The Skinny

SLOW LEARNERS: Way back in July 1995, The Skinny perspicaciously predicted the Board of Supervisors' decision to rezone legendary land speculator Don Diamond's property at the intersection of River and La Cholla roads would proved disastrous for the Amphitheater School District.

We noted the rezoning of property to build 160 single-family homes and 955 apartments, which was passed 3-to-2 by the GOP majority of Paul Marsh, Mike Boyd and Ed Moore, didn't draw a peep of protest from the Amphi staffers who attended the board meeting.

Now, however, it seems even the dimwitted Amphi staff is beginning to get the picture. A recent briefing memo for an Amphi Board study session discussed the effect of the rezoning on Lulu Walker and La Cima elementary schools:

"Neither school has the capacity to handle the number of projected students.... Modular buildings could also be placed on the La Cima site to house elementary students. The possibility of double sessions or multi-track, year-round scheduling at Walker might need to be considered if this development produces large numbers of elementary students."

Well, surprise, surprise.

Still, at least one Amphi staffer apparently didn't get the memo. Associate Superintendent Katie Frey--best known for her close work with Amphi Board member Vicki Cox-Golder and real estate broker Bill Arnold, who chaired Cox-Golder's losing campaign for the county Board of Supervisors--recently sent out three letters regarding upcoming rezonings before the county's Planning and Zoning Commission in which she said there was room for more students at both schools.

Sure, Katie--and if more students show up, we can run a night school in trailers--er, "modular buildings."

BUT, WAIT, THERE'S MORE! Amphi Board member Vicki Cox-Golder, who gave up her Amphi seat to run for the county Board of Supervisors (and who was crushed by Democrat Sharon Bronson in the November general election), has one Amphi meeting left. And it seems there's some business to take care of.

As The Weekly has reported extensively in the past, her campaign chairman, Bill Arnold, has been the Amphi School District's real estate agent ever since he won the job after placing the lone bid for services back in 1993 (For details, see "The Wrong People," Tucson Weekly, September 5, or "The Wrong People, Part II," October 10, or "The Real Dirt," October 24). And Bill has found another great deal for the district: a 36-acre site on Moore and La Canada roads for just $665,000, or about $18,500 an acre (which is a lot lower than the couple of deals Arnold brokered for the district).

The only problem: The site is located next to La Cholla Air Park. Normally, the FAA doesn't let you build schools next to airports, because planes sometimes explode and crash; most of us think it's best that not happen in a schoolyard.

As luck would have it, however, La Cholla Air Park is a privately owned airstrip, so it's not governed by FAA regulations--so it's technically OK for the Amphi Board to put a school there.

But the staff is sensitive about the matter; as the briefing memo reads, "While the purchase price is favorable, political factors must be considered."

And considered quickly, since the property is in escrow. Unless the board votes to back out of the deal by December 16, Amphi will be obligated to go through with the purchase.

Not to worry--staffers were putting together focus groups this week to gauge the opinion of parents about placing their kids next to a potentially dangerous airstrip. (What the matter, Bill? Couldn't find a hazwaste site to build on?)

If you're an Amphi resident who'd like to express an opinion before the December 10 meeting, the administration's phone number is 292-4200.

AND THAT'S NOT ALL: Just a few months ago, in July, that ace real estate broker Bill Arnold found another great deal for Amphi. He set up a deal for the district to buy a big old building on about eight acres on Desert Sky Road for $1 million.

An appraisal had pegged the property's value at $910,000, but an Amphi official told The Weekly the district had been willing to pay more to avoid having to go through condemnation proceedings.

Whoa--condemnation proceedings? We imagined the district must have really needed the building. And what did Amphi need it for?

Well, the district planned to use the property as a bus barn, but--get a load of this--it turns out Amphi would have to do about $777,550 in renovations before "it can be usable for district needs," according to Amphi documents.

But don't worry, Amphi taxpayers--Arnold has found a buyer for the property. The memo doesn't specify how much the buyer is willing to pay, but we're sure it's a great deal.

The burning question: Arnold's employer, Genesis Real Estate and Development, was paid $30,000 for his work brokering the land purchase last summer. Does he earn another commission for unloading the worthless piece of crap now?

RETURN OF ROCKING K: On a quiet Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the Pima County Planning and Zoning Commission passed an amended plan for legendary land speculator Don Diamond's massive Rocking K development on the far eastside.

What are the amendments all about? Well, that's hard to say, since they're contained in a thick, 200-page notebook filled with maps, tables and small print. On the surface, there's a request to change the boundaries of the project (which is necessary, since the Don sold off a big chunk--at top dollar, of course--to the feds to enlarge Saguaro National Park) and to change the number of golf courses. The plan's proponents say they're lowering the number of courses, from four to three, while critics gripe they're increasing the number courses, from two to three. Either way, the courses will be irrigated with ground water until the development gets its wastewater plant going. Then the community is expected to create enough wastewater to water two holes on one of the courses--wow!

Although most development plans have at least a 30-day review period before they go from the P&Z Commission to the board, the amended Rocking K plan is on the fast track for passage--the supervisors will get the revised package at their next board meeting, on Tuesday, December 10.

What's the hurry? Well, Diamond and his chief lieutenant, Chris Monson, know they can count on the votes of Republicans Mike Boyd and Paul Marsh, and they expect resistance from Democrats Raul Grijalva and Dan Eckstrom.

That leaves the ball in the court of Special Ed Moore. Moore has acted with responsibility since Sharon Bronson clobbered him in November. Lately, he's been saying the supes should put off all the big decisions until Bronson and new GOP Supe John Even are sworn in.

Even, who is replacing Marsh, is a Diamond ally and business partner, while Bronson isn't--she was an early leader in the petition drive against Rocking K. If they wait, Diamond has a rough road ahead.

So will Big Ed vote to postpone the approval of the amended plan, or will he roll over for the guy who paid for his 1992 victory and chipped in for his 1996 race? Will he be remembered as a statesman in his final days, or just another bought-and-paid-for hunk of political meat?

Guess we'll find out on Tuesday, December 10. TW

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