Builders sack 'Beecher Policy'

Just because it's a "Beecher policy" doesn't necessarily mean it's junk, but after several months of reviewing word-for-word a new zoning and subdivision ordinance, members of the Northern Arizona Builders Association are scrapping the document.

Builders, title company workers, contractors and a wide range of other representatives in the development industry have dedicated an hour a week for the past six months or more to softening the blow of a policy initiated by former City Manager Paul Beecher - the Unified Development Ordinance.

When the new ordinance was first being publicized in January, Beecher wrote to the Miner via e-mail, "Basically, what it does is pull together all our ordinances relating to development, eliminates duplication and confusion and, hopefully, makes life easier for those who work with that part of our system."

Essentially, the UDO would combine the currently separate subdivision and zoning ordinances, clarifying, simplifying and streamlining the procedures for local development. But to those in the development community who've spent hours upon hours tackling section after section in the 200-plus-page document, the document's goal far outpaces its practicality.

From the outspoken developers in Kingman, such as Scott Dunton, the colloquial terms for the UDO range from "terrible" and "crap" to the growingly infamous "Beecher policy." Others within NABA shy from the more repugnant descriptions, but generally agree that the UDO should not be implemented as a policy itself.

The builders association's executive committee chairman, John Kirby, who runs the UDO meetings, believes the document has some good uses. While the general scope of the ordinance would likely serve to push out small-town developers and facilitate projects for the "big boys," it does contain several policies that could benefit Kingman; for example, a section may help in the revitalization of downtown, Kirby said.

NABA Vice Chairman Chuck Sperrazza said the document could be used as a guide in making changes to the current ordinances, but he said it should not be implemented as the new law for subdivision and zoning ordinances.

The general idea behind scrapping the UDO is the old saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Originally, builders didn't want anything to do with the document. But when they feared it would be pushed through and approved by City Council, the association began holding weekly meetings with Development Services Director Gary Jeppson to "massage" the procedures, clarify the language and generally soften the effect, Kirby said.

Jeppson to pass on NABA's concerns

Now, even Jeppson is on board with the association's plan. Like Kirby and Sperrazza, Jeppson believes that the UDO can be used as a guide in updating and revamping the current ordinances. He has agreed, however, to take to Council the association's concerns and its recommendation to scrap the UDO as a document that should replace existing policies.

"I would recommend rather than having the UDO, having two separate ordinances," he said Thursday during NABA's weekly meeting. "But I think we should review those two documents." No date has been set on when he will make that presentation to Council.

The UDO, as with the development impact and building fees that were restructured in recent years, is a result of the Collins Report.

Bill Collins was a former colleague of Beecher, Kingman's former city manager who was fired Aug. 10 for signing a severance package with an employee without Council's knowledge. Beecher and Collins allegedly worked together in Dover, N.H., Beecher's previous place of employment before he was hired as Kingman's top administrator in January 2005. The city hired Collins - for about $75,000 - to draft the Collins Report, Jeppson said. The UDO followed. A records request for exact cost of the report is pending at city hall.

One of the more controversial aspects of the UDO is the revamping of commercial zoning ordinances, specifically C-1: neighborhood commercial or neighborhood convenience districts.

All sides to work on C-1

NABA and Jeppson worked on expanding the number of businesses allowed in C-1 districts through a text amendment. Also, another committee comprising Council members, city staff and Planning and Zoning Commissioners put together their own version of the C-1 ordinance, but when that was presented to the Commission and Council, it was shot down for being too harsh to neighborhoods. Most recently, NABA, Jeppson and Residents Against Irresponsible Development worked on an alternative to the expanded C-1 proposal called Light Commercial. This would have allowed expanded C-1 uses in a new zoning district within 200 feet of major commercial corridors in Kingman.

At its monthly meeting Tuesday, the P&Z Commission unanimously voted to recommend that Council deny the Light Commercial proposal, many feeling it was unnecessary; other feeling it wasn't a fix to the problems with C-1.

Now, all the factions - NABA, RAID, Council members and Commissioners - will convene one last meeting on Nov. 29, when they will try and come to a consensus on expanded uses for C-1.

As for the UDO, its suggestions may help in revamping current city policies to the benefit of local development, but it's not likely to survive as is.