RUFFF passes one test; one left

P&Z Commission recommends zoning use permit for animal sanctuary

Hillarie Allison

Hillarie Allison

One commission down and one to go. The Mohave County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of a zoning use permit for Rescue Unwanted Furry Friends Foundation to the Board of Supervisors Wednesday.

Sanctuary owner Hillarie Allison had plenty of support Wednesday when four people from the audience stood up to make comments in support of her and RUFFF. But she also found herself facing one more brush with regulations.

Allison has been working with the county for the last two years to bring the no-kill animal sanctuary into compliance with county health and zoning ordinances. Ironically, it was a state and federal law that almost brought the permit approval process to a halt.

As part of the requirements for the permit, staff had requested that Allison bring two travel trailers on the property into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Kathy Tackett-Hicks, a development consultant, who has been working with Allison, raised concerns about staff's requirement that two travel trailers on the property be made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The travel trailers are used to provide volunteers with a place to rest and get out of the sun.

The act requires all buildings open to the public to have access ramps, elevators and other items to make it easier for the disabled to access the building.

Tackett-Hicks said she didn't know if it was possible to make a travel trailer ADA compliant. She pointed out that the trailers were not open to the public and were there merely for the convenience of the volunteers.

Commission Chair Carl Flusche agreed. He asked staff if it was possible to drop or change the requirement.

Commissioner Krystal Symonds suggested the trailers be inspected by the fire department instead of being retrofitted to be ADA compliant.

The county couldn't waive the requirement for ADA compliance, said Planning and Zoning Manager Christine Ballard. It was a federal and state law that all buildings open to the public must comply with ADA standards.

Ballard suggested changing the requirement to read that the sanctuary must be in compliance with all ADA requirements instead of limiting the requirement to the travel trailers.

Commissioner Joseph Morabito asked if RUFFF would be able to operate without the trailers.

Tackett-Hicks said it would, but it might limit the number of hours a volunteer could work at the facility.

Symonds asked Ballard if RUFFF could bring in another facility, such as a mobile office building, that could be made ADA compliant and then Allison wouldn't have to retrofit the trailers.

Ballard said that was one of many possibilities. All RUFFF really needed to meet the requirements was to have a place that was accessible to members of the public who might be disabled. If Allison wanted to bring in a new building that was fine.

Commissioner Robert Keller asked if volunteers were members of the public or considered employees under the law. If they were considered employees, then all Allison would have to do is put a sign on the door saying "employees only."

Flusche asked if the commission could just require that the sanctuary, in general, be in compliance with the ADA and leave it up to the building inspector to determine what needed to be fixed.

Ballard said that would resolve the issue.

Commissioner Jack Pozenel made a motion to approve the permit without the language requiring ADA compliance. The motion failed for lack of a second.

Symonds made a motion to approve the permit with the requirement that the entire sanctuary be in compliance with the ADA instead of just the travel trailers. The motion passed 4 to 1, with Morabito voting against it.