Thursday, May 15, 2008

County Announces Study & Forums on Comprehensive Plan

FLORENCE – On May 15, 2008, the Pinal County Planning Commission will
hold a study session at 9:30 to receive a progress report on the Pinal
County Comprehensive Plan update. The Comprehensive Plan is a tool to
meet the needs of our citizens by effectively planning for new
development. The update of the Plan is a process to help our citizens
create land use goals for the County. This update process started in
October of 2006, when the Board of Supervisors hired the Morrison
Institute to lay the foundation for the program by challenging the
County to think about Pinal in new ways.

In February of 2007, a team of experts led by the community planning
firm Partners for Strategic Action, PSA, was hired to work with Pinal
citizens and landowners to develop a long term Vision that serves as
the foundation for a Comprehensive Plan update. PSA is an
Arizona-based firm established in 1992, and has won professional
awards for their planning and public involvement projects every year
since 1994. The successful planning process to date has included over
2500 people from throughout the County. Pinal County's goal is to
complete the process in November 2008.

Arizona continues to grow, and much of this growth over the next 30
years will occur in Pinal County. The County is located in the heart
of what is becoming known as the Sun Corridor Megapolitan. A
Megapolitan is a large urban area, which is often composed of a number
of large cites, sometimes located in a number of states. Ten
Megapolitans have been identified in the United States by demographers
where the majority of future growth is anticipated. The Sun Corridor
is one of the fastest growing of these, and could eventually stretch
from Prescott in the north to Sierra Vista in the south. To help
manage this projected growth, the citizens who participated in the
Comprehensive Plan update process created a vision with seven
important components that focus on: Preserving Open Spaces, Getting
Around and Attracting Living Wage Jobs. The new Draft Plan will
address the vision.

Preserving Open Spaces

Throughout this process, the protection of open spaces was of utmost
importance to Pinal citizens. To address this goal, the County
amended the Comprehensive Plan last year to include a new Open Space
and Trails Plan. That Plan shows large swaths of mountainous land set
aside as open space as well as regional parks, wildlife corridors and
trails throughout the County. The new Draft Plan strengthens this
commitment by making open space an essential part of the overall land
use planning effort.

Getting Around

One of the major concerns of Pinal citizens is how they will be able
to travel when future growth occurs. Maricopa County grew very
rapidly from the 1950's through the 1990's. Their transportation
system was strained until they started to build freeways in the
1980's. Maricopa County was able to use local, State, and Federal
money to build their freeway network. For a variety of reasons, many
of these same funding sources may not be available to Pinal County.
The transportation system we build here must be able to accommodate
future growth safely and efficiently.

The new Draft Plan shows a proposed network of freeways and parkways,
and a variety of transit options including commuter rail. By
anticipating these transportation needs now, the Cities, Towns and
County can begin to secure the land needed to build the effective
transportation system of the future. Much of this land can be secured
through the development approval process, which could save taxpayers
millions of dollars.

Attracting Living Wage Jobs

Living wage jobs provide the kind of pay that provides a comfortable
lifestyle where families' needs are met. Over and over again our
citizens have said that they want to be sure that these jobs will be
available in Pinal for their children and grandchildren. According to
2000 US Census figures and 2007 data developed by the Central Arizona
Association of Governments, Pinal County currently has only 160 jobs
per 1,000 residents and this number has dropped from 200 per 1,000
only seven years ago. By contrast, Maricopa and Pima Counties both
have over 500 jobs per 1,000 residents. While it is true that some
jobs naturally follow population growth, these jobs are often in
retail and typically offer lower wages.

Places that want to attract living wage jobs will set aside land which
is well suited for employment. The City of Chandler is a good example
of this type of forward thinking: they set aside lands very early in
their history to attract the high paying jobs they have today. These
jobs have helped to create a very strong economy in Chandler and
amenities for their residents.

The new Draft Plan shows many new job centers. Some are located along
the planned north-south freeway which will link Mesa with Florence and
Coolidge before connecting to Interstate 10. There are also job
centers planned throughout the County, typically in areas with good
existing and planned transportation access. The locations with good
existing access will allow jobs to be created immediately, long before
the north-south freeway is built.

There have been some claims recently that the new Draft Plan is a "no
growth plan". A close examination of the Plan shows that it
accommodates growth while addressing the issues raised by the citizens
of Pinal County. The Plan offers a variety of housing types and
densities so that people in all stages of life will be able to find
homes here. The Plan also contains a transportation plan that builds
on the County's multi-year planning efforts as well as the efforts of
the many of the cities and towns in Pinal County. Perhaps most
importantly, the Plan contains activity centers which will provide the
employment opportunities that Pinal citizens have demanded. These
centers are located throughout the County, and most of them have
access to the transportation they need to develop whenever the market
is right.

For more information, visit the project website at

A Forum Series has been scheduled to discuss
important aspects of the plans. They are all being held at the Central
Arizona College, Signal Peak Campus, Gloria R. Sheldon University
Center, Room T 116 in Coolidge from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. A panel of
experts will discuss the following topics.

May 15: Multimodal Circulation

May 22: Economic Development

May 29: Water

June 5: Sustainability

These Forums are also listed at