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11:07 AM Thu, Sept. 20th

Series of meetings to unveil draft of Prescott General Plan

PRESCOTT – With about two-thirds of their work behind them, members of the Prescott General Plan update committee will take what they have accomplished so far to the public this week.

The 12-member committee has been working for almost one year to come up with an update to the general plan, which the city last re-worked in 1997.

"The committee has put a lot of effort into the plan," said George Worley, long-range planner for the city who has been working with the group. "They've been meeting twice a month since last September. They're at about the two-thirds mark now."

He added that the committee hopes to get plenty of comments from the public on what the draft plan contains so far. The next draft of the plan will reflect the comments that the committee receives in this week's round of meetings.

The three public open house meetings will take place at:

• 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the third-floor meeting room at the Prescott Public Library, 215 E. Goodwin St.

• 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Yavapai College gymnasium, 1100 E. Sheldon St.

• 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the First Assembly of God Church, 1455 Willow Creek Road.

So far, the plan includes more than 150 pages of text that covers topics such as land use, circulation, open space, growth and the cost of development, environmental planning, water, economic development, and community quality.

Although the plan closely follows the 1997 version in areas such as land use and circulation, it also includes a number of new sections, which the state's Growing Smarter legislation required.

"The committee agreed from the beginning that they liked the 1997 plan," Worley said. "The initial intention was that they weren't throwing away the 1997 plan. They wanted to build on it. But in some cases, there was nothing to build on."

For instance, Worley pointed out that Growing Smarter called for more emphasis on the impacts that growth would have in the communities.

Therefore, the plan will include entirely new sections, such as "growth area and the cost of development," environmental planning, and community quality.

One obvious change in the new general plan is a revision in focus for annexation into city limits of residential land.

While the 1997 plan encourages annexation of commercial property only, Worley said the new plan proposes annexation of areas – both residential and commercial – that are suitable for development.

That relates to another area that the new plan will focus on: housing that is affordable to residents who work in service-level jobs.

Although the 1997 plan also encouraged affordable housing, Worley said the new draft includes more emphasis on the issue, especially relating to the city's proposed annexation of ranch land northeast of Prescott.

Worley noted that much of the land that is under consideration for annexation is flatter than other areas in Prescott and would lend itself better to higher density housing that would be more affordable.

He cautioned, however, that "there are a lot of misconceived notions about what affordable housing entails. We're talking about houses in the $100,000 range."

The committee has yet to include land-use maps in the draft of the general plan. Worley said that likely will come in the final one-third of the group's work. But he expects that the land-use components will closely follow the 1997 plan.

The meetings this week are the second series of public gatherings that the city has conducted for the general plan; another series of similar meetings took place at the start of the update.

In addition, the city collected about 300 surveys from residents to help determine what the general plan should include. "This is not something we're trying to do in a vacuum," Worley said. "We want to ask (the public), 'is this what you want?'"

Worley hopes that the next draft of the general plan will be ready to go to the Prescott Planning and Zoning Commission sometime in September. Then, it would go to the City Council before the end of November.

The schedule calls for the City Council to adopt the plan before the end of December, which would set the stage to have the general plan on the ballot for a vote in March 2003.

The general plan committee consists of: Robert Behnke, John Steward, Barton Brown, Lindsay Bell, Paul Daly, Roy Griffin, Ed Harris, Sue Knaup, Edna Moglewer, Richard Rosa, Elisabeth Ruffner and Jim Lamerson.

Contact Cindy Barks at cbarks@prescottaz.com.