Building Blocks

To the Editor,

Regarding Dan Huff's "Walkout On Walkup" (January 27): There is a blight in Tucson. We have businesses coming into established, heavily populated neighborhoods. They encourage heavy traffic at night. Yes, people will spend large sums of money at these businesses. Mainly money they can not afford to spend. They will have their desires and needs met.

On their way into the businesses, they will shine their lights into the homes of residents, waking sleeping children and pets. Their boom boxes will rattle the windows, regardless of the noise ordinance. (Who will take the "plate number"?) Trash that people wish to discard before they get home will be what the residents must pick up in the morning, instead of the paper, which someone else has "borrowed." Residents who had some privacy and anonymity will now become a curiosity to the drivers, who "want to see what this area is like." Some of these people will have just idle curiosity, some will be looking for ways to make money by theft so they can buy more. The police will be in more demand in this area to control the rise in crime and accidents as people hurry out of the business establishments to consume their purchases, and sometimes avoid notice. These items purchased in these businesses are consumable, so there is no fear that the people will not be back.

The heavier traffic causes decline in the buildings due to accidents, graffiti and extra pollution. The neighbors are always trying to just have some peace, and so call law enforcement to help and protect them from the businesses and their patrons. No, I am not describing the neighborhood drug house, or the local house of prostitution. But the problems are the same. I am describing what is coming to any neighborhood in Tucson if we do not have a Big Box Ordinance.

Big Box Ordinances are legal, by the U.S. Supreme Court rulings, in many other states. Any tract of land over 3 acres is a target for big box development. Getting a zoning variance is a very easy process for any developer, especially if the mayor and council is driven to look more "cosmopolitan." However, the problems associated with the local drug house are the same as the problems associated with big boxes.

I commend Jerry Anderson, Steve Leal and Jose Ibarra for their courage in standing up for control and reason in development in the Tucson area. They, and the former mayor and City Council members, have been slapped in the face by the current mayor and certain members of the City Council. The hard work and compromise agreement they reached is endangered. In that agreement, neither side got all they wanted, not gave up everything. If I were a business looking at going into the "new" El Con, I would make sure that several lawyers had input into my lease agreement, mainly for my protection.

If El Con can break and manipulate an agreement like this with the City of Tucson and get their way, guess what they can do to you, especially if you are not a big box, and they decide they don't like you.

-- Deborah M. Snavely

To the Editor,

Regarding Dan Huff's "Walkout On Walkup" (January 27): They say that when you come to a roadblock, you should look for a higher parallel path.

Let's look at our roadblocks. Three council members walked out. They walked out because neighborhoods don't want megastores as their neighbors. It's not just El Con residents. It's some 40 plus neighborhoods throughout Tucson who have banned together under the umbrella of T.U.C.S.O.N. (The Union of Citizens to Save Our Neighborhoods). The same movement is surfacing throughout our nation. In some places like Chattanooga, Tennessee, the community, the council and the mall owners have come up with lucrative alternatives that supply multi-use, beauty and quality of life. In fact, the Chattanooga plan almost doubled the mall's value and took occupancy from 25 percent to 90 percent within nine months.

The three council members in Tucson walked out because the proposal put in front of them was not whether or not the Megastores should be there at all, but rather the conditions under which two megastores, plus six possible fast food restaurants along Broadway Boulevard, overnight RV and truck parking would operate! The three council members didn't think that these would be suitable neighbors either. Such conditions on other sites have doubled crime in the area, created noise decibel readings which exceed city code by 25 percent and are virtually unenforceable, increased residential insurance rates, and made traffic for the entire area unbearable. Such factors keep the mayor and council's hotline (791-4700) busy.

The second roadblock is the zoning. Some people say that the mall is commercially zoned and therefore anything commercial can go there. The megastore is certainly commercial -- nothing is more commercial. But what do you say to the people who point out the zoning predates megastores?

Do we perhaps need a new zoning called "megastore zoning"?

What if our city fathers and city planners were to rise above the roadblocks and look for a higher vision? What if they were to take a helicopter view of Tucson and identify five, 10 or even 15 sites, strategically located throughout Tucson which are surrounded, not by neighborhoods, but by industry? These sites would also contain existing road infrastructure. Such a site does, in fact, exist, within a mile of the famed El Con controversy, along the same street, but with superior adjoining access roads. This strategic placement of megastores would protect the city budget -- and taxpayers -- from enormous road expenditure.

Let's reflect on the importance of megastore zoning. If we and the city fathers are willing to put a megastore in the middle of some of Tucson's most historic remaining residential areas, where will we put it next? "Oh, it won't affect the neighborhood," they say. Yet who would put a megastore next to the historic Arizona Inn -- just as ludicrous an idea!

The third roadblock: Even if the City Council and Planners were farsighted enough to create megastore zoning immediately and exclude El Con, what would we do for the owners of El Con who have worked long and hard to find tenants, finally ending up with a Home Depot lease? And what do we say to the city fathers who are counting on sales tax revenue from El Con to finance Rio Nuevo?

Some residents say the solution is not so difficult. Put out an all-points bulletin, they say, for developers and commercial tenants that would meet the quality of life and profit standards, as Chattanooga did. Who knows, perhaps a spectacular development could be created which would be even more profitable to the mall owners and the city, thus making Tucson a leader and role model in the country for urban development.

The solution would be win-win for residents, tourists, city fathers, mall owners and the future of Tucson. What kind of legacy do we, working with the city fathers, want to leave? Make no mistake about it, if El Con goes down the slippery path of expediency without a united effort to preserve and restore Tucson's beauty and quality of life, the rest of the city will follow.

One thing is for sure, if we don't try, we won't succeed.

-- Christine Harvey

Dietary Supplement

To the Editor,

Regarding James Bishop Jr.'s "Bones of Contention" (February 3): I find it difficult to understand why the reasons Turner is said to give for Anasazi cannibalism totally neglect the cultural materialist or cultural ecology hypothesis with regard to population pressure and a protein-deficient environment. It seems so obvious, especially for concentrated population centers in the desert Southwest. That is the case that Michael Harner made for Aztec cannibalism and the Valley of Mexico, at least as early as 1970 in his article "Population pressure and the Social Evolution of Agriculturalists" (Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, 26:67-86) and in subsequent publications. Cultural materialist Marvin Harris dealt with the topic in Cannibals & Kings, as well as other writings. Striking terror into the hearts of enemies and subjugated populations was merely a fringe benefit, which might have been achieved by means of horrific torture alone.

-- Terry Towne

Tree's Company

To the Editor,

I must take issue with the tone of Tim Vanderpool's "Cut Rate" (January 27), in which he portrayed the university as doing a "hack" job on the 17 historic olive trees we had to relocate. The implication was that the UA didn't care about the olive trees, or the Mall, or about anything other than frivolously bulldozing across campus.

Actually, the university considers those olive trees to be very important. After all, they were planted over 100 years ago by Dr. Forbes. Longtime university employee Chuck Raetzman cares very much about the olive trees. He's the one who called the attention of the contractors to the problems they were having moving the trees. Swinerton & Walberg, the contractor in charge, has a number of UA graduates on their team, as well as employees who send their sons and daughters to school here now. They all care about the trees, too. The contractors are following Raetzman's suggestions to irrigate the trees differently, remove the overburden (excess dirt) so the root balls can get better oxygen exchange, install tensionometers to make certain the right amount of water is getting to the root balls, and to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the olive trees flourish.

And as for the gratuitous comment that the UA is replacing lush lawn on the Mall with bricks and mortar: Hey, Tim -- let's meet on the larger, lush-again Mall in a year and a half for your Fourth of July picnic, and we'll prepare your crow any way you like it.

-- Chris Kraft

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