Revised General Plan OK'd despite virulent criticism

KINGMAN - The Board of Supervisors approved by a 2-1 vote the update and review of the Mohave County General Plan Monday after several members of the public and two members of the County Planning and Zoning Commission voiced objections.

District I Supervisor Gary Watson voted against the changes.

P & Z Commissioners Bill Abbott and Rick Sherwood spoke against the changes and presented a minority report from three of four commissioners who opposed the changes. The Commission voted on the issue in September, when it passed, 5-4. Commission Chairman Carl Flusche cast the deciding vote.

Commissioner Mehdi Azarmi spoke in favor of the changes.

"There's a question over whether this was a rewrite or a revision of the plan," he said. A rewrite would entail setting aside the current plan and generating a new one, he said.

"This was not a rewrite, it was a review. We did not set the aside the current plan and rewrite it," Azarmi said. The tactical advisory committee, of which he is a member, split the general plan into two parts and went through it page by page to update it.

The 2005 General Plan advisory committee did the best it could with the information it had, but a lot has changed since then, Azarmi said. For example, Proposition 207 needed to be included in the plan.

Proposition 207 was passed in 2006 and was designed to protect property owners from the abuse of eminent domain and the devaluation of property by the actions of local governments.

Some parts of the plan needed to be changed because they were misleading or opened the county up to lawsuits, Azarmi said. For example, several of the protections for groundwater and air quality in the 2005 plan were removed because the county doesn't have authority over those resources or the money to defend itself from a lawsuit over one of these issues, he said.

Another question raised during the revision process was the membership of the advisory committee, Azarmi said. All of the members of the committee were Mohave County citizens and all of them were taxpayers with different backgrounds from the three major population areas in the county, he said.

The county can't create a General Plan based on emotions, Azarmi said.

Abbott and Sherwood had a different opinion of the changes.

The current General Plan, which was revised in 2005, was well received by the public and the Board, Abbott said. He saw no reason for some of the changes proposed by the tactical advisory committee that was created to review the plan.

"I feel this is a rewrite of the plan," he said. Abbott said he felt that Flusche and Azarmi, who served on the advisory committee, tried to push the changes through the committee and the Commission to get the revised plan to the Board as soon as possible.

Abbott said when he received his packet for the September Commission meeting and started to read all of changes to plan, he realized how complex the situation was and asked for the Commission to continue the issue to the next meeting. The request was voted down.

He told the Board that the current plan was a good one, that the proposed changes should be returned to the committee and the only changes that should be made were those that would bring it into compliance with state statutes.

Resident Rick Verdat pointed out that nearly 97 percent of all of the pages in the current General Plan would have changes made to them if the Board approved the recommendations of the advisory committee and P&Z commission.

District II Supervisor Tom Sockwell said he had studied the water issue in the county for a number of years and contacted a number of water attorneys about it. All of them said that there really were no water regulations in the state. A property owner could drill a well and as long as they used the water for a useful purpose and didn't waste it they could do what they wanted with it, he said.

Watson asked why the commission and committee recommended taking out the water conservation portions of the 2005 plan. The county is in the desert and water conservation makes sense.

There are water conservation methods in the county's building code regulations, said County Manager Ron Walker. Although people might wish it to be different, the county has little authority over the use or conservation of water outside of its building codes, he said.

Watson said he didn't see why the conservation measures couldn't be put back into the plan. He made a motion to send the changes back to the P&Z Commission so they could add the water conservation items back into the plan and hold a few more public meetings on the issue.

The motion died for lack of a second.

Board Chairman Buster Johnson pointed out that if the item went back to the Commission that it would have to be re-advertised and it might take months before it would come back before the Board.

Planning and Zoning Manager Chris Ballard pointed out that the changes were considered major amendments to the General Plan. According to Arizona Revised Statutes, the Board can only hear major amendments to the General Plan once a year, she said. If the item went back to the Commission, it would not return to the Board until November of next year.

"It's almost like we're reinventing the wheel," Sockwell said. "I have a lot of faith in the people who worked on this."

He then made a motion to approve the changes.