As the Verde Valley continues to grow, it becomes ever-more important to ensure that the growth is planned, responsible and reasonable. Growth is certain to continue, and it is our duty as citizens to help ensure that we do not grow for its’ own sake. KSB believes that our mission to “protect and sustain the unique scenic beauty and natural environment of the Greater Sedona Area” must include initiatives to foster wise use of the land.
This takes many forms, each of which are described below. In the following discussion, you’ll find links to pages that delve into these issues in more detail as well as links to information and resources that you may find valuable.
Should you wish to contribute your time and energy to protecting the land, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The State of Arizona passed HB 2361 in 1998. The “Growing Smarter Act” requires cities and towns to adopt general plans, and for counties to adopt comprehensive plans that must be updated every 10 years. The 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.”
Comprehensive plans for large counties like Yavapai and Coconino must include elements that address planning for land use, water resources, transportation, environmental planning, open space acquisition and preservation, energy use, growth areas and cost of development. Yavapai County has begun the process of updating its comprehensive plan, with completion required by the end of 2022. See below. Coconino County updated its comprehensive plan in 2015.
Many aspects of a comprehensive plan lay out goals, policies and implementation measures for the entire county. But the plans are of particularly importance 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. Incorporated cities like Sedona and Cottonwood have their own zoning regulations and Planning and Zoning Commissions, whereas unincorporated areas like Cornville and the Village of Oak Creek are governed by County regulations with zoning change requests heard by Yavapai County Planning and Zoning and County Supervisors.
CLICK HERE for a copy of the Arizona Revised Statutes Section on Requirements of Comprehensive Plans.
CLICK HERE to access an analysis of implementation of the Growing Smarter Act from the Sonoran Institute.
CLICK HERE for a copy of the 2015 Coconino County Comprehensive Plan
Updating the Yavapai County Comprehensive Plan
Developers have requested rezoning from Residential 2-acre minimum (RCU-2A) to Planned Area Development (PAD) for a number of development proposals, such as El Rojo Grande, Spring Creek Ranch and AutoCamp. These requests highlight the need for more specific guidelines and policies to align with the county comprehensive plan. In each of these cases, opposition to rezoning cited non-conformance to the Yavapai County Comprehensive Plan as an important objection. Language in the plan indicates that these development proposals do not meet the County criteria.
Yavapai County has begun the process of updating the Yavapai County Comprehensive Plan. This update provides the opportunity to more specifically outline how the County will protect and sustain our natural environment while developing responsibly.
Since the last plan was adopted in 2012, we’ve become more aware of the economic value of our natural environment, open spaces, dark skies and water resources. We have also come to realize that our water resources are finite. The mega-drought we’re living through made worse by climate change threatens Verde Valley’s water resources as much as over-development. Land use decisions should take into account the resulting groundwater use because groundwater is the main source for the freshwater needs of Yavapai County.
Residents of Yavapai County can help protect our priceless environmental resources by participating in the update of the Yavapai County Comprehensive Plan. The County is currently reaching out to communities 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.
CLICK HERE to view a copy of the 2012 Yavapai County Comprehensive Plan.
CLICK HERE to access a library of resources for updating the Comprehensive Plan
Recently, Yavapai County administered a survey for residents to express their support or lack thereof on a number of issues relevant to the update to the Comprehensive Plan. They received 906 responses.
KSB considers that the responses to the ‘priority’ questions is the most important outcome of the survey and we have created a document that presents those results in 3 summarized pages.
Note that due to rounding, the percentages for each item may not add up to 100%. This is unavoidable when rounding is employed. Also, 4 respondents left all of the items blank.
CLICK HERE or in the image below to view the summarized results.
If you want to access the County webpage that presents all survey results, CLICK HERE.
Results of the KSB Surveys
To support the effort to the update to the Yavapai County Comprehensive Plan, Keep Sedona Beautiful (KSB) created and administered a series of 9 surveys, one for each of the 8 required elements of the Comprehensive Plan along with an additional survey covering 3 topics that KSB recommends adding: Infrastructure, Sustainability and Cultural Resources.
To access the results of those surveys, click on the image above, or CLICK THIS LINK.
Keep Sedona Beautiful Vision Statement
As part of the process to update the Yavapai County Comprehensive Plan, the County is accepting “Vision Statements” from both unincorporated communities and from organizations like Keep Sedona Beautiful.
These documents reflect the concerns and priorities of county residents and will be taken into consideration as the County crafts its Plan.
Vision Statements can address any or all of the mandatory Elements that must be included (by law) in the Plan. The County is accepting additional elements that we feel should be included in the updated Plan.
You can read the KSB Vision Statement by CLICKING HERE, or by clicking on the image of the document above.
Keep Sedona Beautiful does not oppose development.
We oppose what we firmly believe is inappropriate or damaging development. By that, we mean such things as large-scale mega-developments that are imposed on rural communities, developments that are certain to harm sensitive ecological resources like riparian areas, or commercial developments located in residential areas.
The three development proposals noted above typify the types of development proposals we oppose: El Rojo Grande, Spring Creek Ranch and AutoCamp.
In 2018 Chicago-based ELS requested rezoning of the 174 acre El Rojo Grande property just west of Sedona to allow construction of 628 manufactured homes and 60 RV sites. Residents would purchase the manufactured homes but would be required to lease the land those homes were built on. In January 2019 Yavapai County Planning and Zoning (P&Z) received a groundswell of resident opposition and unanimously voted against recommending this rezoning. In February 2019 the developer withdrew their contingent offer for the property, and in June 2021 it was announced that an individual purchased the entire parcel with the intent to live there.
CLICK HERE to access the citizen-created website dedicated to opposing El Rojo Grande.
In September 2019 a Scottsdale developer submitted a proposal to rezone 282 acres located on either side of Spring Creek, southwest of Sedona off of Hwy 89A. They planned to build 3,100 units: 1,850 manufactured home sites, 550 mobile home sites, 400 apartment units and a 200 unit assisted living facility. Like El Rojo Grande, the developer would retain ownership of all property while mobile home owners would rent the land on which their homes sat. P&Z narrowly voted against this proposal. Before it was heard by County Supervisors, the developer amended the proposal to reduce the number of units. Prior to being re-heard by P&Z, the developer withdrew their proposal.
The developer then petitioned the City of Cottonwood to annex Spring Creek Ranch. After a series of public hearings and meetings, on Tuesday January 19 Cottonwood voted to annex the property along with 11 square miles of National Forest land.
It’s important to note that annexation of the 11 square miles of National Forest land simply moves it from within the boundaries of Yavapai County to within the boundaries of Cottonwood. NOTHING about the use of the land changes, and Cottonwood will have no authority over that portion of the National Forest. From the perspective of the National Forest, it is fundamentally irrelevant which jurisdiction the land falls under.
The main reason that Cottonwood annexed Spring Creek Ranch was to expedite the eventual annexation of the adjacent State Land Trust land. State Land Trust land, by definition, does not really belong in a jurisdiction. The State owns it, and nothing can happen to it unless/until the State sells it. To learn more about State Land Trust land, CLICK HERE. That land could sell next year, or it may remain State Land Trust land for decades. There’s no way to know.
From this point on, any rezoning and eventual development will be evaluated by the City of Cottonwood. It’s likely that the developer will submit yet another proposal, since Cottonwood has expressed their belief that the project should be scaled back considerably. Once a proposal is submitted, Keep Sedona Beautiful will evaluate it in consultation with the Cornville Community Association.
In May of 2020 California-based AutoCamp submitted a request to rezone 18.73 acres northwest of Sedona in order to build a commercial lodging establishment consisting of 85 silver Airstream trailers, 10 ‘Park Model” mobile homes and 5 tent sites. 20 of the Airstreams will also have tents, while all 100 units will have a firepit. The property is surrounded by National Forest with 2 sides bordering the Red Rock/Secret Mountain Wilderness.
While the developer has withdrawn their application for rezoning, they may somehow adjust their proposal and submit a new request for rezoning. If they do, Keep Sedona Beautiful will evaluate it, respond to the County and inform our members.
CLICK HERE to read about the AutoCamp Proposal from the KSB Perspective and why we strongly oppose it.
CLICK HERE to access the citizen-created website dedicated to opposing AutoCamp.
The Threat of Fire
La Barranca Fire, 2006 photo from Wikimedia Commons
Wildfire is an ever-growing threat to the Verde Valley. The mega-drought we are experiencing has resulted in conditions that pose real and present dangers for residents and visitors. In Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek we have the added problem of limited evacuation routes.
A July 28 2020 article in azcentral.com documented that many of the smaller communities in the American West have a higher wildfire hazard potential than Paradise, California. Paradise was completely burned to the ground by a 2018 fire. Included below is a screenshot from the article analyzing the wildfire hazard potential for Sedona. Please note the following:
- Of the small towns analyzed, Sedona’s wildfire potential of 3.87 was significantly higher than the median of 2.08.
- Sedona’s evacuation constraint was so high (2,091) that it fell completely off the chart. The median was 110.0.
This analysis should be reason for significant concern, highlighting the threat that wildfire poses specifically to Sedona, but also to the entire Verde Valley.
One way you can mitigate your risk of wildfire is to contact the Fire Department serving your area to request a Firewise inspection. Most Fire Departments perform these free of charge, educating you on how you can decrease the risk of fire to your home. If you rent or live in an apartment, ask your landlord if they would have a Firewise inspection performed.