Coconino County kicks off comprehensive plan effort

In response to rising questions about how to protect its unique lands while accommodating continued urban and rural growth, Coconino County has initiated an effort to revise and update the Coconino County Comprehensive Plan. Key components of the plan are to coordinate the county’s future needs related to development, identify resources, promote public health, safety and welfare, preserve natural resources and provide for continual citizen involvement in the planning process.

“Basically, the purpose of the plan is to make sure that Coconino County remains the kind of place that people want to live and visit,” said Bill Towler, director of community development.

The comprehensive planning process will look at all areas of Coconino County except Native American reservations and incorporated cities and towns. This effort stands out due to the addition of conservation planning — namely, the conservation of natural resources and protection of key lands and habitats as additional components of the plan. This effort will emphasize private property rights as well as a balanced approach to planning.

To ensure that the combined interests of our county are considered, the planning effort has attracted participation and/or support from a variety of interest groups. Members of the Comprehensive Plan steering committee include Northern Arizona University, Arizona Public Service, Diablo Trust, Northern Arizona Building Association, Grand Canyon Trust, Northern Arizona Association of Realtors, The Nature Conservancy, Coconino County Community College and Museum of Northern Arizona. These stakeholders will be working side-by-side with county community development and parks and recreation staff.

To represent the interests and concerns of citizens in the greater Williams area, Rich Gorney has been chosen to sit on the steering committee. Gorney has been a resident of Williams since 1977 and is the owner of Bankers Real Estate in Williams. He is a member of the Coconino County Planning and Zoning Board of Adjustments, past president of the Williams Rotary Club, a former Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce Board member and former owner of the Grand Canyon KOA. He also served on the Red Lake Area Planning Committee and helped develop the Red Lake area amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan. All these experiences will help Gorney bring this region’s values, ideas and concerns to the planning effort.

Members of both the public and private sector will guide the comprehensive planning process. Other components of the effort will include a science advisory committee to oversee the priorities and recommendations from an objective scientific approach, an interagency work group consisting of state and federal land management agencies, and a GIS (geographic information systems) team to develop detailed county resource maps.

The comprehensive planning steering committee’s task in the next 18 months is to develop a plan to address a number of key questions:

• How can we, as a community, ensure that future growth, development and land use are in balance and harmony with the conservation of natural areas, natural systems, and water resources?

• Where is development most appropriate and where should future growth be directed?

• What specific types of land and habitats need to be preserved and managed for conservation to retain the full diversity of ecosystems, plants and animals?

• What types of county land management policies are necessary to manage the rural/urban interface?

• How can recreation be managed in balance with the natural system?

• How could a plan provide more certainty to developers and landowners?

• How would the plan ensure that property rights are protected?

• How would this plan interface with federal and state policies and regulations?

• How would recommended goals, policies and standards be adopted and implemented?

The involvement of the citizens of Coconino County is essential to the success of the comprehensive planning effort. There will be a number of open houses and public meetings held throughout the county during the entire process. Newsletters and a website will be utilized to keep citizens abreast of the project’s progress

The primary product of this effort will be a plan that establishes a framework for investing in Coconino County’s natural resources and support decisions on development, land acquisitions and recreation opportunities.

If you would like to discuss the plan, call Towler at 226-2700.

(Brenda Grey is Coconino County citizen outreach coordinator.)

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