Raising The Stakes

Marana's Cheap And Sleazy Tactics Force The Foes Of The RedHawk Development To Reach For Their Checkbooks.
By Jim Nintzel

HAVEN'T WE BEEN through all this crap before?

Last week, Marana officials showed just how much respect they have for the democratic process--exactly none at all--by tossing out the signatures gathered by the Concerned Citizens of Marana to force a public vote on the Town Council's recent decision to grant developer David Mehl one of the largest rezonings in Pima County's history.

"It was no surprise at all that they did it," says Lan Lester, who helped organize the referendum effort. "I didn't know how they were going to do it, but I thought they were going to do it."

The reason for tossing the signatures, according to Town Clerk Sandra Groseclose: The group had failed to attach to their petitions the RedHawk specific plan, a two-inch-thick document detailing Mehl's plan to transform what's now a 5,600-acre forest of ironwood and saguaro into a glorious Master-Planned Community--thousands upon thousands of tract homes, along with several resort hotels and four golf courses, where the links alone will swallow a staggering three-and-a-half-million gallons of water a day.

Of course, the same law that says the group must attach the specific plan to the petitions requires Groseclose to supply the referendum organizers with the specific plan, which she never did.

"It seems to me like a Catch-22," Lester says. "She's supposed to furnish all the necessary documents, then she throws it out because all the necessary documents aren't there."

Out there in Dogpatch, they find just about any way to screw their constituents and roll over for the Growth Lobby. Groseclose pulled a similar chickenshit trick two years ago, when the Town Council passed another rezoning which would have allowed New World Homes to blade 'n' grade another patch of ironwood forest. Back then, an outfit called Alliance Marana successfully gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the rezoning. After the stooges on the Town Council huddled with the developers and their lawyers, Groseclose rejected those signatures on the bullshit grounds that the type on the petitions was one-sixteenth of a inch too small.

When Alliance Marana took the town to court to force them to accept the signatures, the town spent $80,000 in taxpayer money to prevent their citizens from having a voice, only to lose in court. (The town was also liable for Alliance Marana's legal bills, driving the final cost to $120,000.) They also lost at the ballot box; voters rejected the rezoning and sent the developer packing.

That tale goes a long way toward explaining why the spineless weasels in Dogpatch have once again rejected a referendum. Despite all their talk about how much support their very fine project has, both the town fathers and Mehl know the voters in Marana will tell them to get lost, should they ever be allowed to vote on the matter.

By rejecting the signatures on yet another absurd technicality, the town has engaged in a cynical ploy to financially break the opposition. This week, the referendum's supporters have to decide if it's worth the financial risk to sue the town officials to accept the signatures, leaving members of the group on the hook for legal fees if the suit is unsuccessful.

"It costs money to do that," says Lester. "It's checkbook justice. I think we're right, but how much energy does one have to pursue being right? You have to take a risk. If we fail, am I going to cough up 20 grand?" TW

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