Whetstine project gets super-majority approval from Prescott Council

PRESCOTT - Viewed by one Prescott City Council member as effective "affordable housing," but as an example of "spot zoning" by another, a zoning change that will allow four additional apartment units on Whetstine Avenue won city approval this week.

In a 6-1 vote on Tuesday, July 28, the Prescott Council agreed to rezone a 0.41-acre parcel at 926 Whetstine Avenue from its current single-family-residential zoning to high-density multi-family zoning.

The property owner, Greseth Family L.P., plans to build two duplexes on the property, in addition to the existing house - bringing the total residential units to five.

Prescott Planning Manager George Worley told the council that the Whetstine lot - which is located near 12th Place and Willow Creek Road in central Prescott - lies within a mix of zoning uses, including single-family, multi-family, and commercial.

Councilman Steve Blair maintained that the project would provide for more affordable housing in Prescott - something he said the council has long supported.

"We give a lot of lip service to affordable housing," Blair said, maintaining that adding two duplexes on a lot with an existing home would help to keep costs down.

But Councilwoman Jean Wilcox called the rezoning proposal an example of "spot zoning," and she urged the city to instead give the neighborhood an opportunity to plan for future uses in their area. "The whole area is a series of spot-zoning," she said.

Worley noted that the Prescott Planning and Zoning Commission had discussed the project twice this past spring, before voting unanimously in May to recommend approval of the rezoning.

Although the zoning request generated about a dozen letters of opposition from the neighborhood prior to the Planning and Zoning Commission vote, none of the neighbors attended this week's council meeting to speak against the project.

In April 2015, letter writers brought up a number of concerns, including increased traffic congestion from the apartment project, as well as the possibility that the complex could be converted into a "sober living" or group recovery home.

"Are we going (to) continuously sacrifice our Prescott community, our neighborhoods, for progress?" asked one letter.

Another stated: "Our concern is that the owner of 926 Whetstine is simply building institutional housing for the contiguous property (to 924 Whetstine) in order to house 'rehab' patients..." It added: "While very profitable for the owner of the property, it will be detrimental to the neighboring properties."

Worley told the council that the site would not be appropriate for a group home (community residence) for two main reasons: It is too close to an existing group home to meet the city's buffer requirements; and nearly all of the group homes in Prescott are located in single-family homes, not multi-family apartment complexes.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Ken Mabarak told the council that the tenor of the neighborhood input had changed after the first commission meeting, and that the commissioners would have had "more issues" with the rezoning, had the neighbors continued their objections after the first meeting.

Mark Peugh, representative for the owner, said the apartments are being designed to minimize the impacts to the neighbors.

Because of the earlier strong neighborhood opposition, Worley said the Whetstine rezoning had triggered a state requirement for a three-fourths "super-majority" of the council (at least six of the seven council members) for approval. With Wilcox casting the only vote against the rezoning, the project received a 6-1 super-majority.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2034, or 928-642-0951.