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5:24 AM Wed, Sept. 26th

Sweeping changes in Prescott zoning rules on distant horizon

PRESCOTT – Some sweeping changes could be in store for the community in the city's zoning and subdivision rules, but a rewrite of those documents is still very much a work in progress.

That was the word the Prescott City Council received Tuesday from representatives of Duncan and Associates, the Texas consulting firm that is working on the rewrite of the city's zoning code and subdivision regulations.

So far, the consultant and a local committee has worked for nearly a year on the project. From the start, city officials said the rewrite would take about a year and a half.

Until the City Council approves the new document sometime in the summer of 2002, officials say it will be subject to change.

"The code is a moving target until the end," Richard Grise of Duncan and Associates told the council during this week's workshop.

Roxanne Manning of Duncan and Associates agreed. "We've put together a draft document, and the word 'draft' is very important," she said.

Central to the discussion on Tuesday were three categories that Duncan and Associates said have generated considerable discussion among the seven members of the Unified Development Code Committee: ridgeline standards; residential protection standards; and the way the city handles manufactured housing and site-built housing.

The most controversial of those three could be the manufactured housing issue, the consultants said.

Currently, the city distinguishes between manufactured housing and site-built homes by having separate zoning districts for the two. The draft document would merge the categories. Under the new rules, the city would allow manufactured homes in any of its residential zoning districts. In fact, the new code would do away with its Manufactured Housing (MH) categories altogether.

City Planning Manager Julie Pindzola said the changes would go along with national trends to allow manufactured units in any residential areas.

Indeed, Grise told the council that the city's current separate zoning districts for the two types of housing makes Prescott unique among communities he has worked with.

Pindzola pointed out that a number of Prescott's new subdivisions have codes, covenants and regulations (CC&Rs) of their own that preclude factory-built homes. The change in the city code would not affect those rules, she said.

The ridgeline standards have also been a hot-button issue in the community. Under the proposed rules, the city would limit a home on a ridge or mesa to a height of 26 feet. Pindzola said that would allow for a "generous two-story house."

The residential protection standards would deal with the amount of space between commercial development and residential areas, as well as buffers and screening.

In response to a question from Councilman Bob Roecker about what makes Prescott unique, consultant Jim Duncan said many communities in the West have more sensitivity to private property issues.

He pointed out that his firm recently did a code rewrite in Hilton Head, S.C., where a "broad spectrum of regulatory tolerance" exists.

On the other hand, Duncan said, Prescott and many other western communities have a "high respect for property rights."

Council members had few questions or comments about the proposed changes on Tuesday. Pindzola said city staff members and the committee would "take the quietness as tacit support" of the proposed changes.

Throughout the coming winter and spring months, the city will continue its review of the changes. That review will include public hearings.

Contact Cindy Barks at cbarks@prescottaz.com