On June 4, City Council met to discuss proposed development of Canyon del Rio, approval of the Preliminary Block Plat at East Butler Avenue and electric bikes coming to Flagstaff. Mayor Coral Evans was absent; Vice Mayor Adam Shimoni took her seat in her absence.
Multiple points on the agenda were dedicated to the new Canyon del Rio, a proposed subdivision: a public hearing considering the adoption of the ordinance, the approval of The Preliminary Block Plat and authorization to execute the development plan.
The development agreement encompasses a subdivision of 22-parcels, 8-tracts and rights-of way over 262 acres at 1200 East Butler Ave. The plan indicates the addition of housing to the Flagstaff community, new well sites and road improvements.
Canyon del Rio caused hesitance due to the high possibility of traffic and the debate of whether or not Flagstaff needs more student housing.
According to Canyon del Rio staff, the developer has offered a $400,000 Cash-in-Lieu, hopefully assisting in affordable housing. Canyon del Rio shall also satisfy the requirements of Net-Zero Energy Ready Certified Homes, as established by the U.S. Department of Energy.
New building codes — more accurately, energy codes — were proposed, covering many areas of sustainability.
Councilmember Austin Aslan said that by bringing new technology — like electric car charging stations — to Flagstaff, accessibility to green technology can lead to residents taking advantage of said technology, making the city more green overall.
These new codes will require mandatory Blower Tests, which tests a home’s airtightness to indicate its energy efficiency. All members of the council besides Councilmember Regina Salas voted in favor.
The long-anticipated discussion regarding the proposed bike ordinances was prefaced with a time limit of one hour. The primary issues on hand were a proposed allowance of e-bikes, or electric bikes, on foot trails and punishment for biking under the influence (BUI).
Operating a bicycle — motorized or manual — or electric scooter under the influence of alcohol would be punishable by five days in jail and a $250 fine, much less than the nine day sentence and $1600 fine of a DUI in a motor vehicle.
An Interim Deputy Senior Officer present was asked by Councilmember Aslan whether or not he thought the new BUI laws would disproportionately affect the homeless community in Flagstaff, to which he answered no. Unless that segment of the population were under reasonable suspicion, they would not be disproportionately affected, the officer said.
“I have some real misgivings about putting extra burdens on these folks,” Aslan said. He stated his concerns that as they bike more, there is a chance that the “transient community” may be largely affected by these new laws, targeted or not.
Local cyclists from around the community came to express their concerns about the new ordinances. Some favored e-bikes, others didn’t. Some were apprehensive about the new BUI laws.
“Anything that deters someone from getting on a bike is ridiculous,” one Flagstaff citizen said. “Education over punishment, please.”
Another Flagstaff citizen said, “It is backwards to place more biking restrictions on a town that already has a lot.”
The argument against the BUI laws among the majority of Flagstaff residents was that these laws will keep offenders in the system and deter people from biking at all. The perception of “threat” was a focus point in these arguments, that the smallest mistake could cause someone to be unfairly pulled over under false suspicion.
Many members of the community brought up the disparity between cars and bikes — 3 tons versus 30 pounds.
“The only person you’re going to hurt on a bike is yourself,” one Flagstaff citizen said. “If someone is drunk choosing between a car and a bike and the punishments are similar, they’re probably going to choose the car.”
Numerous members of the community came up to share their thoughts on e-bikes. While most were in favor, many shared concerns about the lack of safety of bike lanes and others debated about whether or not e-bikes qualify as “motorized.”
The consensus was that by banishing e-bikes from foot trails and sidewalks, bikers put themselves in danger on the roads. More than one Flagstaff citizen shared personal stories of loved ones who were killed while riding on the road.
The last speaker wrapped up the public forum by saying, “Go with the data, not your emotions.
After final statements and some back-and-forth, the council voted in favor of class one and two e-bikes on sidewalks and foot trails outside of downtown. Three members of the council — Shimoni, Aslan and Jamie Whelan — amended for no restrictions in regards to BUI.
On June 18, the Council is planning to read and vote on multiple ordinances which were only hinted at Tuesday. Flagstaff City Council meets from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. the first and third Tuesday of every month at Flagstaff City Hall.