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Sun, Feb. 23

Chino Valley residents question water, sewer, open space issues

About 40 citizens who attended last Monday's special meeting to hear the town's five-year strategic plan asked a lot of questions about water and open space.

How much water is in Chino Valley?

Where is the water for new development going to come from?

Why don't people put in desert landscaping and not lawns?

Why is the groundwater level dropping?

Where is the supply of water coming from to accommodate 50 percent growth?

Is there any thought of preserving the grasslands and open space?

Are we going to exercise caution in attracting businesses that might contaminate our water supply?

Can we get more revenue from water that's leaving Chino Valley and going to Prescott?

Stu Spaulding, community development director, talked about Prescott's historic rights to the water they pump in Chino Valley and about the three aquifers that exist at different depths under the town.

"Our town is 100 percent septic tanks," he said. "Everywhere else on the face on the earth where there are that many septic tanks so close together it has polluted the aquifer."

Septic tanks discharge into the top aquifer at about 40 percent liquid recharge and pollute it. The discharge from septic tanks is not counted as "water credits," and the town must have water credits for fire protection and new business.

That's why infrastructure development, the first item on the strategic plan list, is so important, he said. The first item on the infrastructure list is a wastewater treatment and effluent recharge plan – a sewer plant.

"We have a sewer problem," Spaulding said. "Chino Meadows areas are starting to get nitrogen pollution, and the only way to stop it is to build a sewer plant.

"Septic tanks are only slightly better than dumping sewage directly in the river.

"Our dream in Chino Valley is to stop polluting the aquifer with septic tanks."

A sewer plant also would earn water credits for about 70 percent of the liquid waste collected from each household.

The type of sewer system he thinks would work best in Chino Valley connects directly to septic tanks with a small diameter line. Homeowners would abandon leach fields and still have to pump solids from septic tanks.

Citizens will have four more opportunities in February to talk about the strategic plan, including sewer and water issues, said Carl Tenney, town manager.

The planning and zoning commission and town council will discuss the plan in meetings this month. Planning and zoning meets the first and third Thursdays of the month, and town council meetings are on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.

"Chino Valley was incorporated in 1970 so we are a 'Johnny come lately' when it comes to water rights," Tenney said.

Besides protecting the aquifer, building a sewer plant is "the town's effort to provide emergency water and water for the business community."

After strategic plan committee member Paul Aslanian reviewed the need for a sewer plant, he talked about the town developing a central water system and a transportation system.

The goal of the plan is to "develop public infrastructure to provide for current and anticipated needs."

The second "focus area" of the strategic plan covers "community development."

This year the town will update the community's general plan to conform to state "Growing Smarter Plus" legislation, said committee member Mike Beatty. The legislation is the state's way of encouraging rural areas to plan for their futures.

Yavapai County is the fastest growing county in northern Arizona, and Chino Valley's population increased by 62 percent from 1990 to 2000.

In the next five years, the town also hopes to update the town code and related policies and upgrade municipal facilities so the town can continue to adequately serve its citizens.

Committee member Steve Cotton talked about "economic development" and the need to attract and retain business and industry that will offer "quality jobs" and broaden the town's tax base.

Chino Valley must have an economic development plan and the money to hire an individual or department to work daily at attracting businesses and jobs to the community, he said. There are commercially zoned areas all along Highway 89 waiting for new businesses.

"If we plan for the future, we will be prepared for it," said committee chairwoman Karen Fann. "If we stick our heads in the sand and let things go by, other people will do things to our community that we don't like."

She said citizens will vote in November on the "general plan" the town is developing now, and urged local residents to join one of the committees working on the town's general plan – or "blueprint for growth."

"If you want to have anything to say about your town government, sign up now," Spaulding added. To learn more, call Spaulding's office at 636-4427 and ask for Christy.

Citizens may serve on the following committees:

• Environmental – parks and recreation and environmental law

• Growth Area – economic development

• Open Space – plan for areas that will never be developed

• Water Resources – Sewer and water facilities

• Housing – planning where people will live

• Conservation, Rehabilitation and Redevelopment – social programs and how to infill the town

• Land Use – zoning

• Transportation – roads and trails

• Public Services and Facilities – hospital, ambulance, fire department, police department

• Cost Development – an estimate to the town council about what it will cost to implement the general plan.

(Dorine Goss is a reporter for The Daily Courier. Contact her at dgoss@ prescottaz.com.)

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