The Comprehensive Plan is a “blueprint” or “guide” for the conservation and development of lands and land uses in the County and promotes orderly and well-planned future development throughout the unincorporated areas of the County. The Plan was first adopted in 1984 and has been amended a number of times since that date. The Cochise County Zoning Regulations were first adopted in 1975 and the Zoning Districts were applied to County lands at that time. There may be parcel-specific circumstances in which the 1975 Zoning District designations may not closely match the current land use of a parcel or where the Comprehensive Plan land use designation for the area does not closely match the zoning designation. In other cases a property owners may seek a new zoning designation, or a rezoning, which is not permitted by the Comprehensive Plan land use designation and a new land use designation would need to be approved to allow a rezoning. A list of allowable zoning districts for each Plan Designation can be found in Article 4 of the Zoning Regulations. Lastly, there are circumstances where the community-at-large seeks an update to their community’s land use designation and seeks new policies to guide current and future conservation and development or redevelopment goals and their vision for the future; these Plan amendments can be achieved through adoption of Area Plans or Community Plans. There are eight such Area Plans adopted as elements of the county-wide Comprehensive Plan.
The Comprehensive Plan consists of policies, Growth Area Categories, Land Use Map Designations, Master Development Plans and Community or Area Plans. Growth Category designations describe the existing and expected intensity of development of an area. For example, a Growth Category A--Urban area, such as that found around the City of Sierra Vista, describes an area of intense growth. Growth Category B—Community Growth areas, describe unincorporated communities such as the Whetstone, Tombstone, Hereford, Pirtleville and St David “townships” as well as the unincorporated areas around Benson and Willcox. Growth Category C—Rural Community Areas characterize the Bisbee Junction, Palominas, J-Six/Mescal, Dragoon, Bowie, San Simon, Cochise and Double Adobe areas of the County. The Growth Category D—Rural Areas characterize the Tres Alamos, the area around the St. David township, the Portal area and other not-specifically-identified rural areas or communities.
The following describes the procedures for amending any of the elements of the Comprehensive Plan. Amending the Comprehensive Plan is a very serious action and is not taken lightly by the Planning and Zoning Commission or the Board of Supervisors; the criteria for evaluating the amendment and the rationale for such must be very strong.
Justifying a Change to a Growth Area Designation
To change a Growth Category designation, by expansion of an adjacent designation or to replace a whole area designation, the Applicant must establish evidence that vacant land in the nearby growth area has been used up. If the new area is not near an existing Growth Area, then the Applicant must justify why it is appropriate to change the existing growth patterns and how the new development will fit into the surrounding area... It also requires a demonstration that roads, utilities and public services can be provided in the new Growth Area designation area.
Justifying a Change to a New Land Use Designation
To change the land use designation within a Growth Category area requires the Applicant to demonstrate that the character of the area is changing—to that of the proposed designation. For example, if an Applicant wants to change a designation from Neighborhood Conservation to Enterprise, he or she must demonstrate that the areas as a whole is changing from residential to commercial, and can support non-residential activity without impacting adjacent residential neighborhoods.
What is the Process?
Comprehensive Plan amendments of land use map designations or Growth Category designations or Plan adoptions, amendments or extensions may be initiated by the Planning and Zoning Commission, either upon the application of interested persons or upon its own motion. Amendments to countywide Plan policies may be initiated by the Commission. The County Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, by State Statute, will review the entire Plan every ten years, or more frequently as needed. If a private person or persons seeks to amend the Plan, they can submit the application to Amend the Comprehensive Plan. Please note that if the proposed amendment would result in an increase in the potential densities or intensities of uses for an area of two thousand (2,000) acres or more, the application can be accepted by the Planning and Zoning Department for consideration only from January 1 to the last business day in August of any year and all major amendments will be considered at a single public hearing by the Board of Supervisors in December.
Under normal circumstances (not a “major amendment”), the process takes about 10 weeks from the time the application is deemed complete. If extensive research is required, such as an in-depth environmental or traffic analysis, the review time could be extended if this information was not included with the application.
Applicants of proposed amendments to the Plan are required to follow the Public Participation Process outlined in Article 3, Section 303 of the Comprehensive Plan and require a pre-application meeting with County staff, and mail notification by the Applicant to property owners within a specific distance to the proposed change land area and recordation of comments and responses to that notice in a Citizen Review Report to be submitted with the application. Major amendments also require the Applicant to notify nearby cities, service providers, school and fire districts, nearby homeowner associations, among others, as well as place a legal ad at least one-eighth page in size as advertisement in the official County newspaper and one local newspaper. A public hearing will be held by the Planning and Zoning Commission to accept input from people who support, oppose, or simply have questions about the proposal. After the public hearing on the subject is closed, the Commission votes to recommend approval, recommend approval with conditions, or recommend denial of the application to the Board of Supervisors, or may vote to table the request. If it is not tabled by the Commission, then the request goes to the Board of Supervisors, in another public hearing, for a final decision. If approved, the Plan amendment goes into effect 30 days after the Board decision and the Comprehensive Plan is revised accordingly.
- A completed application form;
- $200 to $500 filing fee, depending upon the request; and
- Additional information as needed, depending upon the nature and scale of the proposed amendment (traffic study, environmental assessment, water adequacy and conservation plan).
The process will not begin until the fees and all information needed to evaluate the Plan change are submitted. The submittal deadline is, typically, 45 days before the date the Commission would consider the application. Please note that acceptance of the application does not confer approval of the proposed Plan change.
Commission meetings are held the 2nd Wednesday of each month, beginning at 4:00 PM, in the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room in Bisbee, 1415 Melody Lane, Building G. The Board of Supervisors meets every Tuesday morning, beginning at 9:00 AM, at the same location.