Water planning a key part of general plan process

KINGMAN - Much of the discussion at Mohave County's first general plan review workshop on Tuesday focused on water issues, along with making sure citizens have their say in shaping policies that will guide county growth for the next 20 years.

Nick Hont, director of Mohave County Development Services, said the general plan should be revised every 10 years according to state law. However, recognizing changes in the county, the Board of Supervisors has implemented a five-year review.

The U.S. Census lists Mohave County's population at 203,030, and by topping 200,000, Arizona statutes require that additional elements be incorporated into the general plan, Hont noted.

The purpose of the general plan review is to incorporate these new elements; update necessary statistical information; update current maps and exhibits; review elements as requested by the Planning and Zoning Commission; and review the water element.

"Groundwater is a big issue and it will be addressed," Hont said at the workshop, which was attended by four members of the Planning and Zoning Commission, planning department staff, Supervisor Jean Bishop and about 30 citizens. "There are certain limitations on how much we can control water."

New elements required in the general plan are open space acquisition and preservation; planning for growth areas; environmental planning; and cost of public services for new development.

Areas where no changes are anticipated include zoning and land use.

Citizen participation is encouraged to provide public input throughout the review process. Tuesday's discussion delved into Las Vegas developer Jim Rhodes possibly depleting ground aquifers, and whether the county should look into forming an Active Management Area or Irrigation Non-expansion Area through Arizona Department of Water Resources.

Mehdi Azarmi, who was voted chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission prior to the workshop, responded to one citizen's questions about the commission having too much decision-making power with the general plan.

"We do not make decisions. We make recommendations to the board of supervisors," Azarmi told the woman. Any citizen can comment at the workshops, and those who can't make it to the workshops can submit comments through the county's web site, he added.

The Planning and Zoning Commission approved a schedule of workshop and meeting dates through May. The next general plan review workshop is scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 20 in the Turquoise Room at Mohave County Public Works, 3715 Sunshine Dr.

Community workshops are also scheduled Feb. 5 in Lake Havasu City; Feb. 12 in Kingman; Feb. 19 in Bullhead City; and Feb. 26 in Beaver Dam-Littlefield. All meetings will be advertised in local newspapers, including the Daily Miner, as well as posted on the Mohave County web site at www.mohavecounty.us 15 days in advance. Meeting dates will also be posted at rural post offices throughout the county.

The public is invited to comment at Planning and Zoning Commission meetings on Jan. 14; Feb. 11; March 11; and April 8.

A draft copy of the proposed 2015 general plan review will be sent to county supervisors, each municipality in the county and contiguous counties. The board must approve the plan by the end of the year.