TRUSTED NEWS LEADER FOR COTTONWOOD, CAMP VERDE & THE VERDE VALLEY
Mon, Jan. 20

New General Plan dooms zoning change<br><i>Council uses new measuring stick to decide</i>

It doesn't happen all that often, but at Wednesday night's Town Council/Planning and Zoning meeting the council overrode a recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission and denied a higher-density zoning request.

The process by which the zoning change was first approved, and then denied, demonstrates how the town's new General Plan, if passed by the voters, would work in considering future developments.

The property in question is an 18-acre parcel located off of Arena Del Loma, east of Interstate 17. The property is also adjacent to Arena Del Loma Estates and is not located in what the proposed General Plan designates as a growth area.

Owners Earnest and Jo Anna Yeager, of Payson, had requested the property, currently zoned as residential/agriculture with R1L-70 and RCU 2A zoning, be rezoned to R1L-12.

The higher density zoning would allow houses on 12,000-square-foot lots or about four homes per acre.

The R1L-12 zoning designation would fall below the density designated for the area set by the General Plan that was recently passed by the town council and is waiting to be approved by the voters.

The changes to the land use, currently proposed in the General Plan, come close to triggering what the General Plan calls a major amendment.

The proposed General Plan sets specific guidelines to amending the General Plan. Changes made in areas designated as growth areas are considered minor amendments to the plan, even changes to housing density.

Minor amendment changes can be adopted by a simple majority of the town council and can be scheduled to be heard throughout the year.

But, changes to the land use in areas not designated as growth areas have several criteria that require a major amendment to the General Plan

State statutes define a major amendment to a town's general plan as "a substantial alteration of the municipality's mixture of balance as established in the town's existing general plan land use element."

Major amendments are scheduled for a hearing just once a year and require a two-thirds majority of the council for approval.

In the instance of the Yeager property, the parcel is 18 acres, it is not in a growth area and it is not contiguous to a growth area. A major amendment is required if the parcel is 25 acres or larger and is not in or contiguous to a designated growth area.

A major amendment is also required for any development that will add 48 or more single family homes.

The Yeager Property would include 43 single-family homes.

The water element of the general plan states that any development that uses 15-acre feet of water a year is required to apply for a major amendment. The 15-acre feet translate to the yearly water use of approximately 48 single-family homes or 44 multi-family residential units.

The development of a 43-home subdivision would also impact the traffic circulation element set forth in the General Plan. The plan would require a traffic impact analysis for Arena Del Loma.

The general plan gives every road a designation as to the type of road it is. Those designations, based on usage, include major arterial, minor arterial, collector or residential. Arena Del Loma is currently designated as a minor arterial road.

The proposed General Plan calls for a major amendment anytime a road changes designation.

The proposed general plan has other criteria that would require a major amendment.

The General Plan that is currently in effect, the one passed in 1998 and the one that will remain in effect until a new one is passed by the voters, does not address these elements.

At the time the 1998 General Plan was passed, the state statutes did not require a community to consider all of the elements they are required to consider in the new plan.

Herein lies the reason why Planning and Zoning passed the zoning change and the town council denied it.

Planning and Zoning is only required to make decisions based on the current General Plan -- the 1998 version.

When the proposal came up before the Town Council, town staff advised that although the project meets the current requirements, it would be in question if held up against what the council has already approved.

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