Posts Tagged ‘Sonoran Desert Conservation’

7th September
2011
written by Land Lawyer

Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, Pima County’s ambitious but flawed scheme

by Jonathan DuHamel on Sep. 06, 2011

Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP) has been touted as one of the best and most comprehensive habitat conservation plans in the country. Planning began in 1998 in response to the 1997 listing of the Cactus Ferruginous pygmy owl as an endangered species. The owl was removed from the endangered species list in 2006 because the listing was found to be based on flawed science.

The legal idea behind SDCP was to obtain dispensation from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) in the form of an Incidental Take Permit under section 10 of the Endangered Species Act. The idea was to allow county public works to proceed even if they would incidentally harm some endangered species. To do that the County had to specify which species it was going to protect and how it would do so.

According to FWS, both federally listed and unlisted species can be covered in the incidental take permit acquired through a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) if issuance criteria are met. The three principal criteria are: 1) that impacts are mitigated to the maximum extend practicable; 2) sufficient funding (taxpayer dollars to pay for land acquisition and monitoring for the life of the permit) is assured up front; and 3) the issuance of the permit won’t jeopardize the species. Note that all species named in the HCP will be treated by FWS as if they were listed as endangered. The County’s purchase of local ranches is part of its mitigation scheme to satisfy FWS. In reality, the plan gives the County tighter control over use of private land.

The County’s plan has had a long gestation period, much longer than normal for habitat conservation plans in general. Finally, early this year the County submitted its plan to FWS who expect to put it out for public comment by the end of this month.

I was involved in the early stages of SDCP. For 5 years, beginning in 1998, I was a member of a Citizen Steering Committee that was formed to address concerns of various stakeholders (and satisfy a FWS requirement for public input). During that time, I attended many meetings and collected 35 CDs full of reports and other information. You can read most of the reports at the County’s dedicated website: http://www.pima.gov/cmo/sdcp/.

The plan could have been relatively simple and deal with only those endangered species likely to be affected by growth in the County. If it had done that, the plan could be in place now. However, Pima County has loftier ideas: “The biological goal of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan is to ensure the long-term survival of the full spectrum of plants and animals that are indigenous to Pima County through maintaining or improving the habitat conditions and ecosystem functions necessary for their survival.”

In my opinion, SDCP is based on flawed science. I am not alone in that opinion. The Town of Marana and City of Tucson both refused to become parties to SDCP because of their concern with the scientific justifications.

Besides the Citizen Steering Committee, the County recruited biologists, both private and university professors, to form a Science and Technical Advisory Team (STAT). In March 2001 STAT produced its major report entitled “Priority Vulnerable Species: Analysis & Review of Species Proposed for Coverage by the Multiple-Species Conservation Plan.” I will refer to that report as PVS.

At a public meeting on March 22, 2001, Dr. William Shaw, head of the county’s Science and Technical Advisory Team said of the team’s data, “biological knowledge is woefully inadequate,” a sentiment echoed by each speaker, and by a peer review committee which evaluated STAT’s work.

Nevertheless, PVS provided the basis for classifying county land into several conservation level categories which would greatly impact private land use:

The multispecies conservation plan and Permit will affect use of private land because it mandates that: 1) Within “Important Riparian Areas” 95% of the land shall be conserved in undisturbed natural condition; 2) Within the “Biological Core” at least 80% of the land shall be conserved in undisturbed natural condition; 3) Within “Multiple-use areas” at least 66% of the land shall be conserved in undisturbed natural condition; 4) Within “Special Species Management Areas” at least 80% of the land shall be conserved as undisturbed natural open space; 5) Within “Critical Landscape Connections” barriers to the movement of flora and fauna should be removed.

In addition to the above classifications, SDCP proposes to have “Recovery Areas,” “Recovery Contribution Areas,” and “Supplementary Population Management Areas.” For lands within the Conservation Lands System, the county will require “rigorous site analysis” prior to development. SDCP also proposes to restore riparian areas by planting hundreds of trees which the county estimates will use up to 2.6 billion gallons of water annually. In subsequent iterations of the plan, these restriction percentages may have changed or become obfuscated, but they have been largely incorporated into the County Comprehensive plan.

The land classification system was put together based on opinion and computer modeling. Here is how they did it.

The STAT team didn’t do any actual field work or checking of ground truth, they instead resorted to data mining. One problem with data mining, i.e., using large data sets from other studies, is that the data are rarely, if ever, verified for accuracy. Another problem is that data mining lends itself to selective extraction of data that might not be representative of the original study.

The methodology, as described in PVS:

Habitat distributions for many of the vulnerable species are poorly known and published accounts of known populations are few; therefore, habitat modeling based on environmental characteristics was conducted in order to provide the most complete, scientifically based depiction of species habitat. Recognizing the critical knowledge of many Pima County biologists, these ‘expert reviewers’ were asked to be part of the modeling process. Reviewers identified key environmental variables describing habitat and helped Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysts score environmental characteristics for each species. Analysts then built GIS models based on these environmental parameters resulting in maps of high, medium, and low potential habitat. Biologists were then asked to review habitat maps and revise model parameters if necessary. This iterative process of GIS analysis and biological review resulted in refined models that more closely represented vulnerable species habitat.

Variables used in the models are vegetation/land cover, streams, shallow groundwater, springs, elevation, slope, aspect, land form, cave/mine potential, geology, and soils. A total of 115 characteristics for these 15 variables were scored as potential habitat for each species. Characteristics of these variables are well-understood for some species (such as a fish requiring a perennial stream), but many are not. In some cases, a ‘best guess’ was recorded in the table cells of the species-environment matrix. All scores have been reviewed and revised by species experts.”

County biologists based their map overlays, their GIS data layers, on the opinions of 13 biologists and upon a fourth data set, the federal government’s GAP program which uses satellite imagery to, among other things, map vegetation cover. The assumption is that vegetation type can be accurately associated with species requirements and therefore species habitat.

GAP, run by the U.S. Geological Survey, is an ambitious program. But, it is instructive to note some of the comments from those involved. According to GAP Analysis Bulletin No. 8 (a U.S.G.S. publication), “what was lacking [in GAP], and continues to be, is the information on species associations with those land characteristics.”

The GAP program ran into problems when it attempted to validate the model by gathering factual field data such as finding the critters and then mapping land characteristics where the critters actually occur.

From the Bulletin:”GAP researchers have generally believed that sampling for species occurrence has been biased and grossly incomplete; therefore, the points used in the quantitative approach may give incomplete or biased distributions.”

In other words, the limited real data collected do not support the model very well. There often was a big difference between modeled potential habitat and actual habitat.

The PVS report was the result of the biologists’ best guesses, “woefully inadequate” real data, and computer manipulations. And the results showed it. The report had many conflicting statements and some very strange recommendations.

For instance, their findings for the Lesser long-nosed bat:

“The lesser long-nosed bat requires 5,320 acres for a home range. The minimum patch size for 250 pairs is approximately 1,330,000 acres. The minimum number of patches for this species in the reserve system is 10; therefore, the population viability goal is to conserve at least 13,300,000 acres in order to maintain a viable population.”

So, county scientists, after applying “the best available science,” recommended preservation of 13,300,000 acres in Pima County for this one species. Trouble is, the total area of the County is 5.9 million acres. There is another problem with this recommendation. According to the report, “estimates of populations in maternity roosts range from 200 to 130,000 (USFWS 1995).” If we multiply just one large roost worth of bats, say 130,000, by the 5,320 acres which county scientists claim each bat needs for a home range, we get a total home range requirement of 692 million acres, or nearly 10 times the total area of Arizona. These errors derive, of course, from rote calculation of the subjective habitat scoring system in a computer model which has, apparently, not been checked for ground truth, or even common sense.

I did point out these errors to county officials. As far as I can tell, the county did not significantly modify the land classification system. However, I noticed that in subsequent reports, they did not publish numbers anymore, only general, ambiguous statements.

The habitat conservation plan and Section 10 Incidental Take Permit will apply only to unincorporated County land. It cannot be legally applied to land within incorporated areas, nor to federal land, nor State Trust land, nor to Indian Reservations. That leaves a highly fragmented area which in reality cannot form an integrated habitat.

Pima County has gone through the motions to obtain a permit, but the flawed scientific basis and reality of land fragmentation make the Sonoran Desert Conservation plan an empty showpiece, one this is costing, and will cost, taxpayers money and restrict use of private land.

I will recommend to FWS that they reject the application for permit.

UPDATE: The map below shows the “permit area,” the land to which SDCP applies. Notice how fragmented it is. The fragmentation makes a conservation plan very difficult to effect actual benefits. And since this is such a small part of the County, will it make much difference to species?

Land ownership in Pima County:

Copyrighted by Jonathan DuHamel. Reprint is permitted provided that credit of authorship is provided and linked back to the source. Check the ARTICLE INDEX page for more posts on geology, natural history of the Sonoran desert, climate change, energy, and book reviews.

28th February
2009
written by Mike

From Antiplaner.com – The state of California has a $41 billion budget deficit. This is even worse when you realize its total budget is $143 billion, so the deficit is is 29 percent of the budget.

The planning advocates who frequent this blog will deny it, but it is no coincidence that California has the strongest smart-growth laws in the nation and the worst deficit of any state in the nation.

Land-use restrictions that crammed 94.5 percent of the state’s residents into just 5.1 percent of the state’s land also made the state’s housing the least-affordable in the nation — and some California cities the least-affordable in the world. This led to an exodus of people and jobs. The bursting of the housing bubble devastated many recent home buyers   and took the state’s (and world’s) economy with them.

Meanwhile, the state has overspent on high-cost transportation systems in five major urban areas, while stinting on the forms of transportation that people actually use. (Californians travel more than 400 billion passenger miles by auto in urban areas and take transit only 7 billion passenger miles.) This did little to relieve the traffic that makes Los Angeles and San Francisco-Oakland the worst-congested urban areas in the nation while it added to the state’s deficits.

Tucson Choices – Recipe for disaster:

Does this post sound familiar? 86% of Pima County land is owned by a government entity. Pima County has already committed $200m to buy the remaining 14%. Will the voters approve another $500m to run up the credit card for more open space?  Less land, higher cost to develop (sewer hook up fees, impact fees, time to finish developments) and what you get is housing that becomes unaffordable to our working poor community.  Add in a dash of NIMBY from the City of Tucson neighborhood activist and what’s a community to do? Without leadership, I’m afraid we’ll have more of he same.

As if that wasn’t enough – From today’s LA Times

State caught in avalanche of job losses

Conditions are even worse in Los Angeles County, which saw its unemployment rate jump to 10.5% in January from 9.2% the month before.

The deep job losses follow a sharp drop in the gross domestic product — the value of all goods and services produced — in the waning months of 2008. Nationwide, GDP shrank at an annual rate of 6.2% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That was far worse than the 3.8% drop the agency had estimated, and the biggest decrease since 1982.

Paul Policarpio knew it was only a matter of time before he would be laid off.

 

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?

 

9th December
2008
written by madge

Pima County continues it’s power grab (or hold) by getting in the middle of area towns ability to manage their own destiny. What’s behind the meddling?  – The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP).

Currently there are two major projects that two local towns are trying to control. The first up near Oro Valley – the state owned Arroyo Grande property could potentially build up to 6000 homes in a master planned community leading up to the Pinal County the second is near Sahuarita and could potentially become a 15,000 home development. 

In both cases Pima County officials are stirring the pot and in the case of Sahurita actively competing with the town that wishes to annex the new development.  The county is allowing the developer to play one government entity off the next.  What the county wants is the developers agreement to purchase “offsetting” open space acreage well away from the current development.  By keeping a hand in the deal they are essentially forcing the developer and the town leadership to agree to the open space off sets in order to get the development off the ground. Now the county is offering discounted impact fees to push Sahurita into a corner to match the deal or loose the control.

 

 

Mission Peaks goes before county board Tuesday

By Philip Franchine, Sahuarita Sun

Published: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 10:31 PM MST – HERE

 

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry has said that in general the county supports putting urban-scale development into towns and cities. That’s in part because it makes more planning sense and also because towns and cities can collect state shared revenues and local sales taxes that Pima County cannot collect, so the region would have more resources.

However, in this case, Huckelberry has negotiated extensively with ANC, and said in a Sept. 8, 2008 letter that he would support giving them a break on a future increase in transportation impact (growth) fees that county staff has recommended. If the county board raises impact fees as recommended by staff and does not give ANC a break, or rejects the plan amendment, that would wipe out the argument the developer has advanced so far for receiving a town incentive.

If the county board approves the plan amendment and gives ANC a break on impact fees, the developer would have more leverage in pressing the town for the incentive.

Meanwhile, the County Planning and Zoning Commission in October voted unanimously to recommend against the project. Chairman Bruce Gungle derided it as a plan to put 15,000 or more units between two active mines, in an area lacking water or infrastructure, and in an area with significant biological importance under the county’s much-touted Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

Other commissioners said the dual application was an effort to play off the county and the town and the county board should reject it. Gungle also said he was upset that county staff were supportive of the proposal and said he felt they were getting pressure from “upstairs,” presumably meaning Huckelberry.

Sahuarita Vice Mayor Phillip Conklin said he wishes the town had not allowed the developer to move ahead with two identical proposals at the same time, and hopes it will not permit future developers to do so.

If the town wants to approve the plan, it would next approve a pre-annexation agreement, a zoning change and an annexation agreement. The county would have to go through a rezoning process if the board approves the plan amendment on Tuesday.

A rezoning process would involve a public hearing before the planning and zoning commission and the town council and/or county board.

Huckelberry’s brief Sept. 8 letter to Dan Naef of ANC said, “I have reviewed your letter, and I concur with your summary of our conversations and your articulation of the terms of development which we have discussed.

“Based on these specific commitments, I support your project. Obviously, your development is subject to more detailed review and comment by County staff, and review, modification, and approval by both the Planning and Zoning Commission as well as the Board of Supervisors,” Huckelberry said.

The letter from ANC to Huckelberry said, in part “the Developer will not be subject to any increases in the transportation impact fee or to any other transportation related fees or charges.”

pfranchine@sahuaritasun.com | 547-9738

The Pima County Board of Supervisors could hand the Town of Sahuarita a pre-Christmas present worth up to $50 million next Tuesday if the board votes down the Mission Peaks application for a county Comprehensive Plan Amendment.

A rejection would mean the developer could only seek a rezoning from the town council, which already has approved a General Plan Amendment for Mission Peaks. The plan is for 15,000 housing units on nearly 5,000 acres west of town straddling Mission Road and Twin Buttes Road.

On the other hand, the county board could allow the project to move forward under county jurisdiction as well, which would force the town to compete with the county over terms of any development.

The developer, American Nevada Co. of suburban Las Vegas, already has said it would like a development incentive or subsidy because town fees are an estimated $50 million higher than county fees.

The board of supervisors meeting starts at 9 a.m. at the board meeting room on the first floor of the county administration building, 110 W. Congress Street, Tucson. The board will be considering all Comprehensive Plan Amendment requests for 2008 at this meeting, which promises to be a lengthy one. The agenda and back-up material will be posted online at http://www.pima.gov/cob/e-agenda/index.htm.

Town officials say they are going to wind up paying for much of the congestion costs of the project – roads, police and parks – in any case, and might be better off annexing the area so they have zoning control and receive sales tax and other revenue.

 

24th November
2008
written by Mike

Grijalva is being vetted as our Nations next Secretary of Interior. He would be the third Sec. of Interior from Arizona, following in the footsteps of Bruce Babbitt and Morris Udall.  Both Babbitt and Udall made lasting impacts on the west as will Grijalva.

There is no question that George Bush took us in a decidedly anti environmental direction. Grijalva will change that.

The largest land owners in Arizona are governmental agencies. In Pima County only 14% of the county is in private hands. Attempts at State land reforms by the legislature or by the initiative process have fallen short. Pima County voters have approved $220+ million for open space purchases and another $250 million will be put in front of the voters in the near future. There is not doubt that the momentum is there to protect the desert and the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP) is a road map on how to do that.

Should Grijalva be selected the SDCP will get a huge leg up. The property owners of Pima County will benefit in the form of not having to continue the bonding process. If Grijalva can wave the Obama administrative wand and change federal land policy and potentially influence the State of Arizona’s policies we could see major tracts of land set aside at virtually no cost to Pima County tax payers. I know it’s a stretch but there are cause and effects around the decision. From the Tucson Citizen – HERE.

Environmental leaders were thrilled at the prospect of Grijalva assuming the secretariat. Mining, ranching and other land-use industry representatives expressed dismay.

“Talk about a 180 from where we are today,” said Richard Mayol, communications director at the Grand Canyon Trust. “That is certainly something that we would love to get behind, something we would cheer.”

He has long been regarded as an environmental advocate, leading efforts to regulate hard-rock mining and establish a National Landscape Conservation System. He recently told The Arizona Republic that Bush’s administration sold away public resources to private interests, performing “more like real-estate agents than stewards of (public) lands.”

17th November
2008
written by Arizona Kid

Here is a great editorial from Priscilla Storm on one of our major issues, land use planning. Priscilla has a daily inside look at our regions issues as the lead government liaison for Diamond Ventures. Diamond is one of the most influential people and companies in our county. Don Diamond started back in 1965 and gained big AZ holdings like the 12,000 acres purchased from Howard Hughes into the Rocking K (Vail area).

Diamond Ventures are masters at taking a long range look. DV deals in the land business as if it were a casual game of monopoly. They land bank to big and small builders, influence the political process locally and give a large amount back to the community via their foundation. Diamond even made some national news during the McCain for President race. From the NY Times

Mr. Diamond, for his part, said Mr. McCain had only done his job. “I think that is what Congress people are supposed to do for constituents,” he said. “When you have a big, significant businessman like myself, why wouldn’t you want to help move things along? What else would they do? They waste so much time with legislation.”

In building his empire, Mr. Diamond said he had struggled with local elected officials over land use and zoning issues just like any other developer. “They are a pain in the ‘you-know-what,’ ” he said.

But associates say he revels in his ability to “work the system,” as his friend and sometimes partner, Stanley Abrams, put it: “Nobody is as connected as Donald.”

Mr. Diamond is close to most of Arizona’s Congressional delegation and is candid about his expectations as a fund-raiser. “I want my money back, for Christ’s sake. Do you know how many cocktail parties I have to go to?”

And Priscilla’s story from the Nov. 16th Inside Arizona Business:

When I moved to Arizona several years ago, I learned about the “Five C’s” economic drivers of our state: copper, cattle, cotton, citrus and climate. I also realized just how important land use was to the economic future of our region. Now, public opinion on our Five C’s seems to have changed.

On Dec. 3, a diverse group of citizens, community experts and leaders will gather to discuss regional land use at the Tucson Regional Town Hall. With the economic outlook dim and all sectors suffering, now is the time to discuss what role land will play in our shared, bright future.

Below is an overview of our current land profile published by public sources. As you can see, only 14 percent of our county’s land is privately owned.

 

Pima County (total) 100% 9,186 sq. miles, 5.9 million acres

Native American land 42% 3,858 sq. miles, 2.5 million acres

Federal agency/national park lands 28% 2,572 sq. miles, 1.6 million acres

Arizona State Land Department 15% 1,378 sq. miles, 882,144 acres

Private lands 14% 1,286 sq. miles, 823,066 acres

Military bases 1% 92 sq. miles, 58,810 acres

While state land may be available for private development through public auction, in Southern Arizona that process has not been ideal. Of the 14 percent private lands, much is already developed or is undevelopable. In general, there is not an abundance of private land readily available for development, and it is often not in the most preferable location.

Local land-use policies also reduce private land available for future regional development. For example, development proposals are required to set aside 30 percent acreage within each project for compliance with the Native Plant Preservation Ordinance. In addition, the nationally-recognized Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan has regional guidelines for natural, undisturbed open space set-aside acreage ranging from 66.66 percent to 95 percent throughout the region.

Important riparian areas – 95% open space

Biological core – 80% open space

Special species management areas – 80% open space

Multiple use management areas – 66.66% open space

Additionally, in 2004 voters approved bonds for the acquisition of open space, further limiting private lands for future development. It is also important to consider that public infrastructure may require an additional 15 percent to 20 percent of the land.

Our community’s shared vision and values will impact future land use and the crafting of a regional land use plan. Some key items to consider:

• Historic and current versus future residential densities. Historically, even our most dense neighborhoods are low density by urban planning standards. Redevelopment of low-density areas and strong market acceptance for higher density are important considerations.

• “Growth” has not been perceived as a community benefit. Citizens often protest residential, apartment, commercial, office, retail or manufacturing land uses. Thus, crafting a regional land use plan that promotes quality growth AND preserves our important cultural and natural resources is important.

• Priority has been given to the “unbuilt” environment. As a community, we traditionally tackle one land use topic at a time. Now, it is important to consider and advance several key aspects of land use planning simultaneously; including the “built” environment.

• Our community is dependent upon public sector jobs. Attracting and retaining companies and higher wage jobs to our area and allocating land and resources for job creation is important to our region’s future viability.

• Equitable sharing of the costs for maintenance and expansion of roads, water and wastewater required for a healthy, progressive regional community.

• Regional common long-term goals and differing interests of member jurisdictions.The members of Pima Association of Governments vary in geography, control over land, resources and population. Balancing interests throughout the region for shared success is critical to crafting a regional community.

• Sustainability should be shared by both existing community members and future development. Federal, state and local regulation may provide new incentives and options to advance these concepts. In planning our shared future, market-driven solutions should be considered.

In preparing for the Dec. 3 Regional Town Hall, I propose “Five New C’s” for community-wide discussion on successful future regional land use planning:

• Candid discussions

• Changes in how we work together

• Collaboration and compromise

• Costs shared by current residents and future growth

• Community inclusively defined, a “regional community” deserves priority

We must work to build trust among stakeholders that have been historically distrustful. The traditional model of leadership, decision-making and public policy influence must be modified. A shared regional vision and land use plan will come with a large price tag and a long-term commitment from every current and future resident, business owner and organization.

Growth is not the “enemy” of this community. The balanced use of land and natural resources for jobs, community services and housing are essential to our shared quality of life.

To attend the Tucson Regional Town Hall on land use, call 1-800-321-5011 or email Shelia.hamilton@uli.org. Priscilla Storm is vice president of Public Policy and Community Planning for Diamond Ventures, a Tucson-based real estate development and investment company.

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