General Plan Series #2
By Don Hadder
There are two ways in which General Plans for Scottsdale are enabled and governed: Arizona State statutes and the Scottsdale City Charter. These two documents allow for – and even require – General Plans for Scottsdale and also provide guidance in what it should include and how it is to be managed. Any General Plan adopted by the City of Scottsdale is required to comply with these provisions.
First, we will look at the applicable State statutes for General Plans. Of particular importance is the definition of a “General Plan”: it “means a municipal statement of land development policies, that may include maps, charts, graphs and text that set forth objectives, principles and standards for local growth and redevelopment enacted under the provisions of this article or any prior statute.” As we will find, this doesn’t mean that the plan is just a land use map. The important element of this definition is that it states that a general plan is essentially aspirational, general in scope and not enforceable law.
Within the statutes there is an extensive listing of elements, i.e., components or sections, of a general plan. These are the required elements that all cities of the size of Scottsdale are required to have:
- Land Use – This includes provisions that describe the type and intensity of preferred land uses, provisions for compact and infill development, considerations regarding air quality and solar access and an assurance of a broad variety of land uses.
- Circulation – This includes plans and provisions for major and local highways and streets, bicycle routes and for other modes of transportation.
- Open Space – This includes provisions for open spaces, recreational resources and access to them, as well as how they relate to the regional systems.
- Growth Area – This includes provisions to concentrate development where infrastructure is available and its availability can be managed, natural resources and open spaces will be conserved, and transportation systems can be made more efficient.
- Environmental Planning – This includes provisions to conserve air and water quality and other natural resources.
- Cost of Development – This includes provisions on how development will pay its fair of the cost of additional public services it will generate.
- Water Resources – This considers current and future water resources available to the community and how they will be managed as the community grows.
- Conservation – This focuses on how local natural resources will be conserved and sustained.
- Recreation – This focuses on public facilities used for all types of recreation.
- Public Buildings – This focuses on all facilities that serve the public including municipal and school buildings.
- Conservation, Rehabilitation and Redevelopment – This focuses on reducing blighted areas.
- Safety – This focuses on provisions to maintain the safety of the public during natural and artificial hazards.
- Bicycling – This focuses on provisions that accommodate and support bicycling.
- Energy – This focuses on energy conservation measures and greater use of renewable energy resources.
- Neighborhood Preservation and Revitalization – This focuses on promoting safe and attractive neighborhood environments.
These are the required elements, but it is also possible for local communities to add elements that relate to local needs, conditions, priorities and aspirations. In addition to these elements, other sections of the statutes require that the community have an annual public works (capital improvements) plan that demonstrates how the General Plan is being implemented.
These statutes also include provisions on how the General Plan is to be prepared, heard and approved. The General Plan is approved for up to 10 years, after which the community is obligated to prepare an updated version or seek re-approval of the current plan. Unlike in most states, this plan is to be ratified by the voters of the community. Amendments to the various elements can be made at any time in between ratifications by a majority vote. However, “Major Amendments” to the Land Use plan, as determined the local community, are to be considered only once per year and require five votes to be approved. City Council approvals of changes to the General Plan are done through the use of a resolution, not an ordinance, since these are statements of policy and not law.
When Scottsdale first approved its General Plan there were no enabling statutes in Arizona State law. Therefore, the city amended the City Charter to include a provision that allows it to have a General Plan. The City Charter as it is currently amended also includes provisions that allow for local area plans and allow its policies to include provisions for the preservation and enhancement of the environment.
At both the state and local levels of governance, a general plan is considered to be a very important statement of direction for the future growth and evolution of a community, guiding its physical layout and appearance as well as assuring that the broad range of public infrastructure and services will be provided in a manner that supports the physical layout.
Don Hadder is a former Scottsdale City Planner.
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