You told the city to take action, and we have. After extensive study and public comment, our Transportation Master Plan received overwhelming approval from residents, and we are in motion on improvements. Let’s keep it going!
The city’s Transaction Privilege Tax, the majority of which is paid by visitors, has already begun funding the strategies of the TMP, including improvements to manage visitor traffic during busy periods, bike and pedestrian paths, the Forest Road extension, the Tlaquepaque underpass, an uptown parking garage, transit to reduce the number of cars on our streets and roads and sign technology designed to mitigate backups on SR 179. Most of the improvements on SR 89A in Uptown are finished, but we continue to work on northbound traffic issues there.
Our Sedona in Motion transportation improvements will maximize visitor tax dollars by leveraging contributions and grants from the federal government and state. We are actively engaging with these partners to move our strategies forward.
Equally important, City Council has directed the Sedona Chamber of Commerce to find ways to ensure that our tourism industry focuses on sustainability instead of constant growth with a model that balances critically important visitor revenues with limits that protect our quality of life. We continue to work with the Chamber on the implementation of our Sustainable Tourism Plan and use careful messaging to manage visitors planning to come to Sedona to help us protect our unique place and its great natural beauty. We have directed them to pause destination marketing, and are already implementing a trailhead shuttle system as the first step in our transit system to keep more cars off our roads.
Tourism dollars sustain our local business owners and their employees, and the services and amenities we receive. Sedona will continue to grow, along with every other city and town in Arizona as the West continues to draw new residents. We must continue to talk with each other about solutions, and we must continue to move forward, acknowledging that ours is a tourism-based economy that creates both benefits and challenges. We are always working on economic diversification and on assistance to helping both employers and employees who were adversely affected by the pandemic.
The city is required by Arizona law to adopt a balanced budget every July, and to live within our means.
We must balance our priorities to meet the needs of residents and business owners, and make sure that we are saving enough for a rainy day without hoarding funds that should be used to make our community more beautiful and more liveable.
We are now embarking on an update of our Community Plan, and have put together a Citizen Committee to help guide the process. I hope you will help us by taking advantage of the many and varied opportunities for public participations as the update unfolds.
We all choose to live in Sedona because of its stunning natural beauty, clean air, water and small town feeling. We must protect what makes Sedona unique. That means protecting our trails, dark skies, neighborhoods, and peace and quiet.
Our recently adopted Climate Action Plan, our partnership with the Chamber of Commerce for the implementation of the Sustainable Tourism Plan, and the update of our Community Plan form the basis for the protection of our Sedona, the most beautiful place on earth in so many ways.
I will continue to promote policies and champion programs that promote environmental sustainability, waste reduction, reuse and recycling, walkability, green building codes and smart land management. All of this can be done while ensuring that our city codes are sensible, efficient and not burdensome to homeowners and business owners.
Diverse housing is a critical part of our Community Plan, but finding a way to achieve it is one of the most difficult challenges we face. The 2020 census numbers revealed a stunning but not unexpected fact: Sedona’s population has decreased in the last ten years and is now under10,000. Although the reasons vary to some extent, much of the blame seems to fall on the proliferation of vacation rentals in the last four years, due to the prohibition by the Governor and the Legislature beginning on January 1 of 2017 of bans of short-term rentals (STR’s). Prior to that date, Sedona had such a ban in place, which we had to remove.
We now have over 900 STR properties within our city limits, and over 500+ outside city limits, but nearby, primarily in the Village of Oakcreek area. The proliferation of these rentals has driven up both the price of homes and the price of residential rentals in a market that was already lacking in apartments. Many residents have been forced out of their long-term rentals so they could be converted to STR’s. See video on the home page, Click Here.
The city has now hired a Housing Manager, who we share with the city of Cottonwood, which has similar housing problems, although not as severe as ours. We believe that increasing our capacity by adding this employee will help us address the shortage of 1500 affordable housing units identified in our recent housing study. The high cost of land in Sedona compared to the rest of the Verde Valley has always been a barrier, and the recent price increases have only exacerbated the problem. We do have one project underway for about 46 rental apartment units, all affordable housing (defined as costing no more than 30% of Area Median Income), in partnership with a developer. There is a need for even market rate housing units due to our shortage of apartment stock.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis like no other we have faced in our lifetimes. It has pervaded many if not all aspects of our lives and has changed the way we govern. As of November of 2021, we now have effective vaccines and we continue to add to the list of effective treatments available. Most medical professionals continue to advocate for all those who are eligible to get fully vaccinated, including booster shots. They believe that Covid-19 will become endemic, meaning the likelihood of booster shots being needed yearly or at least periodically.
Without our health, our economy cannot function normally, and since the two are inextricably linked, we can only do our best to find an acceptable balance, which is a challenging and difficult task. Americans are innovative and resilient, and we will come through these extraordinary times by working together and emerge even stronger on the other side.
The Governor has ended the ability of cities and towns to mandate masks or any other mitigation strategies that are not included in his Emergency Proclamation, which is still in force. The City of Sedona website has a page devoted to COVID-19 information and resources. Please take some time to scroll through the information and links provided by clicking here.