By Suzanne Adams
KINGMAN - Former Planning and Zoning Commissioner Bill Abbott listed numerous concerns about changes to the County General Plan and irregularities in the commission hearing process in a minority report that was delivered to the Board of Supervisors on Monday. Abbott announced his resignation from the commission Thursday morning.
The Board approved the changes to the plan by a 2-1 vote Monday despite objections voiced by Abbott and another P&Z commissioner, Rick Sherwood. Abbott and Sherwood also voted against the changes during the September Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
In his report to the Board, Abbott said the commission's Sept. 8 vote on the changes to the General Plan should have been voided because the commission did not follow Robert's Rules of Order, a series of rules used by most governmental agencies to conduct meetings.
Abbott said in his report that during the voting process, the call for the vote was made alphabetically, so the commission chair, Carl Flusche, voted before some of the other commissioners.
Robert's Rules state that the presiding officer or chair of a group is only allowed to vote after all of the other members of the group have voted and only to break or cause a tie vote.
Abbott states that because Flusche voted before the votes of all of the other commissioners were collected, the commission's vote on the changes should be voided.
County staff and the County Attorney's Office have reviewed the vote and determined that nothing was wrong in how the vote took place, Flusche said.
"I don't believe I've done anything wrong," he said.
"The presiding officer was also a member of the technical advisory committee who played a major role in developing the recommendations under considerations, which would obviously suggest he would have a bias to support them," Abbott stated in the report.
"When I became aware of the extent of the proposed changes and realized it was not merely a review as originally publicized, I found the task impossible and ultimately obtained a hard copy, but the volume of changes and available time made it impossible for me to study the issues and to examine the impact they may have," Abbott wrote in the report.
He said that his request that the changes be continued to the next meeting was denied.
Besides procedural issues, Abbott felt that a number of the proposed changes to the General Plan would "have a severe negative impact upon Mohave County as a place to live and to do business and will impose such flexibility in decision making that it will discourage growth and the prosperity in growing communities."
In regard to the changes to the Natural Resources section of the plan, Abbott wrote, "Most of those suggestions do not appear to be based upon anything that has happened within the last five years nor do the suggestions appear to be significant.
"The goals and policies included during the 2005 update will be significantly compromised by the 2010 recommendations," Abbott wrote, referring to the Air Quality section of the plan. "Although our county may, at this time, have financial limitations which compromise our ability to achieve some of the goals right now, we should not lower our sights and presume we permanently face these very difficult times."
Abbott also disagreed with the changes to the Water Quality and Quantity section of the plan. "This natural resource is critical!" he wrote in his report. "Although everyone recognizes the role key state agencies have in protecting this valuable resource, there should be no question as to the counties' responsibility to identify potential issues which may have negative impact within the county and to take steps and/or coordinate with state agencies to minimize any negative impact.
"The goals and policies established in 2005 appear to have been appropriate and should not be changed unless something within the last five years has happened to justify the recommendations," he states.
Abbott also objected to changes that would allow a major plan amendment to be classified as a minor amendment.
"If any major amendment may be considered a minor change, what assurance will be offered to protect a developer of a commercial business who may want to become part of our county?" Abbott asked. "If this recommendation is adopted, it will kill growth. No one is going to invest in an area with uncertainty as to what will take place next door or across the street."
Abbott also states in the report that the commission was not given an assessment of the public comments the county received about the changes to the plan and that it did not appear that the comments had been considered at all by the county.
"It was also noteworthy, during some of those presentations, that little if any consideration was given to comments made during public meetings or by recommendations submitted prior to those meetings." Abbott writes. "This conduct suggests the role and responsibility of the commissioners is to rubber stamp the recommendations that come before them and the object of the public meetings is to satisfy a public requirement, but since all comment appears to be substantially ignored, they are not necessarily considered or evaluated."
In closing, Abbott encouraged the Board to "direct Development Services to take whatever action is necessary to perform the service the BOS approved when authorization was granted to initiate the General Plan review; conform to the action initially publicized; and act in accordance with the procedures included within the current provisions of the General Plan."
Flusche doesn't see the changes to the General Plan as a rewrite of the entire plan.
"Things change. We had to make a lot of changes. A lot of changes don't necessarily mean it's a rewrite of the plan," Flusche said. "I don't see this as rewriting the plan. As you update things, you have to rewrite them."
Flusche said he respected Abbott's opinion on the matter. But the final decision over the approval of the changes to the plan was up to the Board of Supervisors. The commission only recommended approval of the plan to the Board and that was done by a fair vote of the commission, he said.