The Growth Oath

The Pols Vying For Supervisor's District 4 Must Face Our Community's Biggest Issue.

By Chris Limberis

ASSUME NOTHING when it come to growth and development in the Republican three-way race for the Board of Supervisors in Pima County's District 4.

The real-estate agent appointed to the seat, Ray Carroll, came in wearing green--and not because he's Irish. On his first day in office, he swore his opposition to the looming Canoa Ranch development to appease Democratic Supervisor Raul Grijalva, and also preached about the crap that unbridled development has brought.

Combined with a promise to leave the county healthcare system as Grijalva wanted it, Carroll's Canoa stance pulled in the necessary support for him to replace John Even, a Republican who died four months into his term as the District 4 supervisor.

Currents Now Carroll has sucked up the biggest pile of developer and construction cash to help him defend--against Even's widow, Brenda, and Ken Marcus--the seat handed to him in June 1997.

Even, a lame-duck Tucson Unified School District Board member, has not been the growth magnet conventional wisdom held earlier in the race. Her ambivalence and equivocation may have slowed the flow of cash. She has yet to say whether she supports Canoa, a defining issue greater in size than the Rocking K Ranch development, which helped shape a couple sets of full Board of Supervisors election campaigns, as well as a mayoral campaign seven years ago.

Marcus, the thoughtful accountant, is of mixed political persuasion: A green Republican himself, Marcus is a property rights proponent as well as a development critic. His opposition to Canoa is muted.

But there's more to District 4 growth wars than Canoa. Indeed, the fixes to the county's Buffer Overlay Zone Ordinance (BOZO) and the Hillside Development Zone, which the Board of Supervisors will consider August 11, have provided another area of distance among Carroll, Even and Marcus. But it's the ranch that big parts of District 4 are watching.

Canoa Ranch

THE CANOA RANCH, part of a Spanish land grant, lies just south of Green Valley, the voter-rich retirement community. Fairfield Homes, which developed Green Valley, is preparing to seek the supervisors' approval to build 6,111 homes on 5,238 acres there.

But the anticipated election showdown over Canoa won't happen. The proposed plan is still under review by county planning officials. Canoa's lead planning consultant, Frank Thomson, is responding to county questions on his third submittal.

County planner Frank Behlau says Canoa has yet to be put on a schedule for the Planning & Zoning Commission, the 10-member advisory panel that includes Grijalva's sister, Lydia.

Built over 25 to 30 years, Canoa would put about 13,500 more people in the Santa Cruz River Valley. The plan also includes nearly 2,000 acres of open space, most of which is along the river and washes that lace the property.

Grijalva, who says his family lived on the ranch while his father worked as a ranchhand there, wants nothing built on Canoa. He's opposed the Canoa process since it started several years ago when developers went through the first step, winning an amendment to the county's porous Comprehensive Land Use Plan. To those who asked about his intense interest in a matter well outside his central Tucson and westside District 5, Grijalva proclaimed: "The county is my district."

Grijalva failed last year to block Fairfield's rezoning of a 298-acre portion of the Canoa property. Weak from his fight with cancer, John Even endured Grijalva's poorly run and overly long meeting and provided the third vote, with Republican Mike Boyd and Democrat Dan Eckstrom, to approve Fairfield's first Canoa rezoning--500 homes on 298 acres.

A big part of Canoa lies in District 4, while another portion is within c-shaped and mostly rural District 3, represented by Democrat Sharon Bronson. While there is mixed reaction to Canoa in Green Valley, a small but vocal bunch in District 3 oppose it.

Carroll made Grijalva and the environmentalists smile when he spoke against Canoa last year. He says he hasn't changed, but he offers a peculiar position:

"I don't support it," Carroll says. "Not in its present condition. That's not a solid no and never yes.''

Instead of a new Fairfield community, Carroll wants to preserve the ranch under a Smithsonian Institution concept. He wants to supplement county bonds for the ranch purchase with private and federal money. Fairfield officials have been slightly bemused by Carroll's push.

Even, meanwhile, has derided Carroll for what she considers empty plays to the media. She also has questioned the legality of his preservation proposal, though she has not provided specifics.

Marcus says Carroll displayed "a loose-cannon approach to the Smithsonian proposal. He didn't talk to his colleagues. He didn't talk to the property owners, and he didn't talk to the City Council when the city also wants to do some Smithsonian project. Plus, we don't have the money for it."

Even, whose campaign is dominated by promises to "study" nearly every issue, has not veered on Canoa. She's pledged to weigh proposals from Fairfield, opponents and Green Valley residents before making any decision.

Marcus, who blends his Republican environmentalism with property-rights defense and fiscal caution, does not favor the Canoa development. As it has for Even and Carroll, Canoa has presented a consternating issue for the Marcus camp.

"I'm concerned about commercial and residential development near the river. I've seen that river full, and that will be a real problem," says Marcus, who grew up in Santa Cruz County. "There is also concern over the number of septic systems they may use on the eastside."

Development Ordinance Revision

CARROLL AND HIS fellow supervisors will provide political theater on Tuesday, appropriately enough at downtown's Leo Rich Theater, where they'll hear howls of outrage about the zoning revisions the Planning & Zoning Commission recently punted their way. The buffer ordinance, adopted by supervisors on a hot June night in 1988, after memorable and crafty amendments by then-Democrat Ed Moore, increases building restrictions and setback requirements for the owners of land within one mile of federal, state and county parks and other preserves.

Under the proposed revisions recommended after two contentious Planning & Zoning meetings, setbacks will be 150 feet, and expanded to 300 feet if the property is rezoned. Property owners must agree to leave 30 percent of the land as open space, increasing to 50 percent if the parcel is rezoned.

The older hillside development restrictions will forbid construction within 300 feet of a protected peak if the property is being rezoned, and 150 feet under current zoning.

Changes, recommended by a narrow planning commission majority, will be delayed one year and would include tax abatement, though that has not been settled by lawyers.

The proposed revisions have kicked up a whole lot of dust. Veteran property rights advocate Don Golos, a player in the successful recall of City Council members in 1976, wants to recall Grijalva--a virtual impossibility--and Bronson, who's in a waffle iron because she's also angered environmentalists.

So Carroll and his political opponents had better pay attention. Though it doesn't like blade-and-scrape developments, the overwhelmingly Republican District 4 is conservative and values property rights.

Carroll says the revisions are "watered down" sufficiently to be acceptable, or at least flexible.

"This board has shown the willingness to discuss growth like none of our predecessors," Carroll says in a bit of an overstatement.

Opposition, Carroll says, arose out of "the fears that have been brought about by half-truths generated by wildcat subdivider types.''

Marcus and Even both denounced the revisions as hasty, though they both say development regulations must be reviewed and enforced.

"These were done in response to the state downzoning law, effective August 21," Marcus says. "And whenever you do something hastily to beat some deadline, there will be problems. This has created divisiveness.''

All three candidates say property owners must be afforded an appeals process and also be compensated if their land is taken.

Voters in Pima County Supervisor's district 4 will decide among Carroll, Even and Marcus on September 8. Voter registration closes August 10. TW

 Page Back  Last Issue  Current Week  Next Week  Page Forward

Home | Currents | City Week | Music | Review | Books | Cinema | Back Page | Archives

Weekly Wire    © 1995-97 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth