The Maricopa Planning & Zoning Commission will have a fresh look this year, with one new member appointed in December and another seat open on the seven-member board.
Jim Hughes was appointed by Councilmember Henry Wade last month to succeed outgoing chair Linda Huggins. Then, Vice Chair Michael Sharpe resigned in December due to travel requirements for his job, and Mayor Nancy Smith will likely appoint his replacement this month.
The commission selected its officers for the coming year at Monday’s meeting. Ted Yocum is the new president and Bill Robertson will be the vice chair. Their terms run throughout 2023.
“I really appreciate the nomination,” Yocum said. “I also want to recognize the service to our great city provided by former chair Linda Huggins and vice chair Michael Sharpe. I’d like to say a special thanks to my fellow commissioners for the faith and trust they have placed in me tonight.
“I would also like to thank the city planning department, the City Council and the city manager. I will do my best to live up to your expectations.”
Smith said she will make her appointment at the Jan. 17 City Council meeting and that person likely will take their seat on the commission at its Jan. 23 meeting.
Wade believes there will be a shift in the commission with the new members.
“We have new people coming in with different levels of experience,” Wade said. “In fact, my selection was based on that. Jim Hughes is very experienced. He is a former elected official with experience in the area of planning and zoning. You could say he’s an elder statesman from the state of Illinois, where he held elected office.”
Smith said she does not anticipate dramatic changes with the new commissioners.
“I don’t believe there’s a new direction for the commission,” Smith said. “My (previous) appointment, Michael Sharpe, did a great job and brought a balanced view to the commission. His job simply didn’t allow him to attend the meetings in person. My focus for filling (his) seat will be ensuring the person understands the purpose of the commission, has done their homework, is willing to attend training and has been gaining and understanding of the position by attending meetings. They will need to clearly understand the lane of the &P&Z Commission.”
Wade said the newly constituted commission faces challenges, many of which will be out of their control.
“The challenge will be, will the economy hold, and can we continue growing at the rate we have been, especially the multi-family projects that are in progress,” Wade said. “I am hopeful their decisions are thoughtful. I have a level of anxiety that we don’t overbuild ourselves and find selves in a position where we are doing too much for the city to handle.”
Wade, who was a P&Z commissioner and vice chair, himself, prior to being elected to City Council, said the job is much different today.
“When I was there it was mostly single-family residential. It’s much more complicated now,” he said. “Citizens like Jim Hughes, who have been exposed to different ideas in their former communities, are valuable to us because they can bring a different perspective. We will have to continue being cautions and thoughtful, so we don’t overtake ourselves.”
Wade added that the commercial projects under consideration face the same challenges as the residential developments.
“The progress of most of (commercial) projects will depend on where we are as far as an overall economy,” Wade said. “I was really disappointed to find out Chili’s wasn’t coming. If nothing else, it was going to be a different kind of product for the community.”
One major project that has been mentioned by the city but seems to be stalled is retail development south of the overpass.
“I’m like everyone else: I’d like to have places here in Maricopa so I don’t have to go down the road for a store or restaurant,” Wade said. “But again, all of it is tied to the economy. I’m cautiously optimistic that that retail project will get done, but to say anything more than that would be talking out of school.”