Many said it was the longest city meeting they could remember in many years.
The Tuesday, Sept. 19, Sedona Planning and Zoning Commission meeting ended just before 9 p.m. — five and a half hours after it started. The topic: Requests for four major community plan amendments, which by law can only be addressed once a year. Still, it’s rare to have four requests on the table at once.
The commission recommended approval to the Sedona City Council for three of the requests while recommending denial of the fourth [see “Higher density requests OK’d”in this issue for two additional amendment requests]. Council will host a work session Oct. 11 and a public hearing Oct. 25 where action will take place.
Of the four requests, the one that was discussed the longest was from Son Silver West, a long-standing business on State Route 179 owned by Bill and Linda Robson. They are requesting Major Community Plan Amendment to the Future Land Use Map from single-family low density to planned area. If granted they would need to request a zone change to allow for the construction of a 36-car parking lot on a half-acre adjacent to the business.
After much discussion, deliberation and more than a hour of public input, the commission voted 3-2 to recommended denial of the request. Commissioners Randy Barcus and Gerhard Mayer were the dissenting votes while Vice Chairwoman Kathy Levin and Commissioner Avrum Cohen were excused from the meeting.
Prior to the vote, City Attorney Robert Pickels recommended that the commission not discuss or consider ongoing violations and the associated litigation on the part of Son Silver West when making a consideration of the major plan amendment.
“I have to separate the legal challenges the applicant has from this request and I’m for it,” Mayer said, noting that he once did work for Son Silver West. “Whatever happens now will be in the hands of the lawyers. The need for the parking is there. Whatever happens later will be decided by the courts.”
Commissioner Larry Klein said he would have been in favor of the request had there been an accompanying zone change application. Since there wasn’t one, he said he was voting against it because the zone change request had been withdrawn by the Robsons.
“Depending upon what the City Council decides, I don’t know if this is a win for anyone,” he said.
With the informal vote at 2-2, Commission Chairman Marty Losoff explained why he was voting against the request.
“We’ve heard from the public a lot and if this was a popularity contest, it would be hands down [in favor of the applicant],” he said. “But this isn’t a popularity contest. We’re talking about a major plan amendment. My concern has always been that we should not act in a vacuum. Sometimes we have no choice but this isn’t one of those times. We shouldn’t look at just parking. We need to look at what the environment should be like in that area.”
Staff recommended the request from the Robsons be denied and listed nine reasons, which included the following:
The proposed Community Plan Future Land Use Designation of Planned Area is not consistent with the single-family low-density future land use designations for the surrounding properties, including the property it proposes to support.
The proposed Community Plan Future Land Use Designation of Planned Area would allow for other non-residential uses on Tract 40 [the proposed parking lot], while all surrounding properties are restricted to single-family low-density considerations, including the legal nonconforming property it proposes to support.
The proposal is being considered in isolation to tracts 41 and 42 [the existing business] which are an integral component of the proposed parking lot.
In all, 24 members of the public spoke with 14 in favor and 10 against the request from the Robsons. Those in favor said this is a long-standing business, that it’s an iconic spot for locals and visitors, the city is treating them unfairly, that parking spots for the business were lost with the reconstruction of State Route 179 and that a parking lot would eliminate street parking on Arrow Drive.
Those opposed pointed out the noise issues, parking, that the business has been out of compliance for many years, the retail square footage is three times what it’s supposed to be and that the Robsons should have to abide by the same rules as any other Sedona business.
The commission also took action on the following:
Sedona Hard Cider
Location: 145 Copper Cliffs Lane
Applicant: John R. Graham
Request: Major Community Plan Amendment to the Future Land Use Map from single-family low density to planned area.
Purpose: To allow for the production of hard cider within the existing buildings.
P&Z recommendation: Approval
The property proposed for development currently consists of a single-family residence and various accessory structures and sits on 3.36 acres. According to Coconino County records, the single-family home was constructed in 1955. There is no record of when the other buildings were constructed, though the property owner believes it was constructed soon after the house. The city has no permit record for this property.
There is an orchard on this property consisting of 250 apple trees along with approximately 30 other fruit trees. The applicant has stated that apple cider has been produced on this property for more than 40 years.
In addition, other properties in the area have a history of growing, harvesting and selling apples and apple-related products along with other agricultural products. A zone change would allow for the production of hard cider, an alcoholic beverage.