During the City Council meeting Aug. 21, Associate Planner Carlton Johnson presented on Flagstaff’s Regional Plan (FRP) 2030: 2017 Annual Report. In this report, Johnson outlined the progress and shortcomings of the FRP.
The FRP was implemented in 2014 to “[provide] guidance for preservation and growth in the coming years,” according to its mission statement.
According to the Comprehensive Planning page on the City of Flagstaff Website, the council hopes to accomplish this by promoting eight guiding matters within the community: the environment, sustainability, prosperity, cooperation, people, place, a smart and connected community, and trust and transparency affairs.
To make the report more comprehensive, it was broken down into key insights, which were sub-headed into natural environment, built environment and human environment sections.
Under natural environment it was reported that 99,146 tons of solid waste were disposed in Cinder Lake Landfill. This is 7,996 more tons of solid waste than what was disposed of in 2016 or a 9 percent increase, which is “substantially more than our population is increasing,” said Johnson.
Average growth of waste disposal is increasing at an average rate of 5 percent over a four-year period. The waste production of Flagstaff is out-pacing the average population growth seen over a four-year period, which is 1.6 percent.
“One of the large pieces of that is the uptick in construction activity,” Johnson said. “Some of the others are unknown, wrapped up in all kinds of different things.”
Although the tons of waste the community is producing is increasing, waste diversion, or the use of reduction, recycling, reusing or composting to reduce the burden placed on landfills, remains under-utilized by Flagstaff.
Renewable energy produced by the city is down, following a trend starting in 2015. This is due to the cogeneration facility at the Wildcat Hill Water Reclamation Plant not operating, a facility designed to produce electricity from the heat and steam remnants of the original water generator.
Director of Water Services Brad Hill informed the council why the reclamation plant wasn’t operational.
“We need to fix [the Wildcat Hill Water Reclamation Plant] and upgrade it, and it takes two parts, two fiscal years: fiscal year ’19 and fiscal year ’20,” said Hill.
Both fiscal years will see improvements to the piping system to make them more efficient and a rehabilitation of the unit itself that produces power.
Next was the Building Environment, which saw 18 miles of road improved in accordance with the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) along with a consistently high “beautification funding” thanks to a sizable tourist population.
The CIP is a program lead by the utilities department and seeks to improve water and sewer infrastructure. Projects are determined by the utilities division heads, utilities engineering manager and the utilities director.
Large projects like North Beaver Street and Lockett Road were chosen because the roads and the infrastructure beneath needed design work Johnson said.
2017’s roadway improvements saw 15 miles of roads improved here in Flagstaff in 2016.
“This large increase is related to a tax from 2014 that funded these projects,” Johnson said.
2017 also saw a sizable increase in the number of permits issued for new construction and new residential units at 260 permits and 719 total units. This is almost twice as many as the previous year. This means the housing community is growing and is returning to prerecession numbers.
Finally, Johnson explained the changes to the Human Environment.
Flagstaff’s population has seen steady growth of approximately 1.6 percent and the educational attainment, or the highest level of education completed, is relatively flat.
The median home price increased 11 percent from 2016 to 2017. It is five percent higher than the median home value from 2015 to 2016, which saw an increase of 6 percent.
“Your house may or may not have gone up 11 percent,” Johnson said. “A few really expensive homes are going to skew this number but nonetheless it shows this trend that we all kind of know about right now.”
This year, the property surveyors were able to include an affordability index and it revealed that Flagstaff isn’t exactly an affordable place to live, Johnson said.
“56 percent of income goes towards housing and transportation [and] 45 percent is the national benchmark,” according to the 2017 annual report.
Despite these issues, citizens in attendance at the meeting had another thing on their minds.
During the public participation portion of the meeting, three different community members raised concerns over Fort Tuthill’s planned use of potable water to produce artificial snow for the upcoming winter season.
Marilyn Weissman was the first community member to speak about the subject and requested the issue be added to a future agenda for public discussion.
“I want you guys also to weigh in … [the City Council] has really done a good job of promoting a culture of conservation,” said Weissman. “We can’t continue to pretend that we’re always going to have snow ... our water and our aquifers are going to be endlessly there.”
A representative from the Sierra Club and another community member voiced similar concerns over the liberal use of water that could someday be vital to Flagstaff after a less than plentiful winter.