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Fri, Feb. 28

Officials support residential conservation subdivisions, adoption of energy code

The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors Wednesday thanked two technical committees for developing a residential conservation subdivision ordinance and for recommending the county adopt the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code.

The supervisors and the Yavapai County Planning and Zoning Commission met in a joint study session to discuss a variety of planning issues, including conservation subdivisions and green buildings.

Development Services Director Ken Spedding said conservation subdivisions "are a good practice everyone should do considering our limited resources. We are not looking to make this mandatory. We want to provide the county with options."

Commissioner Tom Reilly said county staff members began working on the subdivision ordinance when Planning Manager Elise Link gave the commission the idea of preserving open space by designing a clustered subdivision.

Reilly said the goal of the ordinance and the adoption of the energy code is to "make it easier to do the right thing."

"Sustainability is the ability to meet our own needs without compromising future generations' ability to meet theirs." Resource Subdivision Committee chairman Matthew Ackerman said.

Ackerman said the committee identified several issues surrounding residential conservation and focused on the top four issues: water management and conservation; open space protection; clustering, density and mixed-use; and pedestrian environment benefits.

"What we are talking about is smart growth," Ackerman said. "High density is not the problem. The problem is lack of thought and design."

Ackerman, a partner at Catalyst Architecture and a Leadership Energy and Environmental Design-certified architect, said smart growth procedures has many benefits, including "improved quality of life. Yavapai County is at a crossroads. This code is a good first step."

County Planner Shakeeb Shariff said residential conservation subdivisions apply to single-family residences on lots that allow for open space.

Shariff said the concept behind a residential conservation subdivision and a planned area development is the same.

However, he said a conservation subdivision "is strictly for single-family residential dwellings at this time. Currently, the only possible opportunity for clustering is through a PAD."

The planner said county officials are developing density bonuses for developers willing to adhere to conservation subdivision guidelines.

"Density bonuses will not offset any conservation measures," Shariff said.

Shariff said future work on the residential conservation subdivision ordinance includes fine-tuning the draft ordinance; public outreach and education; additional Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission hearings; more review; and public involvement.

Supervisor Tom Thurman wants water conservation to be at the "forefront of both committees."

"Building departments, statewide and nationwide, are behind the curve," County Chief Building Official Jack Judd, who chairs the green building committee, said. "We have a lot to do to catch up, and there is a lot of local expertise."

Judd said the goal of the green building committee is county adoption of the "2006 International Energy Conservation Code by Spring 2008."

Committee member and Yavapai College instructor Tony Grahame said people have a misconception that energy-saving housing is more expensive.

"It is a matter of tradeoffs. Understanding that spending money in some areas will save money in other areas. Everyone deserves energy efficient housing," Grahame said.

Architect Mike Frerking said, "Energy efficiency is really a matter of economic development for this town. It is really a matter of what you know."

Chairman Chip Davis said he supports clustering, tradeoffs for density and adoption of the energy code. "In all our bureaucracy, we have made it easy to do the wrong thing and hard to do the right thing," Davis said.

Supervisor Carol Springer said it is important to realize the energy code stands alone and is not part of the residential conservation subdivision.

Commissioner Jon Barnert said the residential conservation subdivision and the adoption of the energy code is "also consumer driven. I think something like this encourages more affordable housing."

Springer asked Judd to summarize the energy code for better public understanding. She said, "It is easier to understand if it is compared to what already exists."

Spedding said staff members could have the information ready for public outreach sessions.

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