Two Arizona legislators have introduced a bill that would take away control of zoning and land use from local governments and hand it to the state, creating a single statewide standard and allowing multi-family projects to be built virtually anywhere.
House Bill 2674, introduced Feb. 9 by Republican Steve Kaiser of Legislative District 2 and Democrat Cesar Chavez of LD 29, both in Phoenix, would implement a policy known as “by-right zoning.”
The policy allows the state to set parameters for the number of dwellings per acre and prohibit municipalities from enacting stricter standards. It also would remove any discretionary review of a project by local entities as long as the project meets the requirements of the zoning ordinance.
If the standards are clear and objective, no discretionary decision-making is involved, and no zoning hearing would be required.
A similar law recently passed in California.
Seen as a way to enhance affordable housing options, HB 2674 states, “The municipality may not require a general plan amendment, use permit or review by a board or commission for an applicant to construct by-right housing pursuant to this section.”
By-right zoning allows multi-family developments to be built anywhere, including agricultural, commercial, single family, and industrial zoning areas. In areas zoned for single-family housing, developers could build up to eight duplexes per acre. Cities would be prevented from adopting more stringent requirements than the state.
The bill also would eliminate requirements to notify nearby residents of any zoning changes or development, effectively removing the public’s input within the community.
Maricopa Mayor Christian Price said the bill would lead to chaos.
“This bill is disguised as a way to get through zoning laws in order to build more affordable housing,” Price said. “I understand the need for affordable housing and appreciate it, but this would lead to an absolute free for all of chaos and insanity. This would completely eliminate single-family housing in Arizona.”
“It establishes statewide zoning by right. That means if I say I’m going to build affordable housing, by right, I can put it where I want, when I want and how I want, and the law says the cities can’t put any undue burden on my ability to do that – but they don’t define undue burden.”
That last element could lead to the end of impact fees charged by the city that pay for infrastructure projects including streets, bridges, fire and police stations, and civic amenities like parks and libraries.
Vice Mayor Vincent Manfredi said the bill would nationalize building standards and remove local control over what is built in Maricopa.
“Prop 2674 in my opinion would eliminate single-family zoning in Arizona,” Manfredi said. “It would prohibit planning commissions from reviewing housing projects, getting community input, and providing recommendations to local councils, among many other bad things for Maricopa. The fact that it will override all locally adopted residential building codes should scare everyone. As a result, cities like Maricopa would be required to follow generic national building codes that do not apply to our city’s needs and geotechnical conditions.”
Price said the bill would override city general plans approved by voters and all locally adopted building codes. It would potentially destroy economic development by preempting cities from saving commercial zoning areas for expansion by allowing any multi-family development from building there.
“If you have a Lucid, or an Intel that want to come to your city, those companies need 500 or 1,000 contiguous acres to build their campus,” Price said. “With this bill, someone could come it, plop an apartment complex right in the middle of that property and kill the whole deal.”
Price said current law provides cities with the proper balance between property ownership, commercial uses, development and the citizens’ right to participate. He said if that goes away, a free for all will result, and the voters will be the big losers.
“It’s astonishing that a bill like this would be introduced,” Price said. “There’s a way to do it (promote affordable housing) and a way not to do it. This is the very definition of the way not to do it. You have to listen to your voters, and this completely, 100 percent says to voters ‘I don’t care what you think’ and flips them the bird. It’s insanity.”
AUTHOR: Jay Taylor