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FLORENCE — Gold Canyon residents spoke against an ordinance that slashes the required buffer between industrial and residential areas from one mile to 660 feet.

“An 87% reduction up front is not fair and doesn’t consider current citizens,” a member of the Gold Canyon Homeowners Alliance told the Pinal County Board of Supervisors Wednesday. “Maybe a mile isn’t reasonable, but I don’t think 660 feet is either.” A distance of 660 feet is from Butte Avenue to Circle K in Florence, county planning staff member Evan Evangelopoulos told the board.

Lou Hanson of Gold Canyon also opposed 660 feet and predicted a decline in home values and traffic problems.

The change was part of a request from the Arizona State Land Department to amend the county’s “Multi-Purpose Community Master Plan (MP-CMP)” zoning district for developments of at least 2,000 acres.

The board ultimately approved the request, with changes. The board left 660 feet in the ordinance, but added the buffer could be increased to 1,000 feet “if the existing residential use or platted subdivision is zoned for lots less than 20,000 square feet."

Also, instead of 2,000 contiguous acres, the board made it applicable to developments of 1,000 acres. “You’ve got to start small sometimes to get big,” Supervisor Jeff Serdy, R-Apache Junction, said.

The State Land Department withdrew its plans to offer a Major Comprehensive Plan Amendment on some 11,700 acres east of Gold Canyon and north of U.S. 60 earlier this month, which would have set aside employment areas, expedited road construction and preserved open space. The department nevertheless proceeded with its request for the text amendment. It applies countywide, not just in Gold Canyon.

Former Apache Junction-area Supervisor Todd House commented to the board that the one-mile buffer was intended to lessen noise from the 2,500-acre Attesa private motor sports complex proposed near Casa Grande.

He asked if the change would have an effect on Attesa. He also asked why the county was considering the change if the State Land Department was no longer asking to amend the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

“To change it now would be kind of, just inherently wrong,” House said. “I think you should wait and see what comes down the line.”

A Gold Canyon woman agreed and said it’s “putting the cart before the horse” with no specific proposal.

But Vice Chairman Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, said he favors the ordinance because it gives more flexibility to state land and industry. He said there remains a vetting process for the public to come in and express themselves, and he appreciates all those who’ve “come out of the woodwork” to participate.

Chairman Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, said that as an elected official for the last 18 years, he’s been critical of the fact that more state land isn’t sold in Pinal County. Others ask him why the state doesn’t sell more land, he said.

“If State Land thinks that having this tool in the toolbox is an advantage to help market and sell some of those state lands, I’m not going to turn away from it,” Miller said. “… I applaud the department for being innovative and coming up with new ideas to market their product.”

The ordinance as approved Wednesday states “industrial uses must be located at least 660 feet from the property boundary of an existing residential use or platted subdivision exterior to the MP-CMP on the date the zoning district is established, or 1,000 feet if the existing residential use or platted subdivision is zoned for lots less than 20,000 square feet."

The ordinance also requires employment centers, in addition to multipurpose planned developments, to function as integrated communities with exemplary community amenities and benefits, and with enhanced design beyond what is currently required or available in standard subdivision development, according to a county staff report.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.