P&Z opposes piecemeal approach to planning

By Linda Bentley | June 17, 2009

CAVE CREEK – Although Walmart drew the bulk of the crowd to Thursday’s planning commission meeting, two other major general plan amendments were on the agenda for review, one of which involved more acreage than Walmart’s application.

Carefree Highway and 48th Street
Harry and Nancy Thurston, residents of LaPine, Ore., submitted an application for a general plan amendment for the three residentially zoned parcels they own on Carefree Highway and 48th Street, totaling 3.28 acres.

Julian Weltsch from Pinetop, Ariz., representing the applicants, said the Thurstons were not asking for a zoning change, just a general plan amendment, noting Carefree Highway is slated to be widened.

Residents from the Estado de Cholla subdivision, directly to the west of the Thurstons’ property questioned the “compelling need” for a change in land use.

Weltsch reiterated the Thurstons’ request was for a general plan amendment only, not a rezoning.

Bryda moved to recommend approval and stated, “We were asked on Sept. 20, 2007 to consider a change. I said we would not do it piecemeal.”

Williams seconded the motion and said he too voted against that general plan amendment. He agreed with Bryda it should not be done piecemeal.

“This is not a rezoning,” said Williams, “I support a general plan amendment, not a rezoning.”

Commissioner Bill Allen said, “I’ve sat on this commission for 11 years and see no reason to do this now.”

Vice Chairman Reg. Monachino said, “I agree, doing it piecemeal is wrong.”

Baxley stated he has personally flip-flopped on the issue a couple of times and said, “I think the property begs to be commercial, but with a different approach.”

The commission voted 1-6 against recommending approval with Williams voting in favor.

25 acres south and west of the Chevron Station
Attorney Ben Pearson represented himself and several other owners of 13 parcels in an application for a general plan amendment from residential to mixed use for a total of about 25 acres south and west of the Chevron Station.

Ben PearsonPearson, who has owned his property since 1975, said he relied on a letter he received from the town in 1987 that stated the property should be commercial when he signed the annexation agreement into the town. He stated traffic has made the property unsuitable for residential.

Sharon McCarthy, one of three homeowners included in those 25 acres, said over the 26 years since she’s lived there the town, which used to serve the residents, is now patronized primarily by tourists and the owners of the 25 acres want to develop the property in a manner so it will draw people into the town.

Pearson said the property owners were not considering a piecemeal approach and the entire parcel would be developed as mixed use.

Williams moved to recommend approval, with a second from Commissioner Paul Omundson.
Williams said, “Not only am I allowed to have an opinion, I believe that parcel should be commercial but it needs to be under single ownership.”

Omundson said, “In the long term, that corner will be commercial.”

Commissioner Shelley Anderson said she saw nothing different from the last time the property owners applied.

Baxley stated, “The question we’re dealing with – should that be commercial – I happen to think it should be.”

The commission voted 5-2 in favor of approval with Allen and Anderson dissenting.

Acreage triggering a major general plan amendment
The last general plan amendment application came from staff for a text amendment that would increase the acreage triggering a major general plan amendment from 1 acre or more to 20 acres or more.

Planning Director Ian Cordwell said it was also suggested they place a limit on how many times an application could be submitted to one time per calendar year.

The purpose for the amendment was so general plan amendments don’t all come one time per year. A minor amendment must still go through the same process but may be submitted throughout the year instead of by the April 1 deadline.

Monachino suggested a change to five acres, which he said would provide more flexibility without “gobbling up 20 acres at a time.”

Bryda agreed with the suggestion to limit applications to one time per calendar year, so the same applicant can’t submit the same general plan amendment application one month after being turned down.

Todd Gilson said he would like to see it lowered from the recommended 20 acres to something more like 2.5 to five acres, stating “Growth is a necessary evil.”

Monachino moved to recommend approval of a text amendment increasing the one-acre trigger to five acres with a one-calendar year restriction and said, “I think five acres gives a little more flexibility,” while balking at suggestions to limit applications to specific times of the year to accommodate part-time residents and vacations.

Bryda asked that the amendment also include the requirement of a super majority vote by council.

Allen said, “I believe one acre does slow things down. I believe five acres is adequate.

The commission voted 6-1 in favor of approval with Williams dissenting.

Photo: Attorney Ben Pearson submitted a general plan amendment again this year on behalf of himself and several other property owners.

Photo by Linda Bentley