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Community Development Update
by John O'brien

Charter and private school standards

Where 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 of life.

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 concerns.

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!

Wireless Communication

Facilities Ordinance

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 buildings.

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 neighborhood.

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 till Christmas!

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