Don't close the book on C-1 just yet

The debate over whether or not to allow more businesses in residential areas has been put to rest after seven months of proposals, revisions and a final rejection from City Council on Monday.

But even after Council's unanimous vote to kill a proposed expansion to C-1 - a light commercial zoning district meant for neighborhoods - it is possible the issue will rear its head once more, according to one official.

This issue first started with the Collins Report, a study conducted by an associate of former City Manager Paul Beecher. The Collins report recommended some 18 changes or alterations to the city's subdivision and zoning ordinances.

From the Collins Report came the 200-page Unified Development Ordinance, which essentially combined (or "unified") the city's current zoning and subdivision policies.

When the UDO came into the public spotlight, staff was directed to get public input, so Development Services Department Director Gary Jeppson began meeting on a weekly basis with the local chapter of the Northern Arizona Building Association.

"We didn't want it from day one," NABA Chairman Chuck Sperrazza said Wednesday.

"It doesn't appeal to us as an organization or as professionals in the building industry. It doesn't appeal to residents. I don't know anybody who thinks its any good, but Jeppson keeps pushing it."

That opinion has been expressed by several others, including Mike Bihuniak, president of Residents Against Irresponsible Development.

RAID had also worked on several of the C-1 text amendment proposals, but the city watchdog group remains opposed to the proposal because, they've argued, it would bring in businesses not conducive to neighborhoods. Bihuniak, like Sperrazza and the building association, doesn't want to see C-1 come up again.

"Mike Bihuniak is trying to see if he can make something out of nothing, and I don't know what it is," Jeppson said Wednesday when asked about the possibility of C-1 rearing its controversial head in the future. But he did say that if the UDO comes before the Council, the C-1 debate comes with it.

"Based on the vote that they decided not to adopt ordinance 1599 at this time ... the changes shouldn't take place until we look at the UDO," Jeppson said.

"There is certainly a C-1 district in the UDO," he added. "We're not eliminating the district. But there hasn't been anything going to Council. We don't have any other direction to proceed with the UDO. We'll look at those uses before we go to hearings."

The original plan was to amend the C-1 zoning ordinance to allow more businesses to build in "neighborhood convenience" areas. Officials, and many residents, believed the current policy was too restrictive, but the changes proposed caused an uproar in the Council chambers as residents packed in to oppose the draft policy.

Over a seven-month period, several different amendments were considered, and each one failed to gather a consensus of the community.

Council's original direction to Jeppson was to meet with local groups "to review the policy and get their input before we go to a public hearing." "(That) has not changed," Jeppson said.

The problem now is that neither RAID nor NABA want anything to do with the policy, either C-1 or the UDO. Both groups have come out in public meetings to ask that city officials drop the C-1 expansion. Then, on Monday, NABA's vice chairman asked Council to put the UDO on the shelf as well.

Both the mayor and Jeppson are in the dark as to whether or not the C-1 issue will come back up, as both allude to seeking direction from the other. "Number one, as far as a change in the zoning, it's dead for now," Mayor Les Byram said Thursday. But, he added, "If they're going to try to change anything there, I think we've got to have some public input."

Public input was sought, and it took seven months to go back to the original C-1 policy. NABA still remains opposed to any changes, and the UDO hasn't gained favor in their eyes. "NABA's position from day one has been that we didn't want the UDO as a document, period," Sperrazza said. "There is no need to have a unified development ordinance. It was pulled off a shelf in another community. It doesn't apply here in Kingman. We don't need it.

"That's where we stood and that's where we still stand," he added. "We don't think it's a document that applies to Kingman. What we have now is fine. We could use (the UDO) as a reference book every once in a while if something worked elsewhere, do minor text amendments to ours as needed, but not put the whole thing through."

That the C-1 debate could come up again if the UDO were to go to Council has struck many as curious, because the C-1 that went through months of revision started as the C-1 that is in the UDO. That is, if the UDO were to go before Council, then the C-1 version within it would go before Council, and changes NABA, RAID and Jeppson made throughout the seven-month review would not apply - unless, that is, Council asked for that specifically.

"The only way that (the latest C-1 version) is different is that it was reduced from the one that was originally in the UDO," NABA Vice Chairman Dusty Lewis said Thursday.

In the seven months of reviewing C-1, more and more potential uses were pulled out because of community opposition.

Asked why the UDO wouldn't simple incorporate the current version of C-1, the version NABA, RAID and Council all agree is working just fine, Jeppson said, "If you can recall a number of the statements that were made through the seven-month period, some were feeling like let's just not change this to C-1 right now. Let's wait for the UDO and then consider it with the other changes to C-1 and C-2 and C-3 and all the other zoning districts at once."

That option isn't going to sit well with NABA, either.

"If it took us seven months just to go through permitted uses in C-1," Sperrazza said. "What kind of timetable would it take to go through the whole thing? This is a monster document."

Jeppson did say that if it's Council's request to leave the current C-1 ordinance the way it is, he will comply. And of course, it is Council's decision whether or not to adopt the UDO.

Jeppson said he will seek direction from Council as far as how to proceed with these policies, but neither he nor the mayor know when it will be discussed next.

"I have no plan to ask at this point in time," he said.