Prescott Valley P&Z rejects a ‘social experiment’
Commission decides against zoning change for women’s center
Prescott Valley Planning & Zoning Commission Member Rick Duskey said he has been on the commission for a long time and has even chaired it for a long time previously. However, he said the situation the commission found itself at during the Planning & Zoning meeting on Monday, Oct. 10 might have been one of the most difficult situations he’s ever found himself in having to make a decision to benefit the community.
The committee was holding a public hearing on whether or not to approve a zoning map change, which would have recommended the Prescott Valley Town Council approve a request to change the zoning map from Commercial; General Sales and Services to Residential and Services – Planned Area Development for the property at 8085 East Manley Drive.
The change would have allowed Supporting, Mentoring, and Restoring Teens (SMaRT), to place on the lot the New Horizons Independent Living Center, a place for women who have been out on their own and need a place to get started again.
Mike Moyer, owner of Moyer’s Heating & Cooling Inc., and Patricia Lorette were among some of the residents who voiced their concerns about the center during the public hearing. Moyer said that while he loves what SMaRT is thinking of doing, he didn’t think East Manley Drive was the place for it, asking how it would help the neighborhood.
“Helping people is a great thing, but in the right context and the right place,” he said.
Commission Member Arda Rutherford noted that one would hope it would help the neighborhood by helping the women living in the center be productive individuals contributing to the community, but also commented that the organization is offering a social experiment as SMaRT does not have any other homes. There is a fair amount of risk in that, she said.
Lorette said she lives right across the street from the lot in question and noted her concerns as there could be volatile situations, such as a man coming to her door looking for one of the women on the other side of the street. During the initial neighborhood meeting, it was asked what the success rate of the program was and the answer was 40 percent and that doesn’t instill confidence, she said. Neither does an all-volunteer staff, Lorette said.
“Their hearts are in the right place, but question how safe it is,” she said. “It’s an experiment. They’ve never done this before. How do they know what’s going to happen? We’re sitting across the street from a test site. That’s frightening.”
The possibility of having unwelcome visitors is real, Duskey said, adding that the all-volunteer aspect worries him as well. People well intentioned, but not well trained at handling situations like that might get hurt and calling the police might be too late to resolve the situation, he said.
Rutherford said she arrived at the meeting expecting to vote for the zoning map change, feeling that it would make a good transition from commercial to residential. As well intentioned as the center is, the neighborhood concerns as well as thinking about what the women in the center will do and where they will go shifted her thinking to be averse to changing the zoning, she said, mentioning that she would still like to see the facility in a more central part of the town.
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to decline the zoning map change.