County boards meet to enhance communication

The Board of Supervisors and the County Planning and Zoning Commission sat down together Monday to iron out a few difficulties with communication between the two boards.

The commission has been concerned that the Board overturns too many of its recommendations without speaking to the commissioners.

The Board has been complaining that commission doesn't give detailed reasons why it denies lot splits and rezoning requests.

The two boards have been trying to hold a joint meeting since July.

Commissioner Joe Bibich said any time the commission votes unanimously on something and the Board overturns it, the commission has questions. The commission needs to understand the Board's feelings on water, land splits and infrastructure.

An example was a large multi-family development in the Mohave Valley area that was between two single-family home subdivisions that the Board approved over the objection of the commission.

Supervisor Tom Sockwell said there was no reason to deny the request. The developer had met all the requirements from P&Z.

Board Chairman Pete Byers said he doesn't even consider a planning request until after the commission votes on it. Then if he disagrees with the commission, he votes against its recommendation. Occasionally he calls a commissioner for an explanation of the commission's vote, he said.

He would like to see included in the Board's information a list of how each commissioner voted on each agenda item, Byers said. He also wants the commission to choose someone from each district to contact the supervisors about issues that come before the commission.

He also wants more detail as to the reasons why the commission denies or passes a request.

Supervisor Buster Johnson said it seemed as if the Board was overturning a lot of the commission's denials of lot splits.

The law states that a property owner can split their lot into a maximum of five parcels before the owner has to apply for a subdivision request.

Johnson said the Board has been threatened with lawsuits because the commission has denied some of these lot splits.

Requiring property owners to have roads, water and other infrastructure to their property before it can be split is arbitrary and capacious, especially since the county does not have a law on the books requiring it, Johnson said.

County Attorney Robert Taylor said a lot split request does not have to come before the commission or the Board as long as it does not create more than five lots and it does not involve a request to rezone the property. However, the split must be noted on the deed.

The county has had problems in the past where lots have been split and a person has bought the property and tried to build something on it, only to find out that they need to apply for a rezone.

Bibich expressed concern over the number of lot splits that were occuring. With each lot that is developed requiring water, multiplying that by several hundred lot splits puts a strain on the resource.

If the county keeps approving dry lot splits and people keep putting in wells or hauling water to them, there's going to be trouble, he said.

What happens, he asked, when the area runs out of water in the middle of some developer's multi-home phased subdevelopment.

Commissioner Rodney Burgess said that the matrix, a plan to require that properties have access to utilities, water and other infrastructure before they could be split, would have handled this problem but it was shot down by the Board.

Commissioners said the county needs some kind of program to control growth before things get worse. The P&Z staff has no direction on what rezones or lots splits will be approved and which ones won't. People are wasting their money because they think their request will be approved only to have the commission deny it.

Commissioner Bill Abbott agreed with Burgess and said that P&Z staff should be able to tell property owners as soon as they walk in the door if their request meets the General Plan.

There should be nothing that gets past P&Z staff that does not meet the General Plan, county zoning ordinances or land use regulations, he said.

Byers said he voted against the matrix partly because there wasn't another program like it in the state and partly because Proposition 207 passed. Prop 207 states that a property owner can sue if he feels that a policy, ordinance or regulation enacted by the county has decreased the value of or negatively impacted the use of his property.

The matrix, if it had passed, could have involved the county in a number of lawsuits, Byers said. Oregon, which has something similar to Prop. 207, has had nearly $60 million in lawsuits filed since its proposition passed.

Johnson said no one is guaranteed water when they purchase a property, that the owner is on his own.

Byers said the county's requirement that developers prove a 100-year water supply has kept out a number of developers who would have just built for the sake of selling houses.

Burgess said both the Board and commission need to find out what the people in the county want and do it.

"We're not all in the same ballgame," he said in referring to the communication between the Board and the commission. "Do we represent what these people want?"