothrock said.

He asked the council to table the water use portions of the ordinance.

Mayor Ruben Jauuregui said he was also troubled by the amount of water that was proposed. He said he would like to have the plan looked at much closer and made a motion to table the item.

The council went on to approve a zone change for another portion of the Dead Horse annexation area that makes up about 2,150 acres of the annexed area. The zoning for that area was changed to a comparable city zoning classification.