Based on what I've been hearing and reading a lot about lately, there is a great deal of confusion surrounding the process that new subdivisions must complete to receive approval. Let's take a look at the outline -- and remember it's just an outline -- from start to finish.
Assume that a developer has purchased a piece of property and he or she has an idea of how to convert the property to improved homesites with streets, utilities and drainage improvements. The first step is to prepare a concept plan for review by the Town's Community Development Department. During the preliminary review, the department considers the project at a development services committee meeting, which is attended by various town staff and representatives of local utility companies.
One of the issues to be considered is whether the subdivision as planned either already has proper zoning or is in conformance with the town's general plan. The biggest land-use issue involves the density of the proposed subdivision. If the property in question is zoned R1-18, and the developer wishes to build a subdivision with this density or less, rezoning is not required.
If correct zoning is not already in place, the property must be rezoned to permit the desired use. The town's adopted general land-use plan is the guide we follow. As an example, an area that the plan designates for "low density" residential allows from one to 2.5 dwelling units per acre. If a parcel has zoning of R1-175 (one house for four acres) but the general plan designates it as low density, it is possible to rezone that parcel to R1-90, R1-44 or R1-18 and still be in conformance with the general plan.
If zoning is not already in place and the project requires zoning that has a greater density than allowed by the general plan, the only recourse is to obtain a general plan amendment. Since voters approved the general plan at the September 2003 special election, we have processed no requests for amendments.
Assuming that the rezoning process can proceed without a general plan amendment, applicants are required to hold a citizen participation meeting at which their concept is presented. After receiving input and, in some cases, making modifications to the concept based on that input as well as that received at the development services committee, the next step is to present the request for rezoning to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The commission must conduct a public hearing before taking action to recommend approval or denial to the town council. The council must also conduct public hearings before taking action on the request. The council will consider the rezoning at three separate meetings, at all of which the public can be heard on the issue. Final action to approve the rezoning must be taken by ordinance.
With rezoning approval in hand, the applicant must next receive approval for the proposed subdivision at the location. The process in many respects mirrors the effort required for the initial rezoning -- both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the town council have to approve the preliminary plat, with each providing opportunities for public input.
In Payson, where the water comes from will also be a major issue affecting the entire approval process. A new subdivision of more than 20 lots cannot proceed without providing its own water supply. This is true regardless of the density allowed under the land-use element of the general plan.