Column about Cochise County Building Code, Advisory Board, Zoning Ordinance, ARS 11-862, illegality, submitted to Sierra Vista Herald on January 25

Our County Supervisors passed a Building Code in 2004.  State law (ARS 11-862) says a Building Code enacted pursuant to law must establish an Advisory Board that includes one ordinary citizen, not in the building trades, specifically to represent the public.  That's the only office reserved for an ordinary citizen to help write the Code.  But our Supervisors didn't form an Advisory Board, so the Code wasn't adopted pursuant to law.  Citizens have been deprived of their voice in writing the Code, and Code-imposed fees and fines are illegal.  Under state law (ARS 11-815), building code fees and fines are enforced via county zoning ordinance, so our Zoning Ordinance (in Article 17) is enforcing illegal fees and fines.

At a recent meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission, I said "Zoning" code instead of "Building" code.  A deputy county attorney noted my mistake the next day, and I quickly emailed an apology to all the Commissioners, and made the argument summarized in the paragraph above.

Now, in a January 25 Sierra Vista Herald article, I learn that the attorney sent different emails to the Commission and me.  To me, he argued that an Advisory Board wouldn't be concerned with zoning matters, but to the Commissioners, he added "that the lack of an advisory board does not affect the validity of the building-related codes."  A person who read the email sent to the Commission, and thought the attorney sent me the same email, might wonder why I didn't address that conclusion.  I regret the attorney's missing a chance to advance the public discussion, and I hope the Commission reacts by insisting on seeing the attorney's reasoning, not just his bare conclusion.

In any event, what the deputy county attorney did send to me has four big errors.

1st, it says "we make every effort to comply with all laws".  No.  The Supervisors ignored the law by not creating the Advisory Board in 2004.  They ignored the law in 2008, after the Planning Department reminded everyone "State Statute requires the establishment of a Building Safety Advisory Board;" a Department employee even personally emailed Supervisor Searle that "the Building Safety Board is a requirement of ARS".  P&Z Commissioner Brauchla has special knowledge:  he (and Searle) were on the "Planning Department Liaison Committee" in 2008, so had to know the law.  The Supervisors ignored the law when CCIPRA publicized it in 2009.  They ignored the law in 2011, at a work session where they decided to seek "a legislative change to do away with the requirement to establish an advisory board".  They're still violating the law.

2nd, the response says "ARS 11-862 provides authority for ... an advisory board".  No.  ARS 11-862 MANDATES an Advisory Board.

3rd, the response says "ARS 11-862 ... has nothing whatever to do with anything related to adoption and enforcement of the Cochise County Zoning Ordinance."  No.  Under state law, the Zoning Ordinance is the "enforcer" for the Building Code, and Cochise County's Zoning Ordinance embraces that role, in Article 17.

4th, the response says an Advisory Board "would have no authority with respect to ... drafting" the Building Code.  No.  State law says the Board shall "determine the suitability of alternative materials and construction," and in 2008 our Planning Department said the "Advisory" duty applied to "the formation and development of revisions or additions to our Building Codes".

Citizens who don't want to be robbed of your money and rights can phone, mail, or email the Supervisors, Planning Department, Planning & Zoning Commissioners, state attorney general, maybe a state legislator.  Don't let County employees contradict the facts and law, or give you conclusions instead of reasons.  Attend Supervisors and Commission meetings, and if this scandal isn't on the agenda, speak about it in the Call To the Public.

NOTE:  The above is an adaptation from the page at
which has much more detail, and hot links to many documents cited above, and much contact information for County employees.