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planning and zoning stock

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended Flagstaff City Council deny a rezoning for a development planned on a 16-acre piece of land near the intersection of High Country Trail and Lake Mary Road.

The recommendation by the commission was preceded by the same recommendation by city staff, who have not supported denying a rezoning in years, according to staff.

The development, known as Aura Flagstaff, is planned to provide 173 units of medium density apartment units built by the Texas-based Trinsic Development. The whole development is located on only nine acres south of High Country Trail, leaving the remaining seven acres between the road and the interstate as open space.

Sloping up significantly and crossed by power lines and bisected by High Country Trail, the property is not an easy one to develop, said Jason Morris, who represented the developer.

Still, Morris disagreed with the assessments of city staff and the commission that the project should not go forward as is.

City Planning Development Manager Alaxandra Pucciarelli said staff made the recommendation not to rezone because they believed the project did not fit with the city’s regional plan and did not adequately contribute to the public good.

For example, the development is required to provide civic space that is open and available for use by both residents and the public. But the developer has located this space under the power lines and partially within a water detention basin, although Morris said they could make improvements such as benches in this space.

The developer is also constructing a section of urban trail past the development and along High Country Trail, but this section would not naturally connect to any other part of the city’s urban trail system, although Morris said they hope to work with neighbors to connect it.

“Staff believes that many of these are just meeting the minimum requirements of our zoning code,” Pucciarelli said.

Morris disagreed, saying they had not only met the requirements of the code but had surpassed them in some cases.

They are providing the necessary open space required by the city in the southern half of the property plus the entire portion of the property north of High Country Trail, Morris said, although he did acknowledge that the tree preservation requirement is being met because of the northern portion.

“The rationale for the recommendation for denial that you’ve seen are within the subjective measures,” Morris said.

The land is owned by the Auza family, who has owned it since before Arizona became a state when the land was used to raise sheep.

Now, they just want to be able to develop the land they have owned, Morris said. For years, they have seen development after development spring up around them, and at times, infrastructure such as High Country Trail, the interstate to the north and the power lines have cut into their property.

Morris said he believed Trinsic had checked every one of the city’s boxes, so the commission should approve the zoning change.

But the commission disagreed, and Chairman Margo Wheeler said the commission’s job was not to simply make sure all the boxes had been checked, but to look at the proposed zoning more holistically.

Commission member Marie Jones agreed.

“I am very sympathetic to the property owners and their experience of loss in their property and that might even be considered to be unfair,” Jones said, but added that did not mean the commission should ignore the factors of the community good.

The request for rezoning will now move to Flagstaff City Council, who is expected to take up the subject on June 18.

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Adrian Skabelund can be reached at the office at askabelund@azdailysun.com, by phone at (928) 556-2261 or on Twitter @AdrianSkabelund.

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