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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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2/21/2012 1:10:00 PM
Westovers get half a deal on their Cornville zoning violation

Jon Hutchinson
Staff Reporter

COTTONWOOD -- It was something of a mixed blessing for Bruce and Vickie Westover of Cornville.

Yavapai County -- through its Hearing Officer Charles Hastings -- had fined the couple for zoning violations on two adjacent properties. Tuesday, the Supervisors, in an appeal of the Hearing Officer ruling, waived the fines of $100 for each of the properties and a civil penalty of $2,000. The fines were waived, but the supervisors left the zoning violation in place.

The couple's primary home burned down several years ago on one of two adjacent residential Cornville properties on El Rancho Bonito and South Libby Lane.

The Westovers built a new home on a separate property a mile or two away, but garages and outbuildings remain on the original land and 24 chickens were kept on the property. The Planning and Zoning Department has allowed some of the buildings to remain, they claim, but say accessory uses may not continue when there is no primary structure on the land.

During the Supervisors' appeal of the Hearing Officer's ruling, the board was told the property has been cleaned up since the notice of violation.

Supervisor Chip Davis opened his comments by saying, "These are upstanding, good people involved, and it is just silly to come to this over a chicken."

Davis noted the Westovers have cleaned up the property and "come into compliance" and, "I would prefer just to waive the fine. But, I think the bigger thing that came out of this is our ordinance where there is no home on the property and the livestock issue. But, let's talk about revisiting our ordinance in the future and see if we need to amend it."

Land Use Officer Boyce Macdonald noted, "It was more that just some chickens. There were disabled vehicles and other outside storage on the property."

"I can tell you I have driven by it for 20 years and it hasn't changed and nobody complained until you got a call about a rooster crowing," Davis responded.

"But it goes beyond that, Supervisor Davis," said Macdonald, "they have cleaned it up, but whether they can maintain uses on the property that are 'accessory' where there is no primary structure."

"That's why I suggest we re-visit the ordinance," countered Davis. "I really have a hard time swallowing the pill that says a person can own a property in the United States, but not use it; that a person can own a garage or a shed and not be able to put anything in their shed."

Supervisor Carol Springer differed: "I don't believe anybody who has a vacant lot should be allowed to put junk on it or put a fence around their property and keeping animals there, when there is nobody visibly around to take care of them. I find that to be very troubling. So I am not inclined to let things like this go. I do not support changing the ordinance."

"The property is essentially clean." Macdonald says the ordinance would require they take down all the buildings. "That's not what we are asking for. We are just asking to secure the buildings, not clear them off the property, but not utilize the property until such a time that they establish a primary use."

"This is a problem staff has in a rural county as diverse as the Village of Oak Creek to Black Canyon City; that's why we have an ordinance that does not permit accessory uses in a residential zoned property without a primary use." Macdonald added, "We have an application coming before the planning commission to allow horses be kept on a property without a primary use through a Use Permit. That is an avenue that is also available to the Westovers."

The Supervisors unanimously agreed to waive the fees, but maintain the violations.

After the meeting, Bruce Westover did not say how he would proceed.

"There were some things I would like to talk to the Board of Supervisors about and wanted to talk but it didn't work out that way. I thought Chip Davis was right on the money," said Westover.

Taylor Waste
Related Stories:
• Editorial: There’s no perfect rule when it comes to zoning law
• County official accused of conflict of interest in zoning dust-up

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Article comment by: Go Bruce and Vicky!

As your former neighbors, it's ironic that we had the same problem as your family. We decided to split our 3 1/2 acres into 2 parcels, thinking if the Great Depression hit & the log home was foreclosed on, we would still own the other halve of the property free and clear. Property was split, recorded with the county.

A few yrs. later, we got a building permit from the county to put up the 900 sq ft barn, and the 40ftX14ft horse barn on the property that did not have a house on it., We then went back to the county to get another building permit to put up the three 3 car garage.

Suddenly, the county had a problem with us. There was not a house on the property and denied the request for the garage and said no building permits should have ever been issued to us.
So we ended up attaching an 2 bedroom apartment on the end of the garage, just so we could put the garage up on property.

This occurred about 20 yrs ago, and now the same problem has resurfaced. It's time to revisit the ordinance, as it is still causing problems. This ordinance is another example of the government overstepping its bounds and keeping control of private property owners.

Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Article comment by: Common Sense

More BS! You have the right to pay taxes on the property, but you can't use the property! What country is this anyway?

Ridiculous, outrageous, and another example of local government stepping in and defending the wrong side. People just seem to have a need to complain.

Pick your fights, some complaints have absolutely no merit!

Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Article comment by: Larry Swiger

Let it be known that to rub someone wrong whom works inside the huddle of zoning and planning will cost you dearly.I installed a gate on my property in conflict with Boyce McDonald and wife's recreational plans and will be assessed thousands within days. Within a month the list of infractions was so lengthy that the cost override prohibits repair. Obtaining legal representation against this dept. is futile and the response is, "but I happen to reside in this county with Boyce and company".

Posted: Friday, February 24, 2012
Article comment by: shut-up and do what you're told

Yavapai County Assessors office has mailed homeowners their 2013 Residential Notice of Value (and supplimental sheet) which states the value is not only used to calculate 2013 property tax, but is in actuality your house value as of 2012. If you must sell this year (move to caretake aging parents out of area, move for a lucky-to-find out-of-area job, etc.) don't even think about listing a selling price beyond the assessors valuation. The banks hate competetion and have large inventories to unload and they really don't want your listing creating any competition or confusion for bargain home hunters - also be sure you indeed live in your residential property and don't lease/rent/sublet as you will lose your tax credit and owe more property taxes. Remember your neighbors are watching and and the county has more boots on the ground searching for cheaters. Good luck and remember - the banks and your assessors office appreciate your cooperation.

Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2012
Article comment by: Tired of nothing but liars

Republicans run on the party platform of small government.

Once they get in power, they sure like to tell you what to do.

With your property.

With your education.

Even with your own body.

So much for small government.

Chip Davis seems to be the only honest politician left.

Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2012
Article comment by: Same old double standard!

This is a perfect example of the Nanny State. Carol Springer thinks us poor little people cannot be trusted. You can own property, pay taxes on it, but you can't do with it what you want within reason. The Westover's are not doing anything unreasonable.

Of course . . . unless you are a rancher, then you can rent for pennies on the dollar hundreds of acres of state land without houses on it to run your cattle. Are they being supervised regularly? No, and since my home backs up to state land there could be maggot ridden corpses literally in my backyard.

Guess what? And if you hit a cow with your automobile because it got out, you are liable to reimburse the rancher, not to mention they are currently paying less than you in property taxes!

Again . . . it's the golden rule . . . those with the gold, RULE.

"Your Freedom"

If you are stupid enough to watch the horse die, you deserve to live next door to a maggot ridden corpse. There are state agencies to take care of problems like that. Obviously, just complaining about a rooster in a rural area was enough to bring out the calvery! Not buying it.

Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2012
Article comment by: Your freedom ends at my property line

This issue has implications that go far beyond the Westovers.

Reading these comments, and the report of what transpired at the meeting, I get the feeling some of these people have no idea how bad it can get when a careless neighbor abuses their land and it negatively affects you. It can and does happen, and all over the county. Regularly.

Let's say your neighbor keeps a horse on his empty lot and isn't around for weeks at a time to care for it. Let's say the horse dies and becomes a stinking maggot-ridden disease-spreading corpse.

What are you going to do? You likely are going to call the county. And they will be there to help you.

Sure, you're free to do whatever you want with your property. But if your use causes a nuisance, endangers others, or threatens your neighbors in any way, then you're out of line. That's why we have these ordinances in the first place.

Boyce MacDonald has a very difficult job, and he does it well. I for one appreciate what he and the county do.

You want to change the ordinance, fine. Just remember that it's got to work for everybody, not just for you.

Your freedom ends at my property line.

Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2012
Article comment by: I Too Agree Whith Chip

As long as my property is not a health hazard, what do you care what I do with it? I pay taxes to maintain ownership. I so agree with Mr. Davis and so disagree with Ms. Springer. This is not a city. This whole primary use of land as a residence first MUST be changed. We have a lot vacant land that poses a much bigger problem with weeds and fire hazards than we do because someone chooses to keep animals on it and live down the road.

As to caring for the animals, if I live on the land and have a 40 hour per week job, I'm not there all the time to watch my animals. Just because my residence sits on the land does not make me a good or bad animal caretaker. Please, Mr. Davis, help us revisit this primary use law and get rid of the house first part. Not all land should be lived on. If I own, I should be able to run livestock on it without a home. Thanks. Lu Parker

Posted: Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Article comment by: Slaters Slater

Whats an ordinance? Kinda like an EXPLOSIVE!!!

Posted: Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Article comment by: Briana N

As someone who grew up with the Westovers and next door to that property all my life, I say who cares what its used for as well. They own it and as long as they are not using it for illegal purposes (and anyone who knows the westovers knows that will never be an issue) they should be allowed to use their property that they paid for any any way they see fit.

Posted: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Article comment by: Another Silly Ordinance

First off Carol Springer, What a person does on or with their property as long as it's safe is no concern of yours. This is America, home of the free, isn't it? People are getting sick and tired being told what they can or cannot do due to some silly ordinance. Sorry, but I have to agree with Supervisor Davis and Mr. Macdonald and support changing the ordinance.

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