General Plan OK sought at P&Z meeting

Wednesday session offers public another opportunity for input

KINGMAN - The Mohave County Planning and Zoning Commission will hear a request from staff to approve the changes and updates to the Mohave County General Plan Wednesday.

The General Plan is a state-mandated document that is supposed to help guide residential and commercial growth in the county. It is not a set of zoning ordinances. According to Mohave County's General Plan, the plan is supposed to be reviewed every five years to see if updates are necessary because of changes in state law or growth.

According to county officials, this year's review of the plan will not change current land uses within the county, but will update the plan to make it compliant with recent changes in the state law, develop a more business-friendly environment in the county and establish attainable goals.

Several residents have expressed concern about the proposed changes to the plan.

One has been the amount of public participation in the plan. Several residents have said that the county has not reached out to the public like it did the last time the plan was reviewed in 2005. Instead, a Technical Advisory Committee was created to help review and make changes to the plan. Residents have raised concerns about the membership of the advisory committee appointed by County Manager Ron Walker. The committee included members from the engineering, construction, development, real estate that critics say could benefit from changes to the plan.

County officials have pointed to four public workshops held in March, the posting of a draft of the changes on the county website and the ability for the public to submit comments through the website as attempts to reach out to the public. County officials have also welcomed members of the public to attend and speak about their concerns at Wednesday's commission meeting and when the Board of Supervisors considers the changes.

Officials have stated in the background material to Wednesday's meeting, that the short time frame to get the review finished required the county to first form an advisory committee to create a draft of the changes and then present the changes to the public.

Residents have also raised questions about the timing of the review, especially since the Arizona Legislature passed a law this year that would allow counties to postpone the review of their General Plans due to the downturn in the economy.

The county was already partway through the process of reviewing the General Plan when the law went into effect. Because of that, county officials have said the work might as well be finished.

Residents have also expressed concern that the proposed changes cut important policies that protect the county's water and environment. Of particular concern was a proposed change that would eliminate the requirement that power plants use dry-cooling technology if an aquifer is in depletion.

County officials have repeatedly said that the county does not have authority over the use of water and that authority lies with the Arizonan Department of Water Resources. They have also said that the state is responsible for the air and water quality.

Officials have noted that the dry-cooling technology requirement was changed because there may be other and better technologies than dry-cooling that a power plant can use to conserve water. The policy was also changed so that it would cover all businesses that use a considerable amount of water, according to information provided to the commission.

Another concern of residents is the elimination of the ability to generate area plans. Residents have expressed concern that this would negate all current area plans.

According to information provided to the commission, the change would not do away with the current area plans, which would remain in effect.

The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the County Administration Building, 700 W. Beale St. A draft of the changes and a copy of the agenda and backup material for the meeting can be found on the county website, www.co.mohave.az.us. Click on the "departments" tag, then on "Development Services" for a copy of the draft of the changes to the General Plan. For a copy of the commission's agenda, click on "Planning and Zoning Commission" on the Development Services website.