PROCEEDINGS OF THE COCHISE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

FORMAL BOARD MEETING HELD ON

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2004

 

A regular meeting of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors was held on Tuesday, December 14, 2004 at 9:30 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors’ Hearing Room, 1415 Melody Lane, Building G, Bisbee, Arizona.  In attendance were Patrick Call, Chairman; Paul Newman, Member; Les Thompson, Member; John MacKinnon, Deputy County Attorney, Jody Klein, County Administrator; and Gussie Motter, Deputy Clerk of the Board

 

ANY ITEM ON THIS AGENDA IS OPEN FOR DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION

 

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

 

THE ORDER OR DELETION OF ANY ITEM ON THIS AGENDA IS SUBJECT TO MODIFICATION AT THE MEETING

 

ROLL CALL

 

CALL TO THE PUBLIC (MATTERS RELATED TO COUNTY GOVERNMENT - LIMIT OF 3 MINUTES PER PERSON OR AT THE DIRECTION OF THE CHAIRMAN)

 

Chairman Call opened the meeting to the public and invited anyone who wished to speak on County business not listed on the day’s agenda to come to the podium. 

 

The following people spoke out against the resolution passed by the Board last week that will no longer permit pre-1976 mobile homes in the County:  Helen Hoffman of Double Adobe, Donald Pepper of Palominas, John Fleshman of Portal, Jean Eisenhower of Pearce, Sandra Davis of Palominas, Jonathan Wick of Bisbee, Joanne Weiner of Cochise Stronghold, Linda Rothman – County Resident, Jill Braten of Sunizona, Claudia Whetton of Elfrida, Eric Martin of Double Adobe Road, Arthur Jerome of McNeal, and Wendy Judd Scott of Dragoon. They asked the Board to reconsider their decision, citing affordable housing, freedom of lifestyle, environmental issues, and respect for the people of Cochise County.  Many felt that the safety issues were overstated and that the resolution was really more of a discriminatory measure.  Several people stated that the majority of people do not support the resolution and it should be put to a vote of the people. 

 

Asanti Riverwind of Pearce and a Director of Chiricahua-Dragoon Conservation Alliance, urged the Board to investigate toxic tailing piles in the County, suggesting the possibility of court action if there was no cooperation.

 

Wendy Glenn of Geronimo Trail Road asked the Board to put a traffic counter on Geronimo Trail Road.  She believes that there is sufficient traffic to warrant paving the road as far as Slaughter Ranch.

 

The Call to the Public was closed.  .

 

REPORT BY MR. JODY KLEIN, COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR ON RECENT AND PENDING COUNTY MATTERS

 

Mr. Klein reported that the County Managers/Administrators Association has identified nine financial issues that the County Supervisors’ Association will adopt in an effort to protect the Counties’ interests at the State level.  There is also a possibility of a strategic planning retreat for the County Manager’s Association before the upcoming legislative session.    

 

Consent

Attorney

Item 1

Action on the Proposed Settlement of Tax Appeal TX2003-000680, Oro Capital Group

 

Board of Supervisors

Item 2

APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF NOVEMBER 23, 2004

 

Facilities/Solid Waste

Item 3

Approval of Permanent Easement to Southwest Gas Corporation to supply natural gas to the Highway Department Striper Building on the Melody Lane complex, described as Parcel #120-30-119, Sec32N T23S R 24E, a 20' wide easement extending 10' on each side of the center line of all exising and future Southwest Gas facilities located within the above described parcels of property.

 

Finance

Item 4

DEMANDS

 

Warrant No. 8725 through 9072 were issued from the following fund lines in the amount of $1,253,761.32.  No voided warrants.

 

ISSUED WARRANTS

 

Fund 100

General Fund

$372,828.24

 

Fund 102

Aid to Indigent Defense

$31.25

 

Fund 104

Pub Defender Fill the Gap

$72.58

 

Fund 105

Bisbee/Douglas Airport

$3,267.07

 

Fund 109

Fleet Mgmt

$2,607.19

 

Fund 115

BOS Grants

$78,419.88

 

Fund 122

Attorney School Enhance

$7.50

 

Fund 124

Attorney Anti-Racketeering

$147.18

 

Fund 125

Attorney Victim Assistance

$4,921.00

 

Fund 143

Detention Education (Juvenile)

$850.00

 

Fund 147

Adult Prob. Svcs. Fee

$2,351.12

 

Fund 149

Adult Probation Community Punishment

$1,598.00

 

Fund 151

Law Library

$1,785.33

 

Fund 155

Diversion Intake

$60.00

 

Fund 159

Juvenile Prob. Surveillance Grant

$60.00

 

Fund 164

Judicial Collections

$130.00

 

Fund 171

County Library

$90.58

 

Fund 173

State Library Grant 02

$808.00

 

Fund 203

Jail Enhancement

$6,189.38

 

Fund 205

Sheriff Law Enforcement

$508.44

 

Fund 222

Office of Bio Terrorism

$276.37

 

Fund 228

W.I.C. Grant

$2.46

 

Fund 229

Steps Along the Brdr Init

$310.53

 

Fund 230

Preventive Health

$1.95

 

Fund 233

Aids Grant

$288.85

 

Fund 234

TB Control

$364.73

 

Fund 243

Immunization Program

$27.46

 

Fund 249

Tobacco Educ. Grant

$2,368.53

 

Fund 251

Public Works

$5,551.60

 

Fund 278

Small Schools

$4,310.43

 

Fund 287

Reading First Program

$9.54

 

Fund 400

County Capital Projects

$27,159.60

 

Fund 450

M.I.S. Capital Reserve

$9,692.11

 

Fund 501

County Group Health

$1,820.89

 

Fund 505

Solid Waste

$10,197.13

 

Fund 508

Cochise Health Systems

$668,794.51

 

Fund 540

Drug Treatment Education

$3,758.00

 

Fund 550

Project Restore

$234.32

 

Fund 552

SJ Drug Court Enhancement

$352.58

 

Fund 557

Domestic Violence TF

$426.43

 

Fund 561

PSI Grant

$750.00

 

Fund 573

Gov. Ofc. of Highway Safety

$419.25

 

Fund 576

AZ Veh Theft Task Force

$67.93

 

Fund 600

Heavy Fleet Management

$36,843.06

 

Fund 601

Computer Replacement Program

$3,000.32

 

 

TOTAL

$1,253,761.32

 

Health

Item 5

APPROVAL OF PER CAPITA GRANT APPLICATION FY 2004-2005 BETWEEN ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES AND COCHISE COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT

 

Highways and Floodplain

Item 6

ACCEPTANCE OF A ROAD PETITION TO ESTABLISH A PORTION OF RANCH ROAD AS A DECLARED COUNTY HIGHWAY AND SCHEDULE A PUBLIC HEARING FOR TUESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2005 AT 9:30 A.M.

 

Item 7

Adoption of Resolution No. 04-115 to install Stop and Yield Signs in the Bisbee, Naco and Palominas areas.

 

Human Resources

Item 8

Approval of Recommended change to Merit Rule 10.1.E to allow for extensions of probationary periods for good cause with the approval of Human Resources. Extensions would be limited to 90 days.

 

Item 9

Approval of the request for reappointment of Ms. Ginger Ryan to the Cochise County Merit Commission, commencing 09/01/04 and ending 08/31/08.

 

Treasurer

Item 10

APPROVAL OF A 2005 INTERGOVERNMENTAL AGREEMENT WITH ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE TO PROVIDE DATA PROCESSING SERVICES TO THE COUNTY OF COCHISE

 

Supervisor Newman made a motion, seconded by Supervisor Thompson, to approve the Consent Agenda, Item one through Item 10.

 

Public Hearings

 

Chairman Call announced that Item 13, an item tabled from the previous week’s meeting, would be moved to the top of the Public Hearings. 

 

Item 13(Tabled Item)

Docket Z-04-13 (Royer) A request to rezone approximately 3 acres from TR-36 to TR-18 in McNeal.

 

The item was presented by Ms. Angela Byrd, Planner.  The request is to rezone two parcels that total approximately three acres from TR-36 (Transitional Residential, one residence per 36,000 square feet) to TR-18 (Transitional Residential, one residence per 18,000 square feet.)  The submitted concept plat shows six parcels which could constitute a subdivision under current regulations and require review as a subdivision.  The Health Department has expressed concerns about establishing septic systems on lots of less than 36,000 square feet, especially with the shallow trench septic systems required today.  Ms. Byrd explained the factors for and against approval.

 

FACTORS FOR APPROVAL:

·         The parcel is large enough to be reasonably developed with typical area uses

·         Site improvement standards are met

·         Site is served by County maintained roads

·         If approved, the zoning will not result in the reduction of the surrounding zoning districts to a shape or size incapable of development,

 

FACTORS AGAINST APPROVAL:

·         increases density of residences without serving as a transition between more intense zoning

·         Set precedent for “piecemeal” zoning in the area

·         Greater density not in character with the generally 1-acre area development

·         Room addition dated in 1979 on parcel 037 and second home on 016 were not permitted

·         The Cochise County Health Department does not support the rezoning due to septic constraints

·         One public comment opposes the rezoning.

 

Chairman Call recognized Mr. James Royer of Elfrida, who represented his brother Mikel Royer, the applicant.  Mr. Royer expressed his frustration with the Health Department and Arnold Nanez, Director of Environmental Health.  He offered drawings from a septic system professional from the Health Department’s recommended list, Mr. Maddingly, showing that the shallow trench type system fit on the ˝ acre properties with room for expansion.  At the P&Z Commission meeting, Mr. Royer was advised to re-approach Mr. Nanez with the new drawings.  Mr. Royer stated that Mr. Nanez seemed to have a mindset against the idea and wasn’t going to allow it.  Mr. Nanez was not in attendance for this meeting.

 

Chairman Call indicated that this was a Public Hearing and invited interested parties to speak.  There was no response and the Public Hearing was closed.

 

Ms. Byrd answered some questions about seemingly similar parcels in the area.  She explained that the shallow trench septic systems are part of the subdivision rules adopted in January 2004 and expressed her belief that Mr. Royer’s conflicting information was a result of comparison of properties that were permitted preexisting to the January 2004 changes.  She also apologized for Mr. Nanez who had a previous appointment and was not able to attend the meeting.

 

Supervisor Thompson made a motion, seconded by Supervisor Newman, to deny the rezoning request, docket number Z-04-13, based on the factors against as findings in fact.  The motion carried unanimously.   

 

 

Highways and Floodplain

Item 11

DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ADOPTION OF RESOLUTION 04-116, AUTHORIZING A CHANGE TO THE COCHISE COUNTY MAINTAINED ROAD SYSTEM MAP, SPECIFICALLY REGARDING SKELETON CANYON ROAD.

 

Mr. Allon Owen, Director of the Highway & Floodplain Department, presented some background for this item.  He cited the Cave Creek Decision to illustrate the legal issues involved.  In this decision, there was a public road, used and maintained by the public that was, in fact, owned by a private citizen because the right-of-way had never been properly conveyed to the public.  The owner gated the road and the City took him to court to reopen the road.  This case went all the way to the Supreme Court and the property owner prevailed and the road remained gated.  There is a similar situation with Skeleton Canyon Road.

 

Skeleton Canyon Road has a low traffic count (23 in 1992) and runs mostly through private property.  The road does cross a bit of State Land between private properties and ends approximately one half mile from the Forest Service Boundary.  The half mile segment south of the maintained road is best suited to four-wheel drive vehicles and gets even rougher to the road’s termination, about a mile or two south of the end of the maintained portion of the road.  There are no Forest Service improvements or campgrounds accessed by this road.  The private owners, the Snure and Kimble families, alarmed by ever increasing smuggling, theft and violence along the road, have informed the county of their intent to close and limit access to the road.      

 

The Board has complete authority to open the road by declaring it a County Highway.  Should that be the decision of the Board, Mr. Owen recommended condemning right up to the Forest Service Boundary.  The total cost for the survey, the construction and the acquisition of the right-of-way, would be $63,253.00 and could go as high as $95,000.00.  This year the County has spent $3,200 maintaining this road.  Due to the sobering cost of opening the road, the Department recommends dropping this road from the County Maintained Road System Map. 

 

Mr. Owen speculated that the road may have become part of the maintained system because school buses used the road to pick up the children of the four original families on that road but there are no written records.  There was discussion about other access to the Forest Service Land, including dirt roads running north off of Geronimo Trail.  Geronimo Trail also offers access into the southern portion of the Forest Service Land. 

 

Mr. Don Kimble spoke on behalf of the Kimble and Snure families explaining the dangers and difficulties that led to the closing of the road.  He said that both families would consider giving limited access across their land if they could find a way to do it without incurring liability.  Mr. Kimble stated that neither his family nor the Snure family is interested in giving an easement or a right-of-way.  He confirmed that Fish and Game had talked to the Snures about buying the right-of-way but reiterated that neither family is interested in selling, only granting limited access across their deeded land for a fee that as yet has not been determined. 

 

Chairman Call opened the hearing to the public and called Ms. Wendy Glenn of Geronimo Trail Road to the podium.  Ms. Glenn stated that the money offered to the Snures and Kimbles by Fish and Game wasn’t worth 1/10th of the value of the destroyed and stolen property and that she understands why they want to control access onto their property.  She recommended taking the money for the right-of-way and improving Geronimo Trail to use as an access.  She also stated that poaching is rampant in the National Forest and that fences are being cut and habitat ruined by people using vehicles where there are no roads.  She implored the Supervisors to honor the families’ request.

 

Mr. Frank Adams, 5376 North Highway 191, asked the Supervisors to consider respecting the families’ rights to do what they can legally do and to honor their request.

 

Ms. Susan Krentz, 9795 N. Tex Canyon Road, stated that her ranch has sustained about 5.2 million dollars in damages to her water lines from the presence of illegals on her property.  She also stressed the positive impact of having the road closed because it forces traffic to slow down for the school just before the gate. 

 

As no one else expressed a desire to speak to this item, the Public Hearing was closed.

 

Supervisor Thompson indicated that he had some questions for Mr. Owen.  He asked about alternate access to the forest, and about the plan to pave Geronimo Trail.  He also asked how many miles of road the County maintains for which it does not have right-of way.  Mr. Owen recalled the plan to pave Geronimo Trail and recounted the circumstances.  About four years ago, when Geronimo Trail was scheduled to be paved, the State made a major mistake in the allocation of Highway User Revenue Funds (HURF).  Even though the County was not responsible for the mistake, several million dollars had to be paid back to the State in a short amount of time, impacting the county’s plan for paving several roads, one of which was Geronimo Trail.  HURF has stabilized but the cost of paving keeps going up.  The County has completed paving all of the county roads with 300 or more vehicles a day and most roads with 200 or more vehicles per day.  Geronimo Trail has about 150 vehicles per day as far as Slaughter Ranch and considerably fewer after Slaughter Ranch.  Still, the paving of Geronimo Trail, at least as far as Slaughter Ranch is an important concern.  In the rain, the road becomes very slick and muddy.  Mr. Owen also concurred that there is access into the Forest from the New Mexico side.  The County maintains 1,475 miles of road.  We don’t have or don’t know if we have right-of-way for about 40% of those miles.   Research on right-of-way is ongoing and funds are set aside each budget year to acquire missing rights-of-way.

 

Chairman Call reminded the Board that the Resolution before them was simply to take the road off of the County Maintained Road System.  He urged the other Supervisors to make the motion and get a second and if there was more discussion, it could be heard after the second.  Supervisor Thompson made a motion, seconded by Chairman Call, to adopt Resolution 04-116, authorizing the deletion of Skeleton Canyon Road from the Cochise County Maintained Road Systems maps as described therein.  Supervisor Newman expressed disappointment that no one from the Forest Service had come forward during the Call to the Public.  Chairman Call then recognized Douglas Hardy, District Ranger for the Douglas Ranger District, who apologized for being unfamiliar with the county’s process for public input.  The Skeleton Canyon Road situation is just one example of private property limiting access to public land.  Mr. Hardy also pointed out that there is not designated vehicular access to Skeleton Canyon from Geronimo Trail.  The history of access to National Forests was determined by topography and ease of access.  As private lands were developed, access to public lands should have been created by preservation of the public means.  While the Forest Service recognizes the rights and prerogatives of private landowners, it is concerned with the responsibility of Federal, State and local authorities to provide reasonable access to public lands and requested the County’s assistance in this endeavor.

 

Chairman Call then recognized Matthew Walton from Arizona Fish and Game.  Mr. Walton discussed a letter sent by Fish and Game stating the economic impact to the County should this road stay closed.  Arizona Fish and Game had a conversation with Mr. Snure about purchasing permanent legal access but Mr. Snure was not interested in selling an easement or a right-of-way, only the possibility of allowing some type of limited access.  Mr. Walton also stated that the access in New Mexico is now guarded by a locked gate and that his agency is very interested in working cooperatively with the County and other agencies.  Fish and Game has money and equipment to put into the project.  However, Fish and Game cannot provide money if a condemnation is necessary, although they could help build a new road.  There was discussion about building a new road well away from the families’ ranch houses.  Mr. Newman suggested that a working group be formed to look into this idea.  Chairman Call suggested that if a working group did find a solution that the road could be put back onto the County Maintained Road System.  Mr. Owen concurred and stressed that the only way the road could remain on the current Maintained Road System was if the County had the right-of-way.     

 

Result of the Vote:               Chairman Call – YES

                                                Supervisor Newman – YES

                                                Supervisor Thompson - YES 

 

Chairman Call called for a five minute recess before the next item.

 

Planning & Zoning

Item 12

Docket R-04-03: Resolution 04-117, adopting the 2003 Editions of the International Building Codes and other related codes; adopting a schedule for phasing the application of these codes throughtout the County under a three-year implementaion plan; and adopting an amendment to the Building Code Fee Schedule.

 

Supervisor Thompson made a motion, seconded by Supervisor Newman for the purpose of discussion, to adopt Resolution 04-117 and authorize the Chairman to sign.

 

This item was presented by Mr. Jim Vlahovich, Director of Planning & Zoning and Mr. Ron Durgin, Building Official.  Mr. Vlahovich opened by stating his Department’s view that the passage of this Resolution would do much to further the accomplishment of the Planning & Zoning mission, more so than any other land use measures.  Mr. Vlahovich went on to explain that the purpose of building codes is to establish the minimum acceptable requirements necessary for protecting the public health, safety and welfare in the built environment and the types of structures and materials covered by building codes.  Currently, Cochise County has two limited enforcement areas around Sierra Vista and Benson and uses the 2000 International codes.  Last year there was a 14% increase in permits overall, with a 60% increase outside of the building code areas and a 29% increase in commercial permits.  Mr. Vlahovich contended that there is ongoing substandard construction outside of the building code areas which is especially troubling when one considers that there is a lack of direct fire response in 80% of the County.  He also explained exemptions from the code and the statutory exemptions for general agriculture, mining, and railroads.

 

Mr. Vlahovich next introduced the proposed implementation plan.  Beginning on April 1, 2005, the plan will take three years to implement.  For the past several years, the plan has been in the works dealing mostly with budget information like the associated costs and revenues that would keep the plan moving forward.  The Board has approved the Building Official position and tentative staffing for Phase 1 of the plan.   Phase 1 would begin in the far western portion of the County where over 50% of the total permit activity is occurring.  The area is close to the Sierra Vista and Bisbee offices and would be easier to cover logistically.  The Department would convert three zoning inspectors to building inspectors; hire two additional inspectors, a Senior Plans Examiner to review construction plans and a P&Z Tech to offer administrative support.  The cost for Phase 1 would be $270,574.  Phase 2 would begin on April 1, 2006 in the area 2-3 miles east of Willcox and south to the border, an area that currently shows 40% of the total permit activity.  One additional Building Inspector and an additional Plans Examiner would be hired.  The total cost of Phase 2 would be $125,341.  Phase 3 would become effective on April 1, 2007 and include all of the rest of the County.  An additional Building Inspector would be hired for this phase.  The total cost for Phase 3 would be $76,785.  The start up cost for the entire program, including Mr. Durgin’s salary would be $540,000 and the ongoing cost would come to $400,000 per year.  The plan assumed a 32% increase in permit fees, a 2% annual growth rate, and a 10% increase in permit activity.  Assuming these figures, the plan would pay for itself in about 3 years and only be subsidized by the General Fund for the start-up period.  Thereafter, the users of the services would be paying for the services through permit fees.   

 

Mr. Vlahovich turned the podium over the Ron Durgin, Building Official, who outlined the three components of services that would be offered by the building inspection division – General Assistance Services, Construction Plan Review Services, and Inspection Services.  General Assistance Services would be offered in Sierra Vista and Bisbee and provide information on regulations and permit requirements.  Permits could also be purchased at these locations.  Construction Plan Review Services would be offered in Bisbee and provide review of the seven codes – building, fire, mechanical, fuel/gas, plumbing, electrical, and energy conservation.  Inspection Services include a minimum of eight job site inspections at different stages of construction.  They would include footings, foundations, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, fuel/gas, frame, and final.  The end result of setting up the full service building division will be safer, more sustainable construction countywide.  It will also have a positive impact on property insurance rates.  The Insurance Services Offices (ISO) has shown a direct relationship between building failures, the codes adopted and the resources directed toward implementation and enforcement.  Cochise County currently has the worst insurance rating given by the ISO.   The proposed fee schedule is competitive with other jurisdictions in the County.  The Department’s goal is to hold down residential fees but cover departmental costs.  Residential fees would be figured on a square foot valuation of the structure obtained from the current Construction Valuation Chart published by the International Code Council (ICC).  Then a per thousand dollar fee is applied from the County adopted permit fee schedule.  The schedule was adopted in 1995 and the Department is not recommending a change to that schedule.  What is being recommended is to raise the residential value, the value of construction, from $33 per square foot to $52 per square foot, well below the $78.35 per square foot in the ICC construction valuation chart.  A flat fee would be used for accessory residential structures equal to or less than 120 square feet.  Commercial fees would be raised; however, comparison of proposed County commercial building fees and those of other jurisdictions, most of which have not raised their fees in many years, show the County falling in the middle ground.    

 

Mr. Vlahovich explained that in adopting these new codes, we would be encouraging, rather than discouraging, alternative construction methods like straw bale construction and rammed earth construction.  We would also be adopting the 2003 Existing Building Code, a brand new code that allows the inspector more discretion in applying the code to basic health and safety issues without bringing the entire structure into compliance.  To collect public input, the department had meetings with local realtors, developers, contractors, fire officials, and representatives from the Southern Arizona Contractors Association (SACA) and the Registrar of Contractor’s Office.  Five public education meetings were held in Bisbee, Douglas, Whetstone, Benson and Willcox and advertised through news releases, radio/TV spots, e-mails and postings.  Over 300 e-mail notifications of the flyer and legal notice were sent and a “Planning Zone” column was dedicated to the issue.  There were also 1/8th page legal advertisements in six County newspapers.  The Planning & Zoning Commission held a public Hearing on November 17, 2004 where both public concern and support were expressed.  At that meeting the Commissioners gave a unanimous recommendation of approval.

 

Chairman Call opened the hearing to the public.

 

Five people spoke in favor of Item 12.  Albert Hopper, a Bisbee architect, spoke in favor of the building codes.  He believes that most people want to do the right thing and that it is important that the County establish a proactive relationship with its citizens for the future.  He noted that interaction between the government and the people is essential to the learning process.  Michael Hudson of Willcox, the City of Willcox P&Z Administrator and Building Official, also spoke in favor of this item.  Willcox will switch to the 2003 IBC as soon as the County does so that we have all of our builders working off of the same book.  He emphasized that the intent of codes is not the “iron fist” and that we must work together to bring buildings into compliance.  He admitted that no one wants another level of bureaucracy but that these are good codes and they do save lives.  The City of Willcox stands with the County on this issue.  Also speaking in favor of this item was Dr. Jim Johnson of Sierra Vista, an engineer and building consultant for Southwest Building Inspection Service, Inc.  Dr. Johnson was also the Building Official in Huachuca City for seven years.  He believes that building codes are essential and that there can be a ‘happy medium” that favors county citizens.  His firm gets a minimum of 100 calls a month from County residents that are unable to sell or lease property due to building irregularities.  A good building code will work for the people not against them.  Hubert Jackson, Fire Chief for Fry Fire District, expressed his concern for life safety for homeowners and firefighters.  Firefighters who are called to homes not built to code face dangerous and life threatening conditions. 

 

Mr. David Eisenberg, Director of the Development Center for Appropriate Technology in Tucson has been working for the last nine years to develop a sustainable context to building codes on a national level.  While in favor of building codes, he acknowledged several critical issues and the importance of balancing them, especially in the rural portions of the County.  He pointed to some precedents in rural, owner/builder codes and alternative codes.  Because of the State law requiring the County to adopt either a national code or the code of the County’s largest city, he admitted that Sierra Vista would have no reason to adopt rural building codes.  He did suggest, however, that the County Supervisor’s Association may want to work on an alternative legislation that would allow Arizona’s Counties more flexibility to deal with building codes in their rural areas.  He also suggested that it might be better to phase in the plan by density rather than geographically.  That way, a high density development, no matter where it is located in the County, will be first to be governed by the new codes.  Also, if the final phase dealt with the most rural areas, there would be time to create a public input process that would deal with the most contentious issues. 

 

Fourteen people spoke against Item 12.  They were Ben Sussman of Bisbee, Joanne Weiner of Pearce, Claudia Whetton of Elfrida, Jonathan Wick of Bisbee, Jim Burke of Bisbee, Randy Redhawk of Pearce, Jean Eisenhower of Pearce, Asanti Riverwind of Pearce, Vicki Marvick of Pearce, John Fleishman of Cochise, Sharon Gibson of Pearce, L. Vernon Caldwell of Douglas, Dale Clerk of Tombstone, and Roger Holloday of McNeal.  Their opposition to Item 12 is summarized below:

·         Against “big government” and adding another level of bureaucracy

·         Creates an economic hardship for rural people.  Let rural individuals who want a Certificate of Occupancy get one.  There should be voluntary compliance rather than mandatory compliance for people living in the rural areas of the County.

·         Do not believe that there is a safety threat

·         Fosters a fear-based culture

·         Environmentally damaging agents used in new building materials.  People with environmental sensitivities would be poisoned by using materials required by the code.

·         Enforce building codes for professional builders and for public and commercial buildings but exempt the owner-builder in rural areas.

·         Examine other ways to promote safety without creating more bureaucracy.

·         This is a top down measure.  Let the people vote on whether building codes are necessary.

·         Loss of freedom of lifestyle.  Loss of the right to live creatively without government intervention.  The government needs to protect people’s rights as well as their needs.

·         People need to be responsible for their own mistakes.

·         Builders being forced to pay higher permit fees now when there won’t be help available for three years.

·         This will promote the manufactured home industry and lead to boring and ugly cities.  The code will stifle creativity of design.

·         Do not believe that the County will work with people on alternative housing

·         Realtors and contractors are not the authority you should be listening to regarding safe housing.  You should listen to the people.

·         The County should be cleaning up the real, documented health and safety hazards like mine tailings and vehicular traffic.

·         There is an exemption for ranchers and farmers, but not for people who live off of their own land.

·         The fee increases are much too large.

·          There needs to be room for compromise and flexibility.

 

Chairman Call closed the hearing to the public and asked Mr. Vlahovich to come back to the podium to answer some questions raised during the public portion of the hearing.  Regarding the exemption to agricultural properties, Mr. Vlahovich explained that the State law has been in place for many years and has recently been upheld even in the case of dwellings on ranches and farms.  If one has five contiguous commercial acres used for agriculture (farming or ranching), one qualifies for this exemption.  Regarding paying higher fees and not getting services, Mr. Vlahovich stated that the fees would not be charged until the services are available.  He also added that only additions to existing structures would be required to conform to the new codes.  Chairman Call also asked him to comment on public statements that the codes would stifle creativity of design in general.  Mr. Vlahovich repeated his belief that the new codes give the Building Official much more flexibility than the older, more rigid codes.  In some cases the Building Official may ask for an engineering report if he believes the design to be unsound.  In response to a question regarding where safety problems have occurred because of the lack of a code, Mr. Vlahovich declared that the Registrar of Contractors sees potential problems all the time and is working to be proactive in such matters.  He was not able to recount actual deaths due to lack of codes but believes that proactive measures are necessary.   Mr. Michael Hudson, Building Official and P & Z Administrator from Willcox, returned to the podium to answer questions regarding deaths that resulted from improperly installed heating.  He stated that in many cases, people are moving into the County and renting substandard housing and he recounted two situations in Willcox that resulted in death for entire families.

 

Mr. Eisenberg, Director of the Development Center for Appropriate Technology, returned to the podium at Supervisor Newman’s request to answer questions regarding alternative construction codes for rural areas and to elaborate on his idea for phasing in high density areas in Phase 1 rather than a geographical area.  Having high density areas in Phase 1 would make certain that the most critical areas are regulated first.  That would also allow for a public input process to engage people in a creative way for Phases 2 and 3.  Responding to the question about letting the public decide on the issue of building codes, Deputy County Attorney John MacKinnon explained that there is no statute that allows this to be done.  The statute (ARS 11-861) delegates the Board of Supervisors authority to adopt a building code.  The Board also has the authority to modify the Resolution at any point and has the right to exempt rural areas.  The people retain the ultimate right to have a referendum on the issue if enough of them sign a petition and present it in a timely manner.

 

Supervisor Newman proposed an amendment to the motion on the table to proceed only as far as Phase 1, as described in the Resolution, and to initiate a six-month public input review of the process, to be held at the first Board of Supervisor’s meeting in October 2005.  The motion to amend failed for lack of a second.

 

Supervisor Newman made a motion to form a work group immediately after the new Board is seated in January, to study Phases 2 and 3 for a recommendation on how to proceed.  The work group would include the Supervisors, Planning & Zoning staff, County Attorney staff, experts in the field of building codes, builders and developers, and interested members of the public.  The motion failed for the lack of a second. 

 

Chairman Call agreed with the merit of a review to study Phase 1 before the implementation of Phases 2 and 3 but did not feel that the Resolution needed to be amended.  He made a motion to keep the motion on the table in place but add a six-month review and evaluation process before the implementation of Phases 2 and 3.  Supervisor Newman seconded the motion.  During discussion Mr. Vlahovich stated that although he hoped six months would be sufficient time for his department to collect data for review, he would be more comfortable with nine months before the review and evaluation.  Chairman Call then changed the time frame to nine months. 

 

Result of the Motion:          Chairman Call – YES

                                                Supervisor Newman – NO

                                                Supervisor Thompson - YES

The motion carried with two votes.

 

Result of the Original Motion:           Chairman Call – YES

                                                                Supervisor Newman – NO

                                                                Supervisor Thompson – YES

The motion carried with two votes.

 

Because of lateness and another meeting that would begin in five minutes, Chairman Call suspended Item 14, Summary of Current Events by the Board Members, and Item 15, Public Information Officer Report and Board Broadcast Direction and adjourned the meeting.

 

APPROVED:                                                                         ATTEST:

Patrick Call, Chairman                                                          Gussie Motter, Deputy Clerk of the Board

 

(SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION IS AVAILABLE AT THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS’ OFFICE)