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COMMUNITY NEWS, Page Three  (Back To Page One)


Alternatives to high density development in the Heart of Palominas

Monday, October 30, 2006.


The First Assembly of God Church in Palominas graciously offered their chapel as the meeting place for the community on Monday, October 30th at 7 p.m. There were over 100 community residents in attendance.  


§        A plat for the proposed development of the 285 acre parcel was available for viewing. The proposed development includes 95 homes with open space along the flood plain.  This development is permitted under the current RU-4 zoning and is considered as Conservation Development under County regulations.  Note: The County will be accepting community comments on this plan until November 13th.  A copy of the plat has been placed at the Trading Post for viewing. Comments can be submitted by writing to Susan Buchan, Cochise County Planning Dept. , 1415 Melody Lane, Bisbee, AZ 85603       PLEASE take the time to send a comment to them! 

§        Judy Anderson from County Planning & Zoning outlined what the developer can legally do with this property under current zoning. RU4 zoning allows one house per 4 acres or, under a Conservation Development, an average of one house per 3 acres with 50% of the property held as open space. Individual lots can be as small as one acre as long as the average for the property equals 1 to 3. 

§        Holly Richter, Technical Committee Chair for the Upper San Pedro Partnership and San Pedro Program Director for The Nature Conservancy, presented information from USGS surface and ground water studies showing the hydrologic significance of this property in relationship to the San Pedro River. 

§        Dr. Richter went on to outline some of the options that can be used to preserve the property as open space for conservation purposes. She emphasized that she was merely presenting possibilities. The three alternatives discussed include:

o       Purchasing the property to be held privately, protected by a conservation easement.

o       Purchasing the property for storm water recharge and/or open space

o       Purchasing the property for storm water recharge and/or open space WITH public access


§        The majority of the group offered applause and encouragement for the concept of   trying to acquire the property  for some combination of stormwater recharge and open space.

§         Surveys were completed by attendees which confirmed support. Note:  Survey results are attached and can be viewed at  

For Information:  Chuck & Susan Ostrander, 366-0360
See Survey Results Below  (A survey taken during the meeting)



Palominas Community Meeting (10/30/06) 
Survey Results

A total of 70 surveys were collected at a recent Palominas community meeting. Participants were asked to rank development options for the 285 acres northwest of Palominas Road and Highway 92. Results are listed below in order of group preference.                                                                           

                                                                                   Greatest support             Support             Least support


Development Option


Ranking #1


Ranking #2


Ranking #3


Ranking #4


Ranking #5




Purchasing the property for stormwater recharge and/or open space, to help the river















Purchasing the property for stormwater recharge and/or open space WITH public access















Purchasing the property to be held privately, protected by a conservation easement















Development under current zoning













Other (please specify)

o     Purchase to leave the way it is (grazing)

o     Preservation of dark skies

o     Nature preserve

o     Park setting w/educ. slant on water, conservation

o     Swap State land to owner

o     Purchase for Fort preservation

o     Nothing specific noted




















Development at higher density than currently zoned














Note: Some people ranked options 1-6, including “Other” in their raking. Some ranked 1-5, excluding “Other” from their ranking. Some ranked only their top 1, 2 or 3 choices. Percentages in all cells are based on the total surveys collected and the total number of responses in that ranking.

Comments noted below. 

Survey Results (Continued) 


·         I don’t care if we have public access, as long as the land is used to keep the area healthy

·         Needs to stay open space—could be utilized for water retention

·         This is the beginning of such opportunities in Palominas/Hereford. We should consider processes that can be used in the future on other parcels as they become available for development. A legal entity here may help with the future issues.

·         Public access should be controlled-only access that supports the prime focus of conservation

·         Limit public access to non-motorized travel

·         If there is public access—preferably limited access

·         There will be other properties in similar circumstances and can we afford to repeat this process?? Is this developer creating a crisis in order to inflate his price? Private property rights are also at stake, so the issue is not a simple one. Is there a legal entity that can actually speak for the community? 

·         What do we do when other property owners wish to develop their property? Do we buy them as well? Who pays? I believe in property owner’s rights. He has the right to do whatever he likes with his property. We should not be involved without the owner present. I am disappointed. It appears this meeting is to promote certain pre-determined agenda, which is conservation. 

·         What kind of public access would have to be determined

·         Would it be possible to get a Bond to purchase the property?

·         I think this County is ridiculous. They have too much control. If the man owns this property, it is his business. This county is afraid of growth. How about repairing these terrible dirt roads!!! I think the County needs to replace some of their employees that will care about the people. 





High-Density Housing Development in Palominas
(An Update  as of August 2006 Drafted by Chuck & Susan Ostrander) 

            In June, some of the residents of the Palominas area were invited to a neighborhood meeting to hear about the proposal for a high-density housing development to be located near their homes.  The meeting was conducted by EEC (Engineering and Environmental Consultants, Inc.) representatives of the owners of the property.    The Sierra Vista Herald covered the meeting and an article appeared in the newspaper (link on this website).  The location of the proposed development is the 285-acre parcel north of the Palominas District Office and School at the corner of Palominas Road and Route 92.   The proposal unveiled in June is for about 400 houses on half-acre lots.  The proposal contained plans for a central water system with two master wells being situated on the northwest corner of the piece of land.  In the proposal, the sewage/septic systems are unlike traditional septic systems and would be individual units on each property to process the waste for each home.   The individual units are to filter the waste out and treat and filter the residue water and then there is a proposal to put the resulting water into “recharge pits” that return the water to the aquifer. 

      Issues of concern regarding the proposed development are enhanced by its location. The eastern border of the proposed development is 6/10s of a mile from the San Pedro River and the entire development would fall within two miles of the river.  There is a recognized floodplain through the property and it was necessary for a retaining wall to be constructed along the western and northern border of the Palominas School property to keep the floodwaters out of school area after heavy storms.  The County just approved a water control project through the property just east of this piece of land to move the floodwater through to the San Pedro River.  These issues will be discussed more later. 

            The piece of land designated for the development was classified as Category C property on the Southern San Pedro Area Plan approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2001.  The Category designations of the County Comprehensive Plan note the current or projected land use.  Categories A and B tend to be residential.  Category D is rural in nature.  The Category C designation is usually used for land around small rural communities that has the potential for further development should the community desires it.  These designations do not dictate nor change the current zoning on a piece of property but suggest appropriate land use possibilities.   The maps generated to accompany the Southern San Pedro Area Plan designate this entire 285 acres parcel as “Business/High-Density Residential”, but our review of the Category descriptions in place with the County at the time the Plan was generated define Category C as potential for Low to Medium Density development.  It is suggested that the label of “high-density” was inappropriate.  The zoning on this piece of land was – and remained – RU-4 (Rural development – one house to 4 acres).  Any development to a denser ratio than one house to four acres requires a zoning change.    

            When we review the Southern San Pedro Area Plan, we are unsure as to how the need and desire for High-Density Residential housing was identified.  The questionnaires returned and tabulated at that time indicate the importance of High-Density Residential was recognized by a mere 1.5% of those responding.  The only item rating lower was Heavy Industry.   Some of those that served on the Committee to develop the Plan report that there was never an intent for the entire 285 acres to be Business/High-Density Housing – but perhaps a strip along Rt. 92 could carry that designation.  The map generated to accompany the Plan does designate the entire piece as Category C, however.

            When the Sierra Vista Sub-Watershed Water Conservation and Management Policy Plan was developed and passed in 2006, the possibility of rezoning to a higher density was prohibited “within Category D areas” when pumping would be required within two miles of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area boundary.  We could not understand why Category D property would be prohibited from endangering the water supply to the river – but Category C property was not mentioned at all.  We heard that the County “intended to exempt” the Category C from the language prohibiting rezoning when pumping was necessary.  We could not understand why that would be true when it seemed that a high-density development would significantly endanger the water supply.  But in subsequent conversations with those in the County who wrote the  Water Conservation Plan we have come to understand their intention to “exempt” the Category C property.   Their explanation is that they had in-hand the Southern San Pedro Area Plan that indicated the community wanted this piece of property to be considered for Business/High-density Housing.  [As we have noted, the appropriateness of this designation is in question to us – but, none-the-less, that is the information available to the authors of the Water Conservation Plan.]  By not including the Category C property within two miles of the Riparian Area in the blanket prohibition of rezoning requests, the Water Conservation Plan “preserved the opportunity to request a rezoning to a higher density level” for the owners of the Category C property in question.   The authors of the plan knew that the already established review processes of the Planning & Zoning Commission, the Board of Supervisors approval, and the Master Plan requirements would still be in place to evaluate the appropriateness of the zoning change and any future development.  That process is currently engaged as the Category C owners have held the neighborhood meeting to advise the residents in close proximity of the proposed development of their plans.  

Subsequent to the revealing of the development plans, we, residents of the Palominas area, have begun a grassroots effort to make known our opposition to a high-density residential development on this 285 acre piece of land.  We have made available a petition for community support that says we “request the current RU-4 zoning be maintained in Palominas where it currently exists”.

To date, we have over 900 signatures to the petition and it continues to be available in several neighborhood establishments.  If a rezoning request comes before the Planning & Zoning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, we feel that there will be overwhelming community opposition attending those meetings and filing written positions.   We feel these are the issues that are relevant to the proposed development of this piece of property: 

  • Palominas is a RURAL community that values the open spaces and unhindered views available.  People move here to enjoy the quiet and solitude.  If we wanted more people and high-density housing – we would settle in Sierra Vista or Bisbee.
  • Since the Southern San Pedro Valley Area Plan was developed in 1998-2001, there has been a vast amount of knowledge added regarding the fragile state of the San Pedro River and the aquifer we all depend upon for our water.   We do not feel it is appropriate to allow much development within two miles of the San Pedro River – and especially not development of any type that would necessitate pumping when land will be rezoned to less than RU-4.  There have already been several times when there was no surface flow recorded in the San Pedro River.
  • The individual waste processing units suggested in the proposal presented at the meeting is of major concern to us.  The safety and effectiveness of these treatment facilities will be completely dependent upon the knowledge and diligence of individual owners.   Chlorination and filtration will supposedly remove the contamination from the water before it will be deposited in “recharge pits” that will return it to the aquifer.  We question whether the “recharge” would actually occur – but perhaps our greatest fear should be that they are correct and it will re-enter the aquifer.  The potential contamination of the aquifer by improperly operated and maintained systems are a concern – chlorine or e-coli could enter the water supply of the entire area. 
  • The Palominas School is immediately adjacent to the proposed development and the school obtains its water from a well.   We cannot tolerate a potential of contamination of the school’s well from e-coli that inadvertently enters the water table.  The health and financial issues are staggering.
  • There is an identified floodplain through this property and it was recognized by the development plans presented.   The County has just approved a flood control plan for the property adjacent to this proposed development and, as previously mentioned, it was necessary to construct a retaining wall to protect the Palominas School property from flooding.  If this 285 parcel is developed into residential housing with the unavoidable reduction of absorption potential, the danger of flooding will only be increased.  The developers recognized the need for a channel to allow the water that enters the property from the west to transit the property to the east side.  But we have major concerns about the increased run-off that will be generated from the non-absorbent areas that will result from development.  And this run-off will contain the pesticides and fertilizers that accompany residential development.   Even with suggestions for no fertilization of external plantings, it will be impossible to guarantee that this will not occur to some degree.  Pesticide usage is inevitable with residential development.  All these contaminants will enter the stream within a mile of the San Pedro River and in an area immediately adjacent to the elementary school.   If the stream flow is left unabated, they will immediately flow into the river and if small retention basins are added to the design – the contaminants will be encouraged to sink into the ground near the school and the water supply for it.  Neither option is acceptable.
  • Should the County approve a housing development within the already identified floodplain – and subsequent flooding of the homes built there should occur– the County would potentially be liable for damages to the effected property because they approved the building of homes in that area.   It seems that, in essence, the County is underwriting the design of the engineers for the development.  The flood control project approved by the County immediately east of this piece of land is designed to accommodate the regular water flow, and perhaps the 10-Year flood, but is recognized to be inadequate for the 100-Year flood. 
  • Dark-skies are greatly prized in Arizona and especially in the Palominas area.  The local observatories depend upon dark skies and were deliberately situated in this area because of this feature of the environment.  But a high-density residential development, even with the light-pollution design features to be recommended, will assuredly contaminate the skies to some degree with the quantity and close proximity of exterior lighting.
  • We believe in the rights of a property owner to do with their land what they wish.  But those rights only extend to the point that they interfere with the rights of other stakeholders.   We recognize that the current owners of the 285 acres in question purchased the land with the understanding that it was designated as Category C and had the potential for development to High-Density residential housing.   We also recognize that they purchased the property knowing it was zoned RU-4 and they would need to change that to complete their development.  While they have the right to request that change, we feel the reasons to deny that request are overwhelming.   The location of this particular piece of property – within two miles of the fragile San Pedro River and within a floodplain – make any proposed development worthy of critical review.
  • At stake is not just the Palominas area.  The continued mission of Fort Huachuca is dependent upon the area appropriately addressing the maintenance of the aquifer and the flow of the San Pedro River.  Both the ecological and the economic well being of the San Pedro Valley is at issue. 

Many of us in the Palominas area would see this piece of property as an ideal location for a water retention project.  If the flow of the floodwaters running through the property could be detained to allow for absorption, it could potentially augment the aquifer and/or the surface water available to the San Pedro River.  Instead of rushing directly into the San Pedro River unobstructed, the absorbed water could slowly enter the river to sustain the flow after the initial rush of water following monsoon rains.  This would also relieve some of the pressure of flood waters from the retaining wall around the school and from the drainage system under construction east of Palominas Road.  Perhaps some modifications to the floodplain could be engineered to relieve the flooding that occurs on Cana Road and on the northern edge of Miracle Valley during heavy storms.  It would seem to many of us that leaving the entire 285 acres undeveloped with residential structures would be the most beneficial to the San Pedro River.   Any development would introduce potential contaminants that have a direct conduit to the river.  Maximum absorption of rainwater is desired and any concrete or tile surface interferes with that process. 

We ask that the owners of the property in question evaluate the options available to them with a view of preserving the ecology of this fragile area as a primary goal.  They are in a position to make a lasting impact upon the health and future of the San Pedro River – either positively or negatively.   Please leave a positive legacy,           



(Read A  S.V. Herald article about a pending rezoning request)

CALL - WRITE - EMAIL.....the County Board of Supervisors and let them know WE WANT RU-4 TO CONTINUE IN PALOMINAS.  This is such a beautiful rural area...let's keep it that way!!!
(Especially, contact Supervisor Pat Call - he does represent us!)


Pat Call: Supervisor District 1, 1415 Melody Lane, Building G, Bisbee, AZ, 85603 Phone 432-9200 FAX: 520-432-5016  ; 

Paul Newman: Supervisor District 2 ; email: 

Richard Searle: Supervisor District 3; email: 

(addresses and phone numbers are the same for the 3 supervisors)






For information about,  or comments on this website, please email
We want to extend our sincere  THANKS to all the community sponsors!
These merchants, individuals, families, and friends of Palominas daily reflect our community pride!

The Morning Star Cafe
Matthew & Brenda Pratt

Casa de San Pedro 
Bed & Birding
Hereford Realty
Jackie Collins (Owner/Broker)
Judi MacNeil
Long Realty
Copper Queen Community Hospital
Bisbee, Arizona
Raymond Candell
Doug & Jean Snyder
Judy Combs
Four Feathers Realty, L.C.
Keith & Teresa Mullen
Palominas Child Care
Debbie Stoner
The Bisbee Doll Doctor
Ellen S. Logue
Rockin JP Ranch, Inc.
Joe & Patty Scelso
Canyon General Convenience Stores Neal Galt Insurance Big Wheels Construction
Backhoe Service & More
Bob & Jan Bullard Shady & Jack Chapman Jim & Jan Arndt