A city known for a rezoning process that business interests see as difficult and sometimes unworkable is about to become a lot easier.
The Flagstaff City Council agreed to begin preparing an amendment to the land development code that would make the handling of a rezoning request faster and less financially burdensome for the applicant.
The city currently requires a detailed site plan and a number of impact studies, from traffic to sewer, before even considering a change to the underlying zoning.
On Monday, the Council agreed to give parties seeking a zoning change the option to submit a “concept-zoning plan” that would allow a change in zoning to be approved or denied without a detailed site plan or impact studies — the plan and studies would still be required, but only after the rezoning request was approved.
The current rezoning process sets the bar too high for not only developers, but for property owners and businesses looking to expand or relocate to Flagstaff, said Richard Bowen, president and CEO of the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona.
Developers, existing businesses and future businesses that want to come to Flagstaff will at some point need to request a rezoning, Bowen said.
“We want to make sure that those entities have the capacity to develop and build in Flagstaff, and that we’re not creating such a high hurdle that they decide to go somewhere else,” Bowen said.
Flagstaff has enormous potential, especially with startups, Bowen added, because many entrepreneurs are drawn to Flagstaff’s lifestyle and culture.
ECoNA has been polling commercial real estate brokers in Flagstaff to find examples of transactions that have stalled or been killed due to the complexities of the current zoning process, especially the inability to get a conditional rezoning.
In some examples provided by Bowen, the development of a business park on Bulter Avenue and the expansion of a furniture company and hotel chain into Flagstaff were stymied because of the inability to get assurance of a zoning change.
The revision will essentially create a two-step process, decoupling the review and possible approval of a rezoning request from the approval of a detailed site plan and review of a number of important impact studies.
A two-step process, however, could also mean less public participation, said Councilmember Celia Barotz.
“I just want to make sure that the public is given a meaningful opportunity in the rezoning process to provide feedback,” Barotz said.
The public has a right to know when a tract of land is being rezoned, Barotz added, because once the zoning is changed, both the Council and the public have very little leverage with owners. Staff conducts the second part of the process, typically without input from the Council or the public, Barotz said.
The Council did agree, however, to add language to the amendment that would allow the Council to attach a condition to the rezoning approval that would require the property owner to hold a public meeting after the rezoning is approved and detailed analysis of the project has been submitted to city staff.
Barotz said she did wonder how strong the language in the amendment would be, and if it would allow Council to effect a change after the rezoning is approved.
Developers would still be able to follow a one-step process, which would include impact studies and a site plan, if they wanted to. This option is likely to continue to be used when the developer has already secured a tenant for the project and believes that the rezoning request won’t be opposed.
In addition, the amendment will include a new category for multiphase projects, to distinguish large projects that involved multiple uses, such as retail, residential and office, from large projects that don’t involve multiple uses.
A draft of the amendment to the rezoning process is due back in front of the Council this fall.
Chris Leone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 556-2253.
Larry Hendricks 07/16/2013 Sider
Overview of proposed requirements for submitting a concept-zoning plan
Identification of the requested use Yes – generally
Property information, owner, etc. Yes
Context analysis Yes, except for small scale project
Development agreement or conditions of approval Yes
Infrastructure analysis (TIA, utilities, stormwater) Yes – broad general data
Concept plan Yes
Concept architectural rendering Not required
Additional site plan details Not required
Representative architectural elevations Not required