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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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11/16/2013 1:22:00 PM
Cottonwood council, commission kick off year of review for General Plan update

Jon Hutchinson
Staff Reporter


Cottonwood is starting to roll out and review the first draft of the city's updated general plan. It is just the beginning of a process that will stretch over the next year.

The Cottonwood Council and its Planning Commission held a joint meeting Tuesday to discuss the update. A steering committee has been working for months to rewrite the master plan.

While the council is having its first look at the plan, the planning commission has been getting updates for months.

The plan will go through an exhaustive process of agency review and then public review before a second draft is developed and then more public hearings before each the planning commission and the council. Finally, the public will vote on the final plan Nov. 4, 2014.

In addition to the seven elements required by the Growing Smarter requirements for community planning, the city has added to the elements. Original elements include Land Use, Circulation, Open Space, Growth, Environmental Planning, Cost of Development, Water Resources and now Housing.

A new element would address Historic Preservation as well.

Long Range Planner Charlie Scully reviewed the general changes.

Land Use includes new emphasis on planning sub areas, such as Old Town, with special characteristics.

Circulation takes a broader approach of multi-modal transportation, says Scully. "Not so much roads, but more efficiency Traffic counts have been updated on area roads."

There has been a major re-organization of the Open Space element with a new map showing public lands.

Scully says the Housing chapter "has had so many changes in 10 years," There are 6,000 housing units, 50 percent of which are owned and 50 percent rental units.

Mayor Diane Joens had the most to say about the new draft plan. She wanted to see more reference to private property rights and said "small town character" needs to be more closely identified.

Terence Pratt said he believes in smart growth.

Within the Growth element, Scully says the plan identifies that the slag pile between 6th Street and the Fairgrounds is expected to be gone in 20 to 25 years.

Diversity of housing, according to Mayor Joens, needs to identify just only low-cost housing, "for which Cottonwood is a mecca, but also high-quality housing for professionals," Joens said, "so that all our doctors don't have to live in Sedona."

There was much discussion about the reference to "sustainable agriculture" in the plan. Natural Resources Director Tom Whitmer told the gathering that "my biggest concern is that agriculture is a huge water user and we don't want to be promoting that we are an agricultural community" if the city wants to continue to have a free-flowing river. It is a contradiction of Cottonwood's conservation goals, Whitmer believes.

Councilman Randy Garrison differed with Whitmer. "I think agriculture should be part of the plan, after all that was our beginning. Not all agriculture is cotton fields."

Diane Lovett of the Planning Commission agreed, "It is the green fields that attract people to this area."

"We have to be careful how we frame it. Even vegetables" can be water consumers, said Whitmer.

Tim Elinski countered that, "There are plenty of ways today to provide good food with little water use. The cost of water will keep most people from having large garden," he believes.

Planning Commissioner Ray Cox wondered if purple pipes for reclaimed water will be available in residential areas for use to grow fruit and pecans.

"To me, this plan is so important for the next 10 to 15 years," said Mayor Joens.

Open houses to showcase the plan and tap public comment are scheduled in December and January. Both will be held at the Cottonwood Recreation Center from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m. Those open houses are scheduled Dec. 12, 2013, and Jan. 9, 2014.

Citizens will vote on the General Plan Update Nov. 4, 2014


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