The Purpose of Zoning

I was doing a little research on a zoning case today and ran across an interesting document put out by the Arizona Commerce Authority (which was formed by Governor Brewer to succeed the Department of Commerce).

If you follow Scottsdale politics you know that careless disregard for zoning and zoning processes is one of my hot buttons. One of the reasons that Scottsdale stands out from our neighbors is our physical character, and that’s a primary goal of city “planning and zoning.”

To that end, you have probably heard me say many times that,

“The primary purpose of zoning is separation of incompatible land uses.”

The Coalition of Greater Scottsdale (COGS), Coalition of Pinnacle Peak, Greater Pinnacle Peak Association and many other citizen organizations in Scottsdale were founded in large part because of concern about our zoning and rezoning processes. In fact COGS just put out a restatement of its mission relating to this very subject:

“Consistent land use policy and protecting our unique quality of life.”

Coalition of Greater Scottsdale

The citizens of our community deserve the respect of the city planners and investment developers. The process should be fully open and accountable to the citizens.  The citizens should expect preservation of a predictable, quality of life not compromised or impacted by proposed land use changes or design standards that are inappropriate.

The Coalition of Greater Scottsdale (COGS) is a group of civic-minded individuals who share a passion for this City and that advocates protection of its unique characteristics that establish it as a family and tourist destination.   Our focus is to encourage and oversee consistent land use policy by the City of Scottsdale government. We actively support appropriate new development that is compatible with the existing area as well as consistent with the Scottsdale General Plan. We do not support the use of Text Amendments to circumvent the policies of the General Plan. We are strong supporters of the small business merchants and owners who have invested many years in the Original Scottsdale Downtown area.

From Chapter 8 of the Arizona Commerce Authority document, I note on Page 1:

Zoning should not be used to: Provide economic opportunity or advantage to one parcel of property without extending that opportunity to all property similarly situated…

If that isn’t exactly the opposite of the way we do it, I don’t know what is! Rezoning a property shouldn’t be based on anything to do with the owner, developer, the proposed project, or the 27 color glossy photographs that accompany the project description. It should be based on whether the maximum use under a certain zoning category is appropriate for the surrounding area, and whether it will have negative effects on surrounding properties, businesses, and residents.

What our city planners, city manager, and city council have done for the last ten years is “spot zoning” or “spot rezoning,” wherein one property out of a larger area is rezoned without consideration to the context. This creates inconsistency that erodes community character.

Zoning shouldn’t be something to “get around.” It’s something that should be respected.

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