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City, State withdraw request to include state land in City’s General Plan

The City of Yuma, in coordination with the State of Arizona, withdrew the State’s request to amend the City of Yuma General Plan affecting State Trust land roughly east of Fortuna Road, between 24th Street and U.S. Highway 95.

The beneficiary of the State Trust Land in Arizona is the public school system. The Arizona State Land Department acts as trustee for the State Land Trust and administers more than 9 million acres of land throughout the state of Arizona. As State Trust lands are sold, the proceeds from the sale are dispersed to the trust beneficiary to provide foundational support to build and improve public schools.

The initial request was for a Major General Plan Amendment that would have included approximately 1,673 acres of Arizona State Trust Land parcels in the City’s planning boundary. The land is generally east of Fortuna Road and mostly between U.S. Highway 95 and 24th Street alignment. This subject land is not open recreation land, but land contemplated for sale to private parties in the future for development. The Major General Plan Amendment was requested by the State Land Department to allow future development of the trust land consistent with the mission of the State Land Department to obtain the highest value for trust lands to be used to fund important educational facilities.

Major General Plan Amendments require a public process, which includes notice to property owners within 300 feet of the property involved in the amendment. Additionally, state law requires two-public hearings on a Major General Plan Amendment as well as a public City Council meeting to take action on the amendment. This public process is designed to solicit input from the community on the amendment and to provide the City Council with a complete understanding of the amendment and its impacts on the community. The Major General Plan amendment and public process achieved that goal.

In the course of this public process, important agricultural business stakeholders identified concerns with the proposed amendment that had not been previously known. In the very short period of time City Officials became aware of these concerns, a concerted effort by the State Land Department and City Officials to address those concerns from the business stakeholders was undertaken, with significant progress made on a large number of those concerns.

“As we saw, the public input process did exactly what it is designed to do, which is provide everyone an opportunity to be heard, and give staff a chance to work to resolve those issues raised from our valued businesses,” said City Administrator Philip Rodriguez. “With each conversation, we realized that more time was needed to address the concerns of our businesses, for the benefit of state land, our business partners and the Yuma community.”

Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls is pleased with the withdrawal at this time, and is grateful for the public’s input. “Local government depends heavily on the public process,” Nicholls said. “The industry discussions in the public process highlighted that more time is needed in planning this area of our region. The right decision was to stop this process and work through the remaining issues to find a path forward for the greater Yuma community. We can now take the time needed to discuss this without the pressure of the annual General Plan Amendment deadline looming over the process.”

Because Arizona law requires Major General Plan Amendments to be heard in the same calendar year as proposed, and due to the importance of the issues raised with respect to the State Trust Land amendment, the State Land Department and the City agreed to completely withdraw the Major General Plan Amendment from consideration in the 2020 General Plan Amendment cycle. At this stage, there are no plans to reinitiate a Major General Plan Amendment for the State Trust Lands, although both the State and City Officials are committed to developing an understanding of the issues and to evaluate the appropriateness of including the State Trust Land in a future General Plan Amendment for the City.