Morenci planning commission 2013.07.31


Morenci city council voted 6-0 last week to approve a zoning change for the vacant land where Parker Chemical Company once stood.

Property owner Bill Foster requested changing the zoning status from warehousing to C1 commercial. The planning commission recommended the change and council members approved the change.

Foster was given a temporary use permit by the planning commission to use the property for a Saturday auction event this summer. A zoning change would allow the auction without seeking a permit.

At the planning commission meeting, discussion centered on the difference between C1 and C2. Zoning administrator Jacob Barnes said there isn't a lot of difference, but explained that C2 is used for more intense commercial use such as a restaurant or bank. C1 zoning would cover Foster's present use of the property.

Planning commission member Jeff Bell asked if it would make sense to make the property C2 for added flexibility, but Barnes cautioned against that approach. He said that planners shouldn't zone property based on any single use because the use could change.

"It's better to err on the side of caution," Barnes said. "The property could be sold tomorrow to someone with a different intent."

The five commissioners present at the meeting—Brad Lonis, Keith Pennington, Joe Varga, Lowell Oberhaus and Brad Frederick—all voted in favor of the C1 designation.

AESTHETICS—Discussion continued at the July meeting about setting design standards for downtown buildings. If adopted, the standards would cover new construction and the renovation of existing structures.

Oberhaus said the group should be careful not to place restrictions on business owners that might prevent repair and renovation.

"Overall I think our downtown looks pretty good compared to other communities of our size," Pennington said. 

That could change, he said, when someone is allowed to cover over brick with steel siding or plywood.

"If it happens only once every four or five years, in 100 years the downtown would look dramatically different," Pennington said. "I'd hate to see it slip away."

Pennington said he believes it's important to keep the discussion before the public as the planning commission discusses whether or not it's something to pursue. He thinks it's an important endeavor, but he doesn't see the need for anything too restrictive.

FENCES—Planners discussed the city's 18-inch setback rule for fences and whether changes are needed in the ordinance. The 18-inch rule came into effect several years ago, explain city administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder, after a neighbor dispute. One property owner wouldn't allow his neighbor, the fence owner, onto his property to maintain the fence. The 18-inch setback from the property line would allow the fence owner access to both sides of the fence.

That could still become a problem, Barnes said, unless a survey marked out the actual property line.

It's preferable to have the neighbors agree on placement, suggested Frederick.

"That works out in about 99 percent of the cases," Barnes said. "There's nothing you could put in the code to take care of the other one percent."

A fence permit is still important, he said, to allow the city to govern the height and type of fence. Barnes will bring some suggestions to the next planning commission meeting.

TURBINE—Barnes said he received an inquiry about placing a wind turbine on a city lot. Most of the ordinances governing turbines are for large units that wouldn't allow for a turbine in the city. The industrial park might be the only area suitable, Schroeder said.

If something isn't listed in the code, then it isn't permitted, Pennington said. 

"You could take that stance," Barnes said, "but you might want to have something in the code."

Oberhaus agreed, stating that it's better to have something in the code rather than saying that it isn't allowed. The issue was tabled until a future meeting.

• The planning commission meets at 7:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at city hall.