The beauty of the greater Sedona area is obvious and undeniable. The soaring red rock formations, the lush riparian environment of Oak Creek and the wide-open spaces of the Coconino National Forest have attracted residents and visitors alike for decades. A question for the entire Verde Valley is this: how can we preserve and protect the landscape that we cherish while at the same time responsibly control the growth that seems inevitable?
In 1998, the State of Arizona passed HB 2361, the Growing Smarter Act. It established a Growing Smarter Commission whose recommendations were incorporated into Growing Smarter Plus that was passed in 2000. This forward-looking legislation requires cities and towns to adopt general plans, and for counties to each adopt a comprehensive plan that must be updated every 10 years. The Growing Smarter Act states that county comprehensive plans “shall be developed so as to conserve the natural resources of the county, to ensure efficient expenditure of public monies and to promote the health, safety, convenience and general welfare of the public.”
County comprehensive plans must include elements that address planning for land use, water resources and circulation (transportation). Larger counties like Yavapai and Coconino must also address environmental planning, open space acquisition and preservation, energy use, growth areas and cost of development. Coconino County updated its comprehensive plan in 2015. Yavapai County has begun the process of updating its comprehensive plan, with completion required by the end of 2022.
While many aspects of a comprehensive plan lay out goals, policies and implementation measures for the entire county, the plan is particularly important for unincorporated areas where county regulations guide planning and rezoning decisions. Such decisions should conform to both the county zoning code and the county comprehensive plan.
In recent years, Yavapai County has received a number of development proposals, such as El Rojo Grande, Spring Creek Ranch and AutoCamp, that highlight the need for more specific guidelines and policies to align with the county comprehensive plan. In each case, opposition to the rezoning proposal cited non-conformance to the Yavapai County Comprehensive Plan as an important objection, noting that language in the plan indicates that these development proposals do not meet the criteria set forth by the County.
There will and should be continued development in Yavapai County. This update of the County Comprehensive Plan provides the opportunity to more specifically outline the parameters to both develop responsibly and to protect and sustain our natural environment.
In the intervening years since the last plan was adopted, we’ve become more aware of the extraordinary economic value of our natural environment, open spaces, dark skies and water resources. We have also been forced into the realization that those water resources are finite. Climate change and the mega-drought we’re experiencing threaten Verde Valley’s water resources as much as over-development.
Residents can help protect our environmental and economic resources by participating in the update of the Yavapai County Comprehensive Plan. The County is currently reaching out to communities like the Village of Oak Creek to solicit Vision Statements that will be incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan. Contact your community leaders if you want to contribute to the creation of those Vision Statements.
Read more about land use issues from the perspective of Keep Sedona Beautiful by visiting the Land Use page on our website.