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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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2/19/2012 7:11:00 AM
County official accused of conflict of interest in zoning dust-up
By Scott Orr
Contributing Reporter

PRESCOTT - A manager in the Yavapai County Development Services department is under fire after allegations that he suggested a couple buy from a friend's mobile home business as a solution to their zoning violation.

Bruce and Vicki Westover were found to be in violation of zoning regulations on their two Cornville properties because the land - zoned residential - has no home on it, but the Westovers are keeping farm animals there. Development Services also claims that they have "outside storage violations" and unpermitted buildings on the land.

The Westovers said they bought the land, which had a house on it, in 1986, and that a fire destroyed the house shortly afterwards. The county, they said, did nothing about the alleged violations until 2011, when it received a complaint about a rooster's crowing.

Vicki Westover appeared before Hearing Officer Charles Hastings on Nov. 8, 2011, to appeal the ruling.

During the course of the hearing, she told Hastings that County Planning and Land Use Unit Manager Boyce MacDonald told her husband that they would have to put a residence on the land if they wanted to keep using it, he suggested that "a mobile home, manufactured home, or park unit (would work), and then he referred Bruce to a friend of his that sells park units and indicated that they are at a phenomenal price and that would be the easiest way to probably take care of the situation and be in compliance like the county wanted us to."

Vicki told Hastings that they did not want to do that and felt that MacDonald's "handing Bruce a card from a friend that sells park units was a blatant conflict of interest and very inappropriate."

"No good deed goes unpunished," said Hastings.

He ruled against the Westovers, upholding the violation and a $100 fine for each parcel plus a $2,000 civil penalty for each, unless the Westovers stop using the land without a house in place.

They are appealing that decision to the Board of Supervisors.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Bruce Westover said he tried to stop MacDonald when he realized MacDonald was about to suggest he visit his friend's business, but "that didn't slow him down a bit."

Development Services Director Steve Mauk said that isn't what happened at all.

"Mr. Westover just plain doesn't have his facts straight. We did explain what his options were, including a park model," he said, and when Bruce said he didn't know what that was, MacDonald told him where he could go take a look at them.

"I can't help what people say," Mauk went on. "There was no business card."

He acknowledged that "at face value, it sounds bad, but I know my staff and it didn't take place."

He said that MacDonald came back from the meeting and told him, "I sent (Bruce) by this place" to see park models.

"This is not uncommon, that we have people making accusations," Mauk said.

His interpretation of Hastings' comment was that Development Services had allowed the Westovers to keep their garage on the property after the house was gone - that was the "good deed" - but that the Westovers still complained.

Hastings, who was acting in the capacity of a judge in this case, would not comment.

Bruce Westover said the zoning fight would get "massively ugly unless they see it my way."

"I've done what they asked to get along and go along," he said.

Their appeal will be heard by the supervisors at the board meeting at 9 a.m in the County Administrative Services Building, 10 S. 6th St., Cottonwood.

Related Stories:
• Westovers get half a deal on their Cornville zoning violation

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, February 20, 2012
Article comment by: Power Corrupts

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
This isn't the first time and it won't be the last time something like this has happened.

Posted: Sunday, February 19, 2012
Article comment by: Brian Carlson

The Westovers are good and honest people. It is not in their nature to distort the truth. There must be more to this story than meets the eye.

Posted: Sunday, February 19, 2012
Article comment by: What I find amazing....

is that the Westover family live at the end of a dirt road that is 1/2 mile from a paved road in an isolated area in the county and some one complained about a rooster crowing?

When you move out to the country, there are farm animals and noises like this. Why did the county even get involved in a complaint about a chicken, and how did it escalate into a zoning violation? Chickens are permitted in this area.

We lived next to the Westovers for 15 years, and they were the best neighbors--always willing to lend a hand when needed. If there was a problem, we talked about it and it was resolved. The family are top notch neighbors and have a lovely, well kept home.

But a complaint about a rooster in a rural area of Cornville?? The county should never of stuck their nose in that one!

And if I'm not mistaken, the bylaws of the area (Solair Estates) prohibit any dwelling that is not site built, eliminating any type of modular or mobile home. Why is the county suggesting putting up a home that is in direct violation of the bylaws of that community? With so many unkempt properties and zoning violations out in Cornville, I still can't believe the county would decide to harass this family over a chicken! Joyce Vanderhorst

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