There are two interesting meetings of Arizona’s Cochise County government coming up this week. Let’s hope that Election Day won’t overshadow everything else.

The Cochise County Board Of Supervisors Meeting is 9 am Tuesday, November 7, at the conference room, Building G, at the Melody Lane complex, in Bisbee, AZ.

The agenda includes Public Hearings on Item 15, to “Adopt Resolution No. 06-119 granting a water franchise for Northern Sunrise Water Company, Inc.,” and Item 16, the same for Southern Sunrise Water Company. When these items come up at the meeting, members of the public can speak about the issues involved. One issue is that the Northern Sunrise and Southern Sunrise water companies are linked to Judy Gignac, Pat Call’s biggest contributor and campaign manager, so Call has a conflict of interest, and should neither discuss nor vote on these items. Under the law, Call doesn’t get to decide if he can be fair despite the conflict; he doesn’t get to weigh his self-interest versus his public duty, he simply must not discuss or vote on these items. It will be interesting to see if he obeys the law. The agenda also includes Item 25, to “Approve a Work Session request to discuss: 16-month rotation of Board Chairmanship; amending Resolution 05-20 requirement for a majority vote to approve scheduling Work Sessions; explore the possibility of holding evening meetings of the Board of Supervisors.” Rotating the chair every 16 months would make each Supervisor chair for 1/3 of their 4-year term; this rotation would have prevented the harm that resulted from the previous chair’s extended reign. Dropping the requirement for prior majority approval of a work session would give each supervisor equal power to work on his constituents’ problems; the requirement was aimed specifically at squelching Supervisor Newman, and has disenfranchised the residents of his district, despite the “one person, one vote” rule in the Constitution. Board meetings in the evenings — and on weekends too, for that matter — would let people with day jobs, or who can’t drive at night, get to Board meetings once in a while. The public can’t give input when Item 25 comes up, but you can speak about it at the Call To the Public at the beginning of the meeting, and you can call or email the Supervisors to tell them what you think. The second meeting is a double-barreled County Planning & Zoning Commission Meeting on Wednesday, November 8 At 4 pm, a work session to “Permit exemptions for owner-occupied single family residences.” The public may or not be allowed to speak at the work session; “not” has been the general practice in the past, and it’s not clear how fast that’s changing. Even if you aren’t allowed to speak at the work session, you can still buttonhole a Commissioner outside the meeting, and say what you think. The issue is, how much can you spend on improving your home without being required to get a county permit? The Commission is considering raising the amount from $1000 to $2500 or even $5000. Also, will the amount be by what you actually spent, or by “fair market value”? Under “fair market value,” the prices set by building supply stores or contractors would, basically, become law, and the county would charge you a fee even if you totally recycled and spent nothing on parts or labor. I suspect that “fair market value” is not the most popular idea in the world; even city people complain about having to spend $800 to get a permit for a $200 project, and in the rural economy, based largely on self-reliance and resourcefulness, “fair market value” is often a complete fiction. At 5 pm, the regular meeting. Item 2 is Docket R-06-06 — the Sierra Vista Subwatershed “Overlay District” which the Commission defeated at its last meeting, in October. County attorney Britt Hanson recently lectured county employees, including top Planning & Zoning Department employees, and a couple members of the P&Z Commission, that a defeated item is dead, and nothing can be done with it. So, why is 06-06 back for another vote at the first meeting after it was defeated? Well, Judy Anderson, current head of the county Planning & Zoning Department, wants it. She wants it real bad. Anderson herself is the applicant for this measure (the first time around, the P&Z Commission was the applicant). I emailed Anderson asking what her authority was for getting a vote on a dead item. She didn’t answer, but her deputy Mark Apel said her decision was made at a backroom meeting of P&Z staffers just after 06-06 was defeated, and that there is no written application because it would be silly for the Department to apply to itself. However, it isn’t clear how a backroom decision can substitute for a written application, and the regulations require a written application even if the Commission is the applicant. Apparently, the regulations apply to everyone above and below the Department head, but not to the Department head herself. Apel said that Anderson had the right to apply like any “interested person.” Under P&Z Regulations, “A property owner or authorized agent of a property owner desiring a text amendment to the Zoning Regulations or . . . zoning district . . . shall [file] a properly completed application in the manner prescribed by these Zoning Regulations. Any interested person may apply to amend these Regulations in a similar manner.” Cochise County P&Z Regulations, Article 22, Section 2204. Anderson’s fascination with 06-06 doesn’t necessarily make her an “interested person.” In the law, an “interested person” is usually someone who has a direct financial interest; and that’s what it means elsewhere in the P&Z Regulations. For instance, Section 2204.01.A requires an applicant to state her “interest in the amendment;” that can’t mean “Tell us how much you care.” Section 2204.02.B.3 gives examples of agents for a “real party in interest,” and all the examples relate to property ownership. Arizona statutes sometimes define “interested person” to include a particular regulatory agency, but the Department’s own Regulations forego that idea. Even if Anderson’s fascination with 06-06 did make her “interested” in the eyes of the law, Section 2204 would still require her to apply “in a similar manner” to a property owner or owner’s agent. That would require an actual application, not a backroom agreement. Anderson isn’t obeying many other applicable regulations either. Within Article 22, Section 2203 requires a pre-application meeting with staff; Section 2203.C.1. Anderson’s backroom meeting may or may not satisfy this. An applicant must notify, and maybe meet with, nearby property owners; Section 2203.C.2. A “Citizen Review Report” must be prepared after a lengthy process; Section 2203.C.4. There’s a fee; Section 2204.01.D, 2204.02.G. A docket number can be assigned only after an application is “completed in conformance with Section 2204;” Regulation 2205. The county must give elaborate notice; Regulation 2206. And so on. The more you look into the Regulations, the less they fit what Anderson is up to. I asked deputy county attorney Hanson, the one who recently lectured county staffers that the defeat of an item means that the item is dead, to verify that, in putting the defeated 06-06 up for another vote at the next meeting, the Department was applying regulation 2204. He said he wouldn’t give me advice — though I didn’t ask for any advice, just for facts, and every lawyer knows the difference between stating a fact and giving advice. Hanson also wouldn’t provide me any facts, because he doesn’t like how he thinks I would use them. I hope public servant Hanson is more cooperative with citizens who pass his personal political tests. To sum up: P&Z Department head Judy Anderson wants to get 06-06 passed in a rush. Based on the information I’ve seen, her hurry is so great that she is violating all the applicable regulations. What I haven’t seen is any authority allowing her to violate the regulations that the rest of us have to follow. Even if she turns out to have good authority, why wouldn’t she just identify it? It will be interesting to see how the Commission deals with these issues on Wednesday.

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