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Rural neighborhoods going commercial

For the past four years, a group of people have been meeting with Maricopa County Planning and Development staff members behind closed doors to amend a zoning ordinance that will affect properties countywide. The issue will go before the County Board of Supervisors for a vote on Aug. 19, yet property owners know little of its existence.

The proposed amendment (TA2008006) will make some changes to the R-43 zoned parcels in unincorporated Maricopa County, which will essentially allow commercial activity on these parcels.

In particular, the supporters of this amendment and the County Planning and Development Department don’t feel it’s important to let the general public know that your next door neighbors may be able to hold a rodeo or horse show with up to 50 participants and open their doors for commercial boarding.

Since 1974, Maricopa County has required that any property owner engaging in equine boarding, training, lessons or events to obtain a special-use permit. They can be costly and difficult to obtain. A minimum amount of acreage is also required. Many people simply forgo the procedure and take their chances in operating illegally.

Complaints ranging from the resulting dust, noise, smell, flies and traffic issues have been presented to the county’s Zoning Compliance Department. In addition, there seems to be quite a few complaints regarding the boarding activities as well as equestrian events that have disturbed the peace in quiet, rural neighborhoods.

Since the business owners would not be required to remove the manure produced by the horses, it’s easy to see why people in opposition are concerned.

Five cities with residents who would be affected by these changes have opposed the plan, including Buckeye, Glendale, Laveen, Chandler and Gilbert.

Supporters aren’t thinking about the long-term effects on our community. They’re having a budget crunch in this tough economy and are willing to bargain away our rural lifestyle to make a quick buck in the short term. It’s important we look at both the benefits and the potential damage it could cause to our communities.

A study on the impact of such an amendment has yet to be conducted. But there is sure to be increased traffic in residential neighborhoods, increased water usage and dust problems. Measures to increase safety for nearby residents also need to be considered.

Other unseen issues that may plague homeowners in the future include a significant property tax hike. Those homeowners who take advantage of the proposed amendment and operate a small business are subject to a reclassification of their property use by the Maricopa County tax assessor. Mixed-use parcels are taxed at a rate of 22 percent compared to the current residential rate of 10 percent.

In addition, the increased liability due to the exposure of commercial activity could lead to higher insurance rates.

Although strong opposition exists, the amendment process continues to move forward with little notice to the affected property owners. The 20-plus letters and e-mails sent by concerned homeowners to the Zoning Department were not included for review with the attachments presented to the zoning commissioners for the most recent public hearing on July 23.

We encourage Maricopa County residents to call or write to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to urge them to vote against this zoning amendment, or attend the Aug. 19 meeting to tell the supervisors what you think in person.

Read the text of the amendment here.

-Noreen Hart,
Desert Hills

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