by John O'brien
and private school standards
should schools be located within our community? Under what
conditions should we allow schools in or near residential
areas? These are very difficult questions and an issue that
the City of Sedona and the community have been grappling with
for several years.
There have been several proposals to locate various
charter and private schools within the city over the past
years. Each proposal has been on the edge of or within residential
areas. Each proposal has drawn heavy opposition from residents
living in these neighborhoods because of the concern that
schools would create additional traffic and noise and have
a negative impact on their residential lifestyle and quality
It seems that the biggest turnouts the City of Sedona
gets for Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council meetings
center around new school proposals. It is sad when time and
time again we see Sedona residents at odds with local charter
and private school representatives. It is sad when school
children might feel unwanted in our community. It is a very
emotional issue. So, what can we do about this problem? Is
there a solution?
Over the past nine months, a subcommittee of the Planning
and Zoning Commission has been working on an ordinance that
would provide guidance, criteria, and development standards
for the placement and location of future charter and private
schools within our community. Currently, the City’s Land Development
Code allows schools in residential areas through the approval
of a conditional use permit. While providing some guidance,
the existing conditional use permit process is very generic
and does not specifically relate to the development of schools.
Local school representatives and neighborhood residents
have provided valuable public input on the proposed ordinance.
The proposed code includes requirements that are intended
to soften the impact of proposed charter and private schools
on nearby residential neighborhoods. The ordinance provides
specific criteria for the appropriate locations for future
schools and includes criteria to address safety and traffic
The new code also includes other regulations and restrictions
relating to the site design and layout of schools. Some of
these regulations include minimum separation requirements
between school buildings and adjoining residential structures,
school-building design provisions, parking area location and
lighting requirements, screening and buffering of outside
play areas from adjacent residences, restrictions on outdoor
school activities, and carpooling requirements.
The Planning and Zoning Commission considered the proposed
ordinance on December 18, 2001 and took additional public
comment at that meeting. It is anticipated that the Commission
will take action on the ordinance on January 16, 2002. Then,
the proposed ordinance will go before the City Council for
final consideration in February or March.
Is the proposed ordinance perfect? Probably not. I don’t
think anything in this world is perfect. Is the ordinance
an improvement over the existing regulations? You bet - a
big improvement! Will the new code provide the City of Sedona
with a better way to review school proposals in the future
and help limit the impact of schools on residential neighborhoods?
Without a doubt, yes!
Can you identify the communications antenna location
in the Chapel area adjacent to SR 179? I’ll give you a hint.
It is located on property owned by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
Well, if you still can’t figure it out, I guess I’ll
have to tell you. A communications antenna was installed within
St. Luke’s steeple/bell tower more than a year ago! What’s
that? You still can’t see the antenna?! That’s the point.
This is called “stealth” technology and allows the antenna
to be hidden within or on existing structures, thus eliminating
the need for separate cell towers.
In 1998, the City of Sedona adopted a Wireless Communications
Facilities Ordinance to regulate the placement of cell towers
and antennas in our community. The current code encourages
the use of stealth technology and also encourages co-location
of various antennas on one tower to reduce the number of separate
towers that are needed.
Since adoption of the current ordinance, the City has
had several requests from cellular providers to establish
antennas and towers. Three towers have been constructed on
the northeast side of Airport Mesa within the past four years.
Antennas have gone up in other parts of town, utilizing existing
towers or through stealth installations on taller, existing
A proposal to establish an antenna in a false chimney
on a residence in the Sky Mountain area failed because of
opposition from residents in that area. Even though the Sky
Mountain proposal included a stealth antenna, residents in
this area were very concerned that the placement of an antenna
on a residence constituted a commercial use in a residential
The Sedona City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission
have been concerned with the proliferation of new cell towers
at Airport Mesa and the negative visual impact these towers
have on the community. There is also concern with proposals
to establish communication antennas in residential areas.
For these reasons, the City of Sedona has recently contracted
with CityScape, a company that assists municipalities in planning
for its wireless communications future.
CityScape is currently reviewing the existing ordinance
and will make suggested changes so that the City of Sedona
will be able to better control tower growth and preserve our
aesthetics. CityScape will also be working with the City Attorney’s
Office to ensure that changes to the current ordinance are
consistent with the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996.
It is anticipated that the Planning and Zoning Commission
and City Council will consider the revised Wireless Communications
Facilities Ordinance in April or May of 2002.
My new picture – I’m aging quickly!
Wow!! I have aged 12 years overnight! No, this was not
caused by the stress of my job as Community Development Director
for the City of Sedona! The picture that has been used in
my previous columns was taken way back in 1989 when I was
just beginning my career with the City. Heck, I didn’t even
shave back then! Through modern technology and the ingenious
use of a digital camera by The Red Rock Review, I had a new
picture taken last month. So, thanks Robert, for bringing
a little reality to my monthly column! By the way, I started
shaving last year!
THOUGHTS TO PONDER
• Worrying is just a lack of faith.
• “Now” is a very powerful word.
• There are only 340-something shopping days