Tower ordinance approved after lengthy debate

By Staff, 07/20/21 11:54 AM

PRESCOTT – What should have been a simple procedure turned into a lengthy debate over the authority of the Prescott City Council.

In the council’s June meeting it was voted to approve the annexation of a section of land owned by Bob Glass for the erection of a cell tower for AT&T. The council also voted to have an ordinance drawn up for the rezoning. However, at the July council meeting Monday night, Councilman Jerry Hightower brought up the fact members of the council received a letter from City Attorney Glenn Vasser basically stating the council would be in violation of the law if the ordinance was approved. Hightower pointed out there was no such action two years ago when the council approved rezoning a building from commercial to residential.

He said if the council was breaking the law then, why wasn’t it so informed by the attorney at the time, and if it’s not violating the law, how could there be a legal issue at this time. Hightower said there needs to be one standard to be followed and it needs to be consistent.

Councilman Patricia Roberts voiced her concern about the possibility of going to jail, saying she didn’t want to break any laws and the city attorney should advice the council before it takes action. She added she doesn’t like dealing with personal issues.

Hightower continued saying there was no letter in 2019 when the council voted to approve rezoning for Jimmy Brown, but is now told it’s doing something wrong for taking the same action.

Councilman Ivory Curry said his decision was based on past precedent when the council voted to rezone an area for Brown. He said the councilĀ  set a precedent then when there was no zoning commission and could do it again.

There was a lot of back and forth, with the zoning meetings with James Walden brought up and his telling the council it should refrain from dealing with zoning issues until a commission is appointed. They talked about the importance of getting advice from the city attorney before making decisions, but the advice should be consistent. It was pointed out no one showed up at the public meeting to talk against the tower, though five letters were read in opposition, and those from people living out of town.

Hightower also pointed out when the council voted to rezone for Brown, the ordinance didn’t include a detailed real estate description of the property in question, though the ordinance for the cell tower did.

Prescott Mayor Terry Oliver read from the minutes of the June minutes, including the portion where Vasser said the council needed an ordinance to rezone the land from R1 to I1, which was voted on 8-0 by the panel.

Curry moved to approve the ordinance, only to have Councilman Howard Austin move table the issue until the council could be properly advised. However, as there was already a motion on the floor, Austin’s motion was irrelevant as Curry wouldn’t remove his motion.

Bruce Bean, office manager for the city, said he called the Municipal League and was told spot zoning is not illegal. He told the council he didn’t asked about the need for a commission at the time.

Hightower read from the 2019 ordinance where stated as there was no planning commission in place, the council was the city’s official body for zoning issues.

It was agreed the city needs a planning and zoning commission. Oliver said the city took the last letters from those interested last Thursday at 2 p.m. with eight people seeking a post on the panel. He told the council a commission should be in place by the August meeting.

When all was said and done, the council voted 7-1 to approve the rezoning.

Oliver gave the council good news saying Werner Enterprises, the fourth largest trucking company in the nation, wanted to enter into a lease for the parking lot behind the garment factory. The lease, approved by the council, is for three years at $3,000 a month. The lease will run from Aug. 1 2021 through July 31, 2024. The agreement includes a clause where either party can terminate the lease with 90 days notice.

In other business, Jamie Hillery, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Chamber of Commerce, said the Independence Day event went well with a good turnout. She said there are a couple of ribbon cuttings coming up, with the first one Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Barn at Willow Oak Acres. She said the school coffee is Aug. 12, but the time hasn’t been set yet.

She reminded the panel the Chamber Banquet is Aug. 31 and will feature awards for deserving them.

At the end of the meeting, Austin asked people not to throw their grass clippings into the road as the city doesn’t have a street sweeper.