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Cellphone driving ban up for Prescott Council vote

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Legal use of a hand-held cellphone while driving in Prescott could be a thing of the past soon, depending on this week’s vote by the Prescott City Council.

A number of hot-button issues — everything from the proposed ban on cellphone use while driving, to absorbing internal debt at the municipal golf course, to regulating food trucks — will be up for discussion during two Prescott City Council meetings Tuesday, Oct. 23.

The council will conduct a study session meeting at 1 p.m., and a voting meeting at 3 p.m., Tuesday. Both meetings will take place at Prescott City Hall, 201 S. Cortez St.

The 3 p.m. voting session is expected to include a vote on whether the city will ban the use of hand-held electronic devices, such as cellphones, while driving.

During an Oct. 9 study session discussion, a majority of council members appeared to support a citywide ban, which would be in addition to a similar ban that Yavapai County earlier approved, effective Nov. 2.

A city memo notes that the proposed ordinance would prohibit the use of mobile communication devices while operating a motor vehicles on city streets or highways, unless the device is designed or configured for hands-free use.

The ordinance would make the violation a “primary offense,” which means that a police officer could stop a driver “if the officer has reasonable suspicion” that a cellphone violation is occurring.

Violation of the proposed ordinance would come with a $100 civil fine for the first offense, and subsequent offenses within a 12-month period, “may be up to $2,500,” according to the city memo.

Other items on Tuesday’s agendas:

• Also at its 3 p.m. voting meeting, the council will consider a resolution that would dissolve or forgive Antelope Hills Golf Course’s internal city loan of $5.3 million.

The resolution also would commit the city to funding capital and operating deficits of the golf course in the future.

During a study session discussion on Oct. 9, a number of council members voiced support for treating the municipal golf as the city treats other services, such as parks and trails.

The memo states: “Council directed that the funding of the shortfall and capital needs of the golf course should be addressed annually during the budget process to protect the city’s asset.”

• During its 1 p.m. study session, the council will discuss possible regulations for food trucks and mobile merchants.

A city memo explains that the Arizona State Legislature recently adopted several new laws that restrict and limit the city’s ability to prohibit or ban the operation of mobile food vendors and mobile merchants. At the same time, the state laws give the city some authority to regulate the operations.

A draft ordinance, which the city says would create “reasonable regulations,” would require the vendors to obtain city business licenses, as well as sales tax (Transaction Privilege Tax, TPT) licenses, county health inspection permits, and food handler cards, as appropriate.

Food trucks would also have to comply with fire and safety codes and show proof of inspection by the city fire department.

The draft ordinance also includes a number of rules about operating on public or private land, as well as in residential or commercial areas.

For instance, operation on commercial or business zoned private property would be limited to not more than 96 consecutive hours. Operating on residentially zoned private property (such as for a special event or private party) would have a four-hour limit.

When operating on city right-of-way, the food trucks would be required to obtain a permit from the city for nominal fee (set by the council).

If the council decides to move forward with the ordinance, city staff would also present a concurrent amendment to the Prescott Land Development Code, according to the memo.

• Also at the 1 p.m. study session, the council will discuss a number of options for amending its sign regulations pertaining to temporary signs on private property.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-445-3333, ext. 2034, or cbarks@prescottaz.com.