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Bellemont 20-year plan nearing completion

Bellemont 20-year plan nearing completion

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Bellemont Area Plan Land Use Map

After two years of planning, the land use document to guide Bellemont’s next 20 years is nearly complete, pending final approval from the Coconino County Board of Supervisors.

The plan was presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission in a second public hearing Wednesday for any additional suggested revisions. There were none.

Though this document does not set the plans for specific developments in the area, it will guide future county decisions by setting an overall vision for the community, as well as goals for community character, services, land use and development, environment, safety and more.

“One of the primary concerns of the [Bellemont Area Plan] was to maintain Bellemont’s small-town feel, quality of life and natural resources while promoting balanced growth that would bring desired amenities and services to this community,” the plan states.

A short list of priority tasks to be implemented are also documented in the plan, including identifying emergency access routes, installing U.S. Post Service cluster mail boxes and providing utilities for future developments.

The entire plan will replace the unincorporated community’s original 1985 area plan and will be an amendment to the 2015 Coconino County Comprehensive Plan and 2013 Flagstaff Regional Plan.

Unlike the previous plan, which focused less on residency because there were only three occupied dwellings at the time, residential developments now play a key role.

With the 99 new townhomes planned to be introduced by a new neighborhood, Shadow Mountain Village, the population of Bellemont is expected to jump from about 800 to 2,500 by 2025 with more than 1,000 residential units in the area.

“There’s a lot of pressure to expand this community and we can only resist for so long,” Bellemont resident Jeffrey Holloway said.

In addition to expansion in both North and South Bellemont to support separate residential, commercial and industrial uses, the plan calls for a rural activity center: a space where the residential can meet the commercial in North Bellemont. Input from community members showed a preference for restaurants, a neighborhood grocery store and medical services.

Holloway’s wife, Sue, said she would look forward to a nearby grocery store, “but then I’d miss my trips to Flagstaff.”

The biggest concern among residents like the Holloways, though, is development itself, especially occurring north of the Flagstaff Meadows neighborhood.

“The realtors promised us that no one would build on the Forest Service Land behind us. Protection of this land is why we have become so involved in the community and Bellemont area plans. The area we are fighting for begins on the other side of the brick wall in our backyard,” Sue Holloway said in an email.

The area plan itself reflects these concerns, with a policy stating the plan only supports National Forest land exchanges if it protects a sensitive habitat or creates development that leaves open space between structures and matches existing developments in North or South Bellemont.

This policy was one of the minor revisions made after the first public hearing in June, as well as a change to the future land use map to suggest that development could occur in this area if it met that criteria.

During the initial hearing, the commission requested the plan’s creators consider whether the boundary of the Bellemont Area Plan should be expanded west to include the 117-acre cinder mine parcel south of Interstate 40 and the 226 acres of U.S. Forest Service land between it and Bellemont.

Although the expansion was considered and discussed, the area plan committee chose to exclude both.

“The committee felt that there were too many unknowns on what this land will be used for to include it in the area plan,” said Jess McNeely, assistant director of the Planning and Zoning Division.

The owner of the cinder mine property, in particular, did not want to be included in the plan because exclusion would allow for more flexible use, such as a landfill, McNeely said during the hearing this week.

As for the Forest Service land, any exchanges and ultimate use of the land remains the decision of the owner.

“Being in or out of the area plan really makes no difference if it stays National Forest land. If it’s owned by the National Forest … it can only be used for what the Forest Service permits,” McNeely said.

The commissioners approved the document for discussion by the Supervisors this week and commended the product of county staff and community members’ “tremendous effort.”

The Board of Supervisors will consider adopting the Bellemont area plan on Oct. 8.

Kaitlin Olson can be reached at the office at kolson@azdailysun.com or by phone at (928) 556-2253.

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