Council discusses economic development in work session

The Winslow City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission discussed several issues relating to economic development during a joint work session last week.

City Administrator Jim Ferguson explained that work sessions, in his experience, are a little more relaxed, and are primarily to have an exchange of information.

He noted that the work session was to get the information on the table.

Interim Planning and Zoning Director Phil Fletcher explained three economic development items they would be discussing.

He said that an economic development plan is the general visions the council had, the policy was the route they would take to get to the plan, and the agreement was the tool or mode they would use.

Fletcher noted that he hoped the council would give the staff a place to start, and that staff would be coming back before the council with a proposal.

"You need to grind out what you want in the policies," he said. "We need clarification."

As part of his presentation, Fletcher explained there were five aspects of economic development. They include priorities for Winslow's economic development program. The most important specified as policies for the economic program; the general economic development policies; policies to attract new businesses and policies to promote local business retention.

Fletcher told council members that the staff would not develop the council's policies, but should know and implement them.

Fletcher suggested four possible focuses, including the main effect of balancing economic development and quality of life; increasing job opportunities and quality; increasing the tax base and diversifying the local economy.

He noted that he had gleaned these focuses from plans Winslow already has in place.

Vice Mayor Harold Soehner said he thought the council had to address housing.

It was questioned whether the council should focus on low income housing, as it has previously, or if it should focus on middle to upper housing.

Ferguson said he agreed that housing should be on the list of priorities, but asked at what end of the spectrum.

Another issue raised was whether the council should look at available water first and whether they should manage growth with the available resources.

Ferguson said he had seen growth handled this way, as well as developing resources to fit growth.

He noted that growing pains exist, but he felt if the city grew by small amounts, there wouldn't be as big an impact.

Councilwoman Dee Rodriguez said she felt that beautification should be addressed first, as no one would want to move into the housing with the city the way it is.

Councilwoman Stephanie Lugo said she agreed the appearance of the community needed to be addressed, adding that the council members' properties should be the first enforced.

Ferguson agreed, noting that several code enforcement changes were well underway.

"We have started training, and are close to getting out there,' he said.

Lugo noted that she felt after the city council properties were addressed, then the city staff and finally city property should also be addressed.

It was noted that Ferguson has begun working to create a neighborhood program that could help address the beautification issues.

Ferguson noted that one issue is out-of-state property owners, and that a policy needed to be created to deal with these owners in a much more vigorous way.

City Engineer Mark Woodson explained development agreements. He noted that the council should get in mind the notion that everything (developmental agreements) should pay its own way.

He noted that the council needed to look at how new development should pay its own way.

Woodson explained that Arizona allows for agreements, but that they are legal documents and must match the city's development code.

He affirmed that the conditions of the agreement are the meat of the document. He said that the legislature has defined policy issues, or what kind of things have to go in the agreements.

He told the council it was up to them how far they wanted to go into it.

Council members agreed they did not want to enter into sales without agreements , but questioned on what size sales they should.

Soehner noted that he would not be comfortable requiring agreements on single-family homes.

It was explained that the issue would have to go through planning and zoning, and that the commission would have to make recommendations to the council.

Commission members present explained that they have been discussing these issues in sections over a series of work sessions.

It was decided that the commission members would make recommendations to the council throughout the next few months.

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