Zone Defense

To the Editor,

The Gates Pass Area Neighborhood Association believes that Chris Limberis' article on Emmett "McLaughlin's" (sic) zoning problems ("Zoning Out," January 12) would have been more informative and better balanced about these issues if he had talked to any of the other participants, whose names are part of the public record. As written, the actions by the supervisors on the several properties can seem to be a set of unfair actions against McLoughlin, perhaps because of his previous political ties.

And the article makes it sound as though McLoughlin had some entitlement to develop these properties as he wishes. He certainly was entitled to request the zoning change from "suburban ranch" to "major resort" that was necessary for construction of his planned resort of 160 (not 88) units, as he was entitled to facilitate approval of the conditional use permit necessary for his client to build a charter school. But the Board of Supervisors was entitled, even duty-bound, to consider neighborhood protests about the impact of such development on the Gates Pass corridor.

The article emphasizes McLoughlin's sense of injustice over his failure to conclude his deals in the manner he wished, but says nothing about the effects of such development on the lives and personal investments of the people living around these properties. He would not suffer the consequences of such development, since he does not live here, nor do the speculative owners of the other properties, some of whom are from out of state. Our opposition was nearly unanimous, with owners of over 150 properties within one mile of his sites signing petitions against such developments, because of lack of local children to attend the school, impacts from increased traffic and hazards at an important intersection, night lighting, noise, and effects on wildlife.

The downzoning of properties on the southwest corner of Gates Pass Road and Camino de Oeste is of course more controversial; in fact, it was a standard question for candidates for county and state offices this fall. Regardless of the legal arguments about the downzoning laws, some facts need to be stressed about these properties.

First, the business zoning occurred over 37 (not 27) years ago, though without expiration date. This is over 30 years longer than expiration dates now typically given to upzonings by the board, and that zoning should fairly be considered to have expired. If the business zoning had been allowed to stand, possible uses for this property could have been bank, market, drugstore, video rentals, shoe repair and a Quick-Mart--across the road from the east boundaries of Tucson Mountain Park! Such zonings without expiration dates are like the threatened development at Skyline and Campbell and doubtless other areas on the margins of Tucson, where one day residents will awaken to find that developers from Phoenix or California intend something very different from what exists on surrounding properties.

The article says the residents are against development, but we oppose only inappropriate development at high densities. If the McLoughlin or Holsclaw properties are developed at SR densities (one house per 3.3 acres) consistent with surrounding zoning, no one will object. McLoughln is still entitled to earn a commission for sale of the Holsclaw parcel, and on his adjacent 20 acres can develop five or six SR lots, which sell for an average of about $200,000 each about one-quarter mile to the north.

Our efforts have been not simply to protect the investments in our homes and quiet lifestyle, for this is not just a neighborhood issue. The residents have fought as much to protect the Gates Pass corridor from high-density residential and business development that would severely impact the beauty of the drive most of us take to the Desert Museum and Tucson Mountain Park. We wish for all Tucsonans that any struggles to oppose the horrible growth at the mouth of Sabino Canyon and the jumble of retail businesses outside Tucson Mountain Park on Kinney Road had been successful.

--Roger E. Carpenter

Optical Delusion

To the Editor,

Kudos to D.A. Barber for the article about the precarious Optics Valley in Tucson ("Banking on Optics Valley," January 4). As a locally employed scientist I am aware of the excellent resources afforded by the nationally ranked UA and the tremendous growth potential for Tucson.

Unfortunately, after 11 years living here, I too am becoming discouraged. My vision that Tucson will become a high-technology center has become clouded by a city government that is more concerned with real estate developers rather than attracting high-technology business to the area.

Often Tucson has been compared to Austin, Texas for its size, cost of living, and growth potential. I think the city leaders are deluding themselves if they think Tucson will experience the same kind of growth Austin has experienced in the near future. I have visited Austin on a number of occasions and am aware of the high concentration of small and large technology-based companies there, including 3M & Dell Computer.

Furthermore, I am tired of hearing complaints that Tucson is a low-wage, service-based economy city. I believe the local economy can only change when the city makes significant efforts to attract high-technology businesses to the area. One possible means could entail offering tax or financing incentives to small high-technology businesses. Only then can Tucson see an increase in standard of living through the creation of higher-paying jobs.

--John L. Lombardi

Land Grab Galore

To the Editor,

It is my opinion that what was stated in last week's Skinny and the story "Annexed Generation" (January 18) about the threat of the United States Justice Department stopping a possible expansion of the City Council as envisioned by the Southern Arizona Leadership Council is far-fetched.

First, there are a few Supreme Court decisions that may make the Justice Department, especially the Bush Justice Department, a little hesitant in making race or ethnicity an overriding issue in judging the boundaries of any representational area. For your reference, some of those Supreme Court rulings are Abrams v. Johnson (1997), Shaw v. Hunt (1996) and Bush (yes, that Bush) v. Vera (1996). These rulings address themselves to congressional districts; however, I feel that they give the general tone of the Supreme Court's view of race-based voting schemes. Meaning, the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution does not allow for racial gerrymandering.

Second, to the dismay of the Lani Guinier wannabes, our federal and state constitutions do not reserve to any particular race of people a seat or a number of seats in any elected governing body. That includes our most honorable City Council.

Lastly, in my view the Weekly really did not put forth any reason why the Justice Department would take action. Both the Skinny and the "Annexed Generation" story simply seem to make a statement without any strong supporting arguments as to the justifications that the Justice Department would use in stopping the possible City Council expansion plan.

To be blunt, both pieces came across to me as boilerplate knee-jerk responses from the left to a perceived threat to the political status quo. It is my gut impression that the political views of some of the Weekly's writers are filtered through race-tinted glasses; and just maybe the Weekly's writers are hoping that their stories will scare some people into inaction.

--Joseph Cates

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