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Tue, Sept. 17

Voters to decide Prescott's future Aug. 25

PRESCOTT - An update of the document that helps to guide the city's future will go to voters this summer for possible ratification.

The Prescott City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, April 14, to ask voters whether to ratify the revised Prescott General Plan.

The question will be on the city's Aug. 25 primary ballot, along with at least one sales tax-increase measure, and a host of City Council candidate choices.

Work has been underway for the past four years on reviewing and updating the existing general plan, which dates back to 2003.

The City Council appointed a committee in April 2011 to begin the update, and that group finished its draft in July 2014.

Since then, the draft plan has been the topic of numerous discussions by the Prescott Planning and Zoning Commission, and the City Council.

In addition to setting the special election for ratification, the council also adopted the final draft of the plan.

Included in the plan is an updated map, which helps to guide future land-use decisions for the city.

The map was the focus of discussion at this week's meeting - specifically on the modification for a tract of land located northeast of Prescott, which is slated for annexation into city limits.

The issue initially came up on April 7, when the council heard about the proposed 2,471-acre annexation and possible rezoning.

Prescott Planning Manager George Worley clarified that the area of the annexation is not new to the general plan's land use map, but rather is being considered for a modification. "(The area) was covered by the existing land-use map," he said.

The modification proposes changes from the existing "very low density," Worley said, to higher-density uses.

While the map helps to guide future decisions, city officials say the modification would be just the step in the multi-step process toward annexation.

For instance, developer Jason Gisi said this past week that the process would require a series of public meetings - both for the annexation (for which he has yet to apply), and for the "sever and transfer" process required by the Arizona Department of Water Resources regarding the water rights the developers have purchased and plan to bring to the project.

City Manager Craig McConnell also pointed out that the annexation would require compliance with "Proposition 400" - the 2005 voter-approved Reasonable Growth initiative, which placed more restrictions on large-scale annexations.

Among the Prop 400 requirements: a 60-day public comment period for annexations; a three-fourths council majority (six of the seven council members) to approve any annexation of more than 250 acres; and all effluent (treated wastewater) from the annexed areas must go toward permanent recharge of the aquifer.

In addition, city officials say many of the details of the annexation would be worked out in a pre-annexation agreement.

The land-use map would not "lock in" details such as water availability," McConnell said.

Even so, former Prescott City Councilwoman Lindsay Bell cautioned that changing the land-use map to depict higher-density uses would amount to a "de facto up-zoning" of the property.

Councilman Steve Blair pointed out an alternative to the annexation of the ranchland could involve a "wildcat subdivision with septic systems, and we have not control over it."

Councilwoman Jean Wilcox agreed, noting that she would rather have the "orderly development" that would come with the annexation.

Along with the general plan vote, the Aug. 25 primary ballot also will list the candidates running for City Council and mayor, as well as a measure for 1-percent street sales tax, effective Jan. 1, 2016. The council will consider adding other sales tax measures in coming weeks.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks.

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