Good planning is the way that we build a strong future for our county. The County Comprehensive Plan is one way we ensure good planning. The county has recently begun the process to review and revise the Comprehensive Plan, which guides all growth and development in our county.
No one can stop growth and change, but we can guide it in ways that make our county stronger and more resilient. Growth comes as families, industries and communities increase and flourish, but growth also places additional burdens on county infrastructure, roadways and local government services. That’s just the reality of living in a thriving county such as ours.
State law requires that every 10 years, Arizona counties review and prepare a Comprehensive Plan, which is a set of long-range guidelines and a land use vision for future development in unincorporated areas of the county. Coconino County is nearing that 10-year deadline and has begun the process of a citizen review of our County Comprehensive Plan.
Our current award-winning Comprehensive Plan was created after multiple meetings with area developers, community associations and other stakeholders. It was adopted in 2003 by the Board of Supervisors. The plan – a kind of roadmap for the county and our growing communities – sets guidelines to address future land use, transportation and environmental quality issues, in addition to community facilities, parks and recreation, water and other community needs.
During the county’s many meetings to build the plan, people raised important issues they wanted addressed, including the availability and protection of water resources, public safety, housing, telecommunications infrastructure, personal property rights, properly maintained roadways and water quality.
Today, 10 years later, our neighborhoods and growing communities continue to face these same important issues. This plan doesn’t aim to solve all future community issues, but it does provide our leaders and the leaders of tomorrow a framework to meet those challenges as they arise.
For more than a decade, the plan has been used by citizens, landowners, developers and conservationists – in addition to the County Community Development Department and Board of Supervisors – to guide land use and development discussions. This has proven successful in helping us anticipate and meet the future needs of county residents, while promoting public health, safety and welfare.
Preparing for the future of our communities requires vision and dedication to the generations that will follow. That work can only be done with the support of the citizens we serve.
The update process is guided by the Board-appointed, 15-member Comprehensive Plan Committee (CPC). This citizen-based committee will have three primary duties related to drafting the updated Comprehensive Plan:
1) Ensure issues are identified, understood, prioritized and resolved through an open public process.
2) Recommend policies, goals and implementation strategies to be included in the plan.
3) Submit an updated comprehensive plan to the County’s Planning and Zoning Commission for recommendation to the Board that has the committee’s support and commitment.
This update of the Comprehensive Plan will include discussion of two new areas: economic development and sustainability. Over the next 18 months, the county will ask our residents, business owners and other stakeholders for public comment at regional open houses. Additionally, comments and feedback can be left for staff by visiting the County’s Community Development Department’s webpage at www.coconino.az.gov/communitydevelopment.
In addition to the Comprehensive Plan, we have worked with residents to create more detailed County Area Plans. These plans deal with the unique characteristics of a smaller area of the county. By helping plot a course for our county’s future, we not only learn what elements make our communities unique, but what planning efforts are needed to ensure they are sustainable.
The county’s vision statement says it best: “We take great pride in our county, which continues to attract people with its quality of life, rural atmosphere and natural beauty. … We value our distinctive natural landscapes for their beauty, solitude, recreational opportunities and ecological function; as a result, we work to ensure their long-term health and viability.”
To do just that, we must rely on our residents to help us draft the blueprint for the future to ensure we are continuing to build on a sound foundation. I hope you will take time to become involved in the process during the next few months, and share your thoughts and ideas with the Comprehensive Plan Committee, either through the open houses or the website. FBN
Cynthia Seelhammer serves as Coconino county manager.