RUFFF's luck continues to hold with P&Z board

Hillary Allison has 30 days to submit site plan, apply for permits for travel trailers on property

KINGMAN - Rescue Unwanted Furry Friends Foundation's luck continues to hold.

On Wednesday, the Mohave County Planning and Zoning Commission continued a zoning use permit request from the animal sanctuary's owner, Hillary Allison, for 30 days to give her time to submit a site plan and apply for permits for two travel trailers on the property.

Allison was cited for not having zoning use or health permits for RUFFF in 2010.

She explained that she has been working with staff in both the Mohave County Development Services and Environmental Health offices for the last two years to bring the sanctuary into compliance and get the permits, but she is stuck in a catch-22. She can't get the zoning permit without the health permit and she can't get the health permit without the zoning permit. She has also attempted to meet every requirement made by the two departments, but they keep coming up with new ones.

Allison also said it wasn't fair that she has had to apply for a new zoning use permit every six months when other animal sanctuaries have had their requests for two-year permits approved.

Commission Vice Chair Mehdi Azarmi asked if anyone had explained to her why she was only approved for six months and not two years.

Allison said they gave her several different reasons at different times. Each time she tried to solve the problem, she was given another reason as to why she wasn't approved for a two-year permit.

Azarmi directed the question to Development Services staff.

County Planner John Montgomery said the sanctuary didn't have a site plan or an environmental health permit and needed to get permits for two travel trailers on the property.

RUFFF wasn't in a catch-22, he said. County ordinances did not require RUFFF to get the health or the trailer permits approved before it could get a zoning use permit.

Commission Chair Carl Flusche asked Allison, if what Montgomery said was true, then why hadn't she submitted a site plan.

Allison said she thought she had submitted a site plan but wasn't told until recently that the plan did not have the detail the department wanted.

"This is the sixth time you have come before us for a permit, and not one of those times did staff tell you that the plan was not acceptable?" Azarmi asked, referring to zoning permits RUFFF had been approved for in the past.

Allison said she hadn't been told there was a problem with the plan until recently.

Montgomery said the site plan had been sent back to RUFFF for corrections when the sanctuary was approved for a zoning permit in 2006, but it was never resubmitted with the corrections.

Several people also spoke on RUFFF's behalf.

Phyllis Smith from Lake Havasu City introduced herself as a public affairs specialist who had become interested in RUFFF's plight after reading the local newspaper.

She visited the sanctuary in April and found a well- maintained, well-organized and clean facility filled with happy animals.

The county should really focus on educating the public about the necessity of spaying and neutering their pets instead of going after RUFFF, she said.

The commission believed the animals at RUFFF were well cared for, but that wasn't the issue here, Flusche said.

"We're only concerned about the zoning permits," he said. There's a process that RUFFF has to go through in order to operate in the county and part of that process is getting the necessary zoning permits, Flusche said.

Another woman from Lake Havasu City said, the requirements the county had placed on RUFFF, especially for kennel flooring, were not reasonable or realistic.

One of the issues RUFFF has been running into with the county health department is that the department is requiring the facility to put bedding sand or pea gravel in the kennels. Allison has maintained that the county's ordinances do not list requirements for outside kennels and that the sand and gravel is inhumane to the animals.

Azarmi said he has visited RUFFF's facility and commended Allison for her work trying to save the animals, but there are rules that need to be followed.

He asked Environmental Health Director Rachel Patterson to explain the county's health ordinance governing flooring in kennels.

Patterson said the ordinance requires kennels be made of durable materials, which was why the department was requiring the sand or gravel. She admitted that the ordinance did not define "durable materials."

Linda Bender, the former mayor of Lake Havasu, also spoke out in support of RUFFF.

Allison faced many challenges in the last few years, which have prevented her from submitting and meeting county zoning and health permit requirements in a timely manner, Bender said. She appealed to the commission to find a way to work with Allison.

Azarmi asked if Bender agreed that Allison was in violation of the county's zoning ordinances.

Bender started to say Allison has tried to comply with county regulations, but the county has put a number of obstacles in her path.

Azarmi interrupted her to ask again if she thought Allison had violated the ordinances.

Benders said Allison had, but she needed the county's help to meet the requirements.

Azarmi suggested that instead of petitioning the commission to bend the rules for RUFFF, Bender and RUFFF's other supporters should try to help raise money for the facility by applying for grants and fundraising. The county doesn't have the personnel or the money to guide Allison through the process, he said.

Rachel Thalrose, a Kingman resident, also expressed her support for RUFFF and Allison. Thalrose said requiring Allison to repeatedly come back before the commission and the Board of Supervisors was a waste of taxpayer money and time.

Flusche said he thought RUFFF was doing a great job, but a site plan doesn't cost much or take much time to put together.

Allison said she could have a site plan submitted to the county by June 1, if that is all that it takes to get a zoning use permit.

Montgomery pointed out that the plan could not be approved without a zoning use permit.

"I don't want this coming back. This has been something we've been over again and again," Flusche said.

Azarmi asked if Allison could get a site plan submitted to the department in 30 days.

He made a motion to continue the item for 30 days to allow Allison time to submit a site plan and apply for permits for the two travel trailers on the property. She would only have to submit the plan and applications for the permits, he said. She would not have to get them approved within the 30 days.

Commissioner Joseph Morabito seconded his motion and the commission voted unanimously to approve it.