Posts Tagged ‘Pygmy Owl’

18th September
2010
written by Land Lawyer

A look back: August 26, 1996 to January 6, 1997

By Inside Tucson Business staff
Published on Friday, September 17, 2010

Editorial:  Convention Center faces huge dilemma The Tucson Convention Center has not been a cash cow for the city of Tucson through the years.  Indeed, it has been operating in the red since its inception in 1971.  This year, the expected deficit is $2.5 million.

Sept. 2, 1996

The center is considered too small with too few neighboring hotel rooms to be very competitive.  While conventions have great economic impact, they only make up about 3 percent of the use of the TCC. 

In February 1995, a consultant released an operational assessment of the TCC.  The Stein Report had a number of recommendations to increase the bottom line.  The city however, rejected the recommendation to privatize the community center. (from yesterday’s Star - TCC merging departments and may be removing director and losing millions per year.)

Now

The city adopted some of the Stein Report’s recommendations, such as adding a ticket surcharge and eliminating free parking.  Currently, the “facility fee” surcharge is $1 per ticket and parking, typically, is $8 per vehicle. 

The TCC still runs at a deficit of about $3 million a year.  The city’s goals to expand the TCC and build a convention center hotel are still unmet. (With the City of Tucson managing the TCC I’m bullish on the next 10 years)

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GTEC assails personal-property taxes on businesses

Oct. 21, 1996

Blaming hefty personal-property taxes for dissuading companies from choosing Tucson as a prime location, the Greater Tucson Economic Council has placed the issue high on its hit list for the coming year.

A special committee dealing with the dilemma will be set up by GTEC as the organization pursues its goals of recruiting high-wage employers to the Tucson area. 

“The property tax is singly the most important issue in the upcoming year,” said Bob Walkup, chairman of GTEC.  “If we don’t want to fix that issue, we have to be content with low capital density.”GTEC President Robert Gonzales said two big firms—a printing company and a semiconductor company—bringing hundreds of jobs and $600 million in investment were lost this year due to property taxes.

Tucson will be forever relegated to a service economy as long as the city taxes away capital intensive industries and their well-paying jobs.

Now

Business taxes are still an issue in manufacturing-starved Tucson and Arizona.  The bottom line is that equipment-related taxes make the state and its cities uncompetitive. 

Existing business taxes include assessments for signs, office supplies, communications equipment, and security systems.  Office equipment (computers, desks, chairs and copiers) also are taxed along with display cases and shelves, and cash registers.

Specific to the manufacturing industry, taxes are piled on machines, tools, fork lifts, cranes,  testing equipment and special tools.      

At the GTEC meeting, Walkup, who became the city’s mayor in 1999, highlighted the need to eliminate the business personal-property tax.  That hasn’t happened.  Neither has the city reined in its appetite for sales taxes.  Currently at 9.1 percent, Tucson has the nation’s 16th highest rate of combined state and municipal taxes, according to the Tax Foundation of Washington, D.C.

It might not be fourth down and long, but organizers of the Copper Bowl need a successful game plan to ensure the success of Tucson’s post seasons collegiate football game.  Once again, the Copper Bowl Foundation has had to ask county and city officials for financial assistance for the Dec. 27 game.

Copper Bowl’s fate hinges on title sponsor

Dec. 23, 1996

“After this, the time has come for them to make it on their own,” said Mayor George Miller, who has voted to support the bowl game with public funds.  The bowl game lost its title sponsor this year—Weiser Lock withdrew after four years and about $4 million. 

Now

Insight Enterprises stepped in and kept the bowl game in Tucson until 1999 under the name of the Insight Bowl.  In 2000, the game was moved to Phoenix and is now played at Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium.  

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Marana welcomes chance to become county’s hot spot for development

While most of the local political attention is focused on the new Democratic majority that takes control of the Pima County Board of Supervisors this week, just up the road, Marana is sizing up its place in the area’s development picture.

Dec. 30, 1996

Marana Mayor Ed Honea likes what he sees.

“I think Marana is going to be the golden child of Pima County,” Honea said.  “Oro Valley is impacting developers, the county is about to impact and the city of Tucson is about out of desirable property.  That leaves Marana.”

The impacts that Mayor Honea refers to are impact fees, a hot topic in the recent supervisors elections.  It is an issue that helped Democrat Sharon Bronson unseat Ed Moore and put the Democrats in control of the board. 

“I think the county is going to be in big trouble,” Honea said.  “They’re going to send an anti-business, anti-development message.  Marana is already in the alley where development is headed.”

Now

Marana has an economic development strategic plan in place for its future.  Marana’s location puts businesses close to the highly desirable physical assets of an interstate freeway, airport and a rail yard.  The plan defines the types of commerce sectors and where they will be located within the town.

Marana does not assess a property tax and has no impact fees for commercial or industrial development, other than utilities.

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New era begins for supervisors as Democrats assume majority

With a recent history highlighted by infighting and controversy, members of the 1997 edition of the Pima County Board of Supervisors agree there is much work to be done in the coming months.

Jan. 6, 1997

That work will be done with a new Democratic majority leading the way.  Sharon Bronson’s ouster of the controversial Ed Moore has given her and fellow Democrats Raul Grijalva and Dan Eckstrom an edge over Republicans Mike Boyd and newcomer John Even. 

A hot issue for the supervisors is likely to be the future of County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.  During the last major shift in the board’s balance of power, the Republican majority handed the job to Manoj Vyas. 

Rumors persist that Huckelberry could be ousted for Enrique Serna, who was axed by the Republicans in favor of Vyas.

Now

Since 1997, Democrats have remained in the majority.  Huckelberry not only survived the replacement rumors, but has grown his authority to the point where he is one of the most powerful public servants in Southern Arizona.

Foreseeing the swing to Democratic control, Supervisor Raul Grijalva spearheaded the County’s first development impact fees in Nov. 1996.  Since that time, Supervisors have put additional financial burdens on land developers and builders, demanding that they pay their fair share of growth-related expenses. (Elections have consequences folks! – Not only did impact fees hit but we spent $200m on open space, with another $500m on deck, pygmy owls added $20k to EVERY home in Pima County, mines are bad, voter approved bonds don’t get spent on the things voters agree to and Kino Hospital has become a $100m hole to treat the poor – the SHINY PROGRESSIVE COUNTY ON THE HILL.)

In 2003, Grijalva was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Arizona’s 7th congressional district. (Boycott Arizona – need we say more).

Copyright © 2010 Inside Tucson Business

10th January
2009
written by Land Lawyer

All too often there are developments in our region that draw the attention of the newspapers, environmentalist, elected officials, neighbors and business community. Red Rock Development’s proposal to put in 300 homes in the middle of Marana ( corner of Cortaro and I-10) is one of those developments.

This project is full of court battles, neighborhood opposition and years of delay. The environmental groups are pulling out all the stops and utilizing all the tricks to tie up the project. If you keep a close eye this process you will start seeing a pattern.

It goes something like this;

1. Elected representatives approve a zoning plan for up zoning on a piece of property. Usually the lots are zoned for 3 acres to 25 acres or restricted to agriculture or churches. The developer often buys the land contingent on these zoning changes. With the vote from the elected officials in hand the transaction is completed.

2. Environmental activists learn about the impact of the development on the SDCP or on the habitat of a pygmy owl or the (insert plant or animal name here – try the Gila Chub, Tucson shovel-nosed snake, the Pima Pinaple Cactus, Southwest Willow Flycatcher or whatever). Their efforts go into full court press.

3. The Enviro’s drum up support from the adjacent neighbors. This plan includes door to door marketing to each neighbor. The goal is to stress the traffic impact of the new development  or just about anything that will stoke the fires of the NIMBY crowd. Petitions are signed, special elections are demanded, court actions are started. The Enviro’s use some or all of these efforts to over rule the original zoning or council approved  vote.

4. The cycle goes on costing the developer untold dollars and more importantly TIME. The Enviro’s are organized, they know the rules and they pull every legal lever they can.   Usually the cost of legal engagement is minimal because the federal species acts are set up force the government to do the heavy lifting. Whether it’s getting federal designation of the Santa Cruz as navigable, or forcing a mining company to go through the federal process to cross a small wash leading to their quarry, the Enviro’s use the laws and our taxpayer funded court system to do their work.

5.  If the petition process isn’t the best fit, the Enviro’s can  pit one jurisdiction against another. You see that in State Land Department wedged between Pima County and Oro Valley, or the developer in Sahuarita that was being played between the county and the Town of Sahaurita. Using political leverage with the help of an  Enviro friendly jurisdiction against one another is common place.  These power player jurisdictions use future annexation of land  as a tool to get municipalities into line.  (Oro Valley and Marana recently adopted the SDCP.)

6. Building in requirements to all developments are another tactic.  Enviro’s have successfully built in requirements for future developments to include;  native plant preservation, rain water harvesting, water shed and rainwater retention basins, 100 year assured water supplies just to name a few. Some of these new development design specifications are useful and important. Many are simply pandering to a special interest and down right ridiculous. All of these added requirements cost money. Guess who ultimately pays the price for these extra steps? The developer? Absolutely not, the cost gets passed directly to you and I the end consumers.

7. When all else fails and probably the Enviro’s greatest ace in the hole is there ability to count votes from elected officials. By picking, supporting, funding and working to get the elected officials in office the Enviro lobby weilds tremendous influence with elected officials in towns, cities and the county.

 

Back to the Red Rock Development saga.

Inside Arizona Business

By Jeffery Gitomer, Syndicated Columnist
Published on Friday, January 02, 2009

What seemed like a simple request for rezoning has caught the attention of environmentalists, lawyers and election officials as one lawsuit concludes and another one begins over a northwest-side housing development.

Last month, a Pima County Superior Court judge ruled that a referendum to place the matter before Marana voters is valid, meaning the decision to rezone the 133 acres of land for a housing development will have been pushed back by at least 17 months. The DeAnza Specific Plan is located near the corner of Interstate 10 and Cortaro Road and is set to include more than 300 houses.

An appeal filed Dec. 10, a year to the day the petition was submitted, means the future of the project is still far from certain. Oral arguments for the second trial are set for Jan. 21, but a decision must be reached before late January, early February, when ballots are to be printed and mailed. Marana voters are tentatively set to decide in March 2009 whether to approve the rezoning.

Officials from Red Point Development, the backers of the project, declined to comment on the development.

Timing is critical for the appeal decision.

“Right now, it’s still on for the March election, but I understand the attorney for DeAnza is asking for a stay so it will be put off for the next election so the appeal can be heard in a non-accelerated fashion,” said Marana Town Attorney Frank Cassidy. “If he doesn’t get a stay, what’s probably is going to happen is the appeal will probably be heard on an expedited basis.”

If a stay of the election is granted, the vote could be pushed back until 2011, unless the developer is willing to pay for a special election. A 2004 housing development referendum cost about $20,000, Cassidy said.

Controversy arose last year when a group of petitioners filed signatures with the town of Marana, hoping to put the October 2007 rezoning matter on the next election’s ballot. According to procedure, a referendum must be filed 30 days after the council vote. However, the deadline fell on a day when town offices were closed, but officials said it was OK to turn in the signatures the following Monday.

This riled the developers, who filed suit last April against the town, claiming that late is late, no matter what town officials said.

The judge in the case, though, felt differently.

“An initiative supported by a sufficient number of signatures should not be lightly pushed aside for technical reasons,” said Judge John E. Davis in his Dec. 1 ruling.

Backers of the referendum felt that building a housing development at that location would be detrimental to the local wildlife.

“If it got built as it was adopted by the mayor and council more than a year ago, it would destroy a riparian corridor,” said Carolyn Campbell, executive direction of the Coalition of Southern Arizona Desert Protection. “The Hardy Wash is one of the biggest washes and river systems in the northwest side outside of the Santa Cruz River and Cañada del Oro.”

The coalition was instrumental in getting the signatures for the referendum. Based on conversations she’s had with Marana voters, Campbell said she was fairly confident the rezoning will be voted down.

If this happens, it would keep the property at its current zoning, approximately one house per 25 acres.

At this point any negotiations that had taken place between the environmental group and Red Point have stalled.

“We’ve always been interested in negotiating an agreement and go back to the town council with a better plan, but I haven’t heard back from them so I’m assuming they’re going to try to reverse the lower court’s decision,” Campbell said.

Should the developers need take another crack at rezoning the land, there is nothing stopping them from bringing the original plan back to the council, although Cassidy believes this is unlikely as it will bring the situation back to square one.

Though the appeal adds a new twist to the matter, Marana officials are confident that the appeals court will rule in their favor.

“We felt like it was a pretty straightforward issue, honestly. Personally I don’t think it’s going to be overturned, but who knows?” Cassidy said.

It can only be speculated that had the original rezoning request gone through if there would be houses built already in DeAnza. One thing is for sure, the real estate market is likely to be on the upswing if and when shovels hit the ground.

Timeline:

Oct. 2, 2007- Marana Town Council unanimously approves rezoning of DeAnza project

Dec. 10, 2007 – Referendum filed to nullify council’s decision and put  the rezoning matter before voters.

April 25, 2008– Fidelity National Title, representing the developers, files suit against town of Marana, arguing that the referendum was filed too late.

Dec. 1, 2008– Pima County Superior Court judge rules in favor of Marana saying the matter should be put before voters

Dec. 10, 2008 – The same day as the final judgment, Fidelity appeals decision, hopes to overturn before the March 2009 vote.

 Contact reporter Nicholas Smith at 295-4358 or at nsmith@azbiz.com.

__________________________________________________________________________
Nitzel weighs in. I wonder which way he’ll spin the story? One more reason NOT to advertise in the Tucson Weekly.
 

PUBLISHED ON JANUARY 17, 2008:

The Skinny

By MARI HERRERAS email the Weekly and JIM NINTZEL email this author

ANOTHER REVOLTING DEVELOPMENT

In Marana, the end of 2007 welcomed new development–along with some heavy-duty criticism from local desert-protection activists.Last week, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection pointed out that a 300-unit development approved by Marana would destroy prime desert on the Hardy Wash. The project is called DeAnza, and contradicts the habitat-conservation planning the town of Marana is currently working on, according to green queen Carolyn Campbell, executive director of the coalition.

Almost 500 signatures were given to the town in December from citizens challenging the Marana Town Council’s vote to approve the rezone. The signatures checked out, and the fate of the Hardy Wash will be left to Marana voters, in March 2009. If the voters defeat the rezone, the original zoning–that allows one house per 25 acres–will be reinstated.

Trouble is, Lawrence Schubart, a lawyer for DeAnza parent company Red Point Development, recently contacted Marana town attorney Frank Cassidy to let him know they’ll sue if the town puts the referendum on the ballot. The lawyer contends the signatures were not filed on time. The Town Council is slated to discuss the possible lawsuit in executive session on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

“This development (would destroy) 70 percent of the land in and around a very sensitive area, identified in the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan as an Important Riparian Area. The Town Council has a stated policy requiring rezonings in the Tortolita Fan to protect 70 percent of project sites as natural, undisturbed open space, which is essentially reversed on this development,” Campbell stated in a release. “Marana should consistently implement conservation and smart-growth tenets and require proper protection for natural areas.”

Marana residents are also concerned about the development. Carolyn Nessinger, a resident of a subdivision directly south of DeAnza, filed the referendum. Nessinger worries that “the increase in traffic created by all these new houses was not taken into consideration by Marana. Cortaro Road is a nightmare, and this development, as currently planned, will only add to the problems.”

Marana is developing a Habitat Conservation Plan, an example of which is the county’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. Campbell holds up DeAnza as “a perfect example of the disconnect between Marana’s regional conservation goals and current land-use decisions being made by the town.”

Campbell says her coalition has been in talks with the developers of the DeAnza project since filing the referendum. Progress is being made on a reconfiguration of the project that would better protect the riparian area and contribute to wildlife movement within the Tortolita Fan.

“It is unfortunate that collaboration is taking place after the rezoning process,” Campbell notes. “The Town Council could have directed staff and the developer to address our issues, but failed to take a leadership role.”

Campbell and Nessinger, though, think it a bad sign when a threat seems like the only way to get Marana and some developers to listen to their concerns.

Then from the Sonoran Conservation’s web site – a reprint from the 2007 Explorer story. 

Furor erupts over Marana housing plan

Depending on what Red Point is willing to change, citizens may drop the referendum.

NW Explorer

By: Eric Beidel

November 28, 2007

A future housing development in Marana has come under fire from conservationists and neighbors, who say the town council approved plans last month with little regard for the environment and neighboring homes.

Environmentalists and neighbors say that the planned development represents another example of Marana’s haphazard planning. They say that the plan ignores the consequences of building on sensitive lands and would create a traffic nightmare.

The council on Oct. 2 voted unanimously to rezone 133 acres east of Interstate 10 and just north of Cortaro Road. The action created the DeAnza Specific Plan, which calls for a 311-lot subdivision by Red Point Development.

The town disagrees and says the planned development represents an exciting new kind of subdivision for Southern Arizona, one that balances suburban living and natural open spaces.

Carolyn Nessinger, a resident in nearby Cortaro Ranch, has begun collecting signatures in an effort to have voters settle the matter.

The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection opposes the DeAnza plan, too.

Citizens have until Dec. 9 to collect about 600 signatures. The issue could appear on a March ballot.

“The referendum is really on the town,” coalition Executive Director Carolyn Campbell said. “It’s really just trying to keep them honest.”

Campbell is one of many working with the town to create a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), which aims to create a specific give-and-take process between the environment and development.

However, she says the town seems to ignore the very principals it seeks to create with the HCP.

Red Point Development owns the property now rezoned for the subdivision. The company has clashed with environmentalists before.

North of the DeAnza project lies more than 1,000 acres dubbed Cascada, which borders an important wildlife corridor. After much wrangling, Red Point decided it would not build houses on 15 acres near an Interstate 10 underpass that animals use to avoid traffic.

It appears Red Point is bending again to environmentalists’ wills.

The company has a meeting this week with Campbell and the coalition to discuss possible changes to its DeAnza plan.

Red Point probably will reduce the housing density on the site, going from 311 units to about 250, General Manager Larry Kreis said.

This would create more open space, a major sticking point for those who oppose the plan.

Pima County has spent more than $3 million in the area buying land from developers to keep it free of homes. The theory is that one open space eventually abuts another, creating connectivity for wildlife between mountain habitats.

The DeAnza plan currently calls for 31 percent of undisturbed open space, not even half of what environmentalists want.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has earmarked the property for 70 to 80 percent open space.

Portions of the Hardy Wash run through the property. The wash contains an important riparian habitat and provides a corridor in which wildlife can move, environmentalists say.

As it stands, the DeAnza plan calls for turning some of that sensitive habitat into a cement drainage channel. This would destroy all of the riparian areas on the site, environmentalists contend.

The wash already has fallen victim to beer bottles, four-wheelers and other trash. And a portion of the wash’s banks that divides the DeAnza property from existing houses in Cortaro Ranch has begun to erode.

This has created a fear among Cortaro Ranch residents of flooding from the Tortolita Mountains.

The drainage channel will protect both future residents and Cortaro Ranch from any flooding, Marana Planning Director Kevin Kish said.

As a condition of the council’s approval, the town requires the developer to remove non-native plants and trash in the wash and to add native plants.

“After years of abuse and neglect to this natural open space, enhancement” is crucial to providing habitat, preserving wildlife corridors and protecting the natural flow of the Hardy Wash, Kish said.

Red Point has done its best, but the property’s elongated shape limits what the developer can preserve, Kreis said.

It seems unfair, he added, for developers to bend over backwards for conservation requirements that have not yet been finalized.

The HCP will create a scenario where developers must adhere to certain open-space requirements and offer mitigation for building in sensitive areas. But the plan probably will not go into effect for at least another year.

“It’s really hard to implement something that’s not approved yet,” Kreis said. “But we’re really trying to do something unique with this property.”

Red Point plans to use a “coving” subdivision design to give the neighborhood more green areas than pavement and to avoid monotonous “gridded-out rectangles,” Kreis said.

While Red Point seems willing to satisfy environmental requests, any potential changes should have been addressed before the Marana council approved the plans, Campbell said.

“We have more success dealing with developers than the council itself,” she said.

Town staff addressed all environmental and traffic concerns, officials said.

The developer will add turn lanes on Hartman Lane at all entrances to the DeAnza project, officials said, and most of the open space for the project will be preserved along the most sensitive areas of the Hardy Wash.

“This project has been many years in the planning process to effectively address identified issues and concerns,” Kish said. The project shows how Marana can balance development and environment by taking into account all safety and health concerns, he added.

Still, citizens have been going door-to-door to gather signatures.

The referendum effort could go to the ballot, or the threat of it could precipitate change, Campbell said.

 

In other words, “I’ll make such a mess of the development that the builder will be on their knees when I come to them. They’ll ask for 30% open space, I’ll demand 80% and that the builder buy 500 acres across town for perminant open space.” 

Did she really say that they are using the threat of going to ballot to achieve their desired outcome. Sounds like blatant ABUSE OF THE SYSTEM to me. What do you think?

 

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