Punishment for zoning violations clarified in Kingman law
KINGMAN - It started as a mundane housekeeping issue, but it didn't stay that way.
The Kingman City Council held a public hearing for ordinance 1725, which serves the purpose of amending the penalty section of the city's zoning ordinance. Prior to Tuesday, a zoning ordinance violation was considered a misdemeanor and carried a maximum penalty of three months in jail along with a $300 fine. The goal of the amendment was to classify those violations as Class 1 misdemeanors and refer people to the penalties section of the Kingman Code.
A Class 1 misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail, three months of probation and a fine not to exceed $2,500, according to the Kingman Code.
The Planning and Zoning Commission couldn't come up with a recommendation for Council when the amendment came before it, as commissioners were deadlocked 3-to-3 on the issue.
P & Z Commissioner Jacob Cote, also an attorney for Mohave County, is against the amendment and offered his reasoning to the Council. This is not a housekeeping issue, he said, this is a substantive change. A Class 1 misdemeanor is the highest-class misdemeanor and carries a much larger penalty than what was outlined in Kingman's zoning ordinance. Furthermore, the city has not prosecuted a zoning ordinance violation in quite some time, making this amendment "unnecessary and irrelevant," Cote said.
City Attorney Carl Cooper said any misdemeanor without a classification is automatically considered to be Class 1. Yes, the amendment changes the amount of applicable penalties, but it does not change the classification, he said.
There is room for discretion, Cooper said, because violations can be prosecuted as criminal or civil. The amendment merely cleans up the code, he added.
There needs to be a good reason for the city to increase potential penalties for zoning ordinance violations, Cote said. Cleaning up city documents is not a good enough reason, he added.
"There's no reason to do this," Cote said.
Councilwoman Janet Watson said the city attorney's office was asked to clean up some of the city's documents for the sake of alignment.
Vice Mayor Robin Gordon said she agreed with Watson and added that there are too many areas of confusion within the city's governing documents.
"We still need to continue cleaning up the code," Gordon said.
Councilwoman Erin Cochran chimed in as well: "We want to be consistent."
With that, Council voted 3-to-2 to approve the amendment. Richard Anderson and Carole Young voted against the motion.
In other business, Council approved changes to the city's sign ordinance, which modifies the definition of political and ideological signs and adds a reference to the section containing the boundaries of Kingman's two sign-free zones.
Lastly, Council enacted a resolution that solidifies the city's commitment to join the Northwest Arizona Employee Benefits Trust in order to pool Kingman employee health benefits with Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City.