Friends of the Desert #13

Friends of the Desert
E-News Issue #13
May 24, 2002
*A project of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection*
Please visit our website for more information: http://www.sonorandesert.org

***If you enjoy this newsletter and would like to support our work,
please send contributions to the Coalition for Sonoran Desert
Protection, 300 E. University Blvd., Ste. 120, Tucson, AZ 85705.
Thank You!***

IN THIS ISSUE:
*Important Marana Planning and Zoning Meeting May 29
*New Development Proposed at Base of Tortolitas
*SDCP Steering Committee Update
*Tanque Verde Creek Public Meeting May 28
*Agua Caliente Restoration Project Meeting June 4
*Coalition Sponsoring Economic Forum September 21

***IMPORTANT MARANA PLANNING AND ZONING MEETING MAY 29***
The Marana Planning and Zoning Commission will be considering two
items at their Wednesday, May 29th meeting that impact important and
sensitive biological resources within the town’s limits. The meeting
begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Marana Town Hall, 13251 North Lon Adams,
Marana.

The parcels under consideration both fall within areas identified as
biologically significant by scientists working on the Sonoran Desert
Conservation Plan. While Marana is not currently participating in the
county’s efforts, Marana town officials have expressed interest in
using Pima County’s science as a guide for their own conservation
planning process, and should therefore pay close attention to proposed
activities that fall within the county’s Conservation Lands System.

The first item is an application to rezone approximately 61.2 acres
located about 1,000 feet south of Ina Road on the west side of
Silverbell Road, from Zone "R-144" (Single Family Residential, minimum
lot size 144,000 sq. ft.) to "R-16" (Single Family Residential,
minimum lot size 16,000 sq. ft.). This parcel has been identified as
part of the biological core of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan,
and also encompasses an identified "Important Riparian Area."

The second item is an application to amend the Dove Mountain Specific
Plan to add approximately 611 additional acres to the current
development. The property is located south of the Dove Mountain
Specific Plan on the north side of Tangerine Road between Dove
Mountain Boulevard and Camino de Oeste. The applicant is proposing
designating the site as Low-Density Residential (LDR), Open Space
(OS), and Mixed-Use Commercial(MUC). This parcel falls within a
multi-use/recovery management area of the Conservation Lands System
and is currently zoned for one house per 25 acres.

***NEW DEVELOPMENT PROPOSED AT BASE OF TORTOLITAS***
Saguaro Canyon Ranch is a proposed large-parcel subdivision on 1,025
acres adjacent to Tortolita Mountain Park. Planned are 180
single-family homes, 42 casitas which will be available for rent, a
recreation/community center; and a horse and cattle ranch with a bunk
house, riding arena, and pasture that will accommodate up to 60 horses
and 20 head of cattle.

At a neighborhood meeting held May 23 Stephen Phinny, the project’s
principal investor and developer, used surprisingly strong language to
describe how his development will "raise the bar" on eco-friendly
development practices around the county, the state, and possibly the
country. He sited several examples of his commitment to protecting
the resources in the area, including his intention to leave a total of
80% of the site undisturbed and the development of a natural resources
management and monitoring program.

Approximately 60 neighbors and other interested parties attended the
public meeting, and the vast majority of those who spoke expressed
serious concerns about the impacts this project will have on their
homes, neighborhoods, and the extremely sensitive landscape on which
the development is planned. Major concerns regarding this development
include:

=96The developer and biological consultant Jim Tress of Westland
Resources are currently unwilling to engage in any type of
consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service regarding
endangered species issues in the area;
=96There is currently no identified water source for the development;
=96The project calls for the construction of a tunnel through a portion
of the Tortolita Mountains to provide primary access for the
development;
=96The project relies on existing, currently unpaved neighborhood roads
until the proposed tunnel is complete;
=96The project will cause a permanent increase in traffic on the
existing neighborhood roads which will provide secondary access to the
development;
=96The location of several home sites have been planned on ridges and in
"saddles" within the mountainous portion of the development site; and
=96The probability of increased dust, smell and other impacts from the
proposed horse and cattle ranch.

Mr. Phinny and his associates plan to apply for the rezoning required
for portion of the site that falls within Marana town boundaries
(approx. 70 acres) in June or July of this year, and expect to present
their request to the Town Council in August or September. They’ve
planned a parallel timeline for their applications for a Specific Plan
and grading permits from Pima County for the remainder of the
development. We will keep you updated on future meetings relating to
this project.

***SDCP STEERING COMMITTEE UPDATE***
The Citizens Steering Committee made progress this spring! A vote was
taken to support the county’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan,
recommending that Pima County obtain a permit from US Fish and
Wildlife Service for a habitat conservation plan permit under the
Endangered Species Act. On March 6, the Steering Committee voted to,
"recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the scope of the Section
Ten Permit cover County projects, development service permits and
other willing entities within the County." What this means is that the
committee, consisting of developers, ranchers, environmentalists,
homebuilders, Realtors, and other interested citizens wants to have a
broad, regionally-based plan that covers private development and other
local jurisdictions, should they be persuaded to join the county
effort.

At the last 2 meetings of the Steering Committee, stakeholder groups
began presenting their visions of a Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.
Coalition members teamed up with the Nature Conservancy, Sonoran
Institute, and Steering Committee members from the Town of Tortolita
to present an outline for an environmental community "preferred
alternative," which was presented on April 6. (Visit the Coalition’s
website to view a copy of the presentation.) Other presentations for
subarea plans were given by the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance and
the Ironwood Conservation Alliance. More groups will be presenting in
the fall, and the environmental community will continue to work toward
the more specific details of a biologically-sound plan.

Other news: The economic impact analysis that was being conducted by
Morrison Institute fell through, although they did issue 2 preliminary
reports which can be found on their website at
www.morrisoninstitute.org. Because the analysis was not completed, a
request for proposals to do this work will be released by the county
this summer. This will delay the completion of the Plan.

The Board of Supervisors had originally imposed a July 1st, 2002
deadline for the Steering Committee to provide the Board a
recommendation on a "preferred alternative" for the Sonoran Desert
Conservation Plan. Because of the delay with an economic analysis of
the plan alternatives, the deadline has been moved to March 1st, 2003.

With the deadline for a recommendation delayed, Steering Committee
meetings for the summer months of June, July and August have been
CANCELED. It is hoped that the various interest groups will exchange
ideas over the summer in an effort to move closer toward a community
consensus when meetings resume in the fall.

The upcoming meeting schedule is listed below and updated information
will be posted on the Coalition’s website. All meetings are open to
the public.

2002 SCHEDULE
–Wednesday, September 4, 600 to 900 PM, Marriott U of A Park Hotel
(Speedway and Tyndall) in Tucson – Meeting
–Saturday, September 14, 830 to 1130 AM , Location TBA – Study
Session
–Saturday, October 5, 830 to 1130 AM, Location TBA – Meeting
–Wednesday, October 23, 600 to 900 PM, Location TBA – Study Session
–Wednesday, November 6, 600 to 900 PM, Location TBA – Meeting
–Saturday, November 16, 830 to 1130 AM, Location TBA – Study Session
–Saturday, December 7, 830 to 1130 AM , Location TBA – Meeting

2003 SCHEDULE
–Wednesday, January 8, 600 to 900 PM, Location TBA – Meeting
–Wednesday, January 22, 600 to 900 PM, Location TBA – Study Session
or Meeting
–Saturday, February 1, 830 to 1130 AM, Location TBA – Meeting
–Saturday, February 15, 830 to 1130 AM, Location TBA – Meeting
–MARCH 1, 2003 STEERING COMMITTEE PREFERRED ALTERNATIVES
RECOMMENDATION FORWARDED TO THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.

***TANQUE VERDE CREEK PUBLIC MEETING MAY 28***
A public meeting will be held May 28, 2002 at 600 p.m. in
Dusenberry/River Library at 5605 E River Road in Tucson to give all
interested parties an opportunity to provide views and comments on the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Pima County Department of
Transportation and Flood Control District’s Limited Reevaluation
Report (LRR) for stabilizing the unprotected banks of Tanque Verde
Creek between Craycroft Road and Sabino Canyon Road.

At the public meeting, the results of the draft LRR and the
Recommended Plan will be presented. The Recommended Plan consists of
stabilizing the unprotected banks of Tanque Verde Creek between
Craycroft Road and Sabino Canyon Road with soil cement, and acquiring
a 48-acre mesquite bosque area along the north bank of Tanque Verde
Creek as a preserve to mitigate impacts to biological resources.

The Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for this project will also be
presented. The draft LRR, EA, and Technical Appendices are available
for public review at the Pima County Department of Transportation and
Flood Control District 201 N, Stone 4th Floor Tucson Arizona during
normal business hours of 800 a.m. to 500 p.m. Monday through Friday,
and at the Dusehberry/River Public Library at 5505 E. River Road
during hours of operation.

The review period for the draft LRR and draft EA is 30 days. Comments
on this document received prior to the close of the review period,
including those expressed at the public meeting, will be incorporated
into the Final LPR and EA. Please address written comments to:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Planning Division
P.O. Box 532711
Los Angeles, California 90053-2325
ATTN: Tanque Verde LRR

If you have any questions regarding the draft LRR and draft EA, please
contact Mr. Ed Demesa, Chief, Planning Section A at (213) 452-3792 or
Ms. Lois Goodman, Environmental Coordinator, Regional Planning
Section, at (213) 452-3869.

***AGUA CALIENTE RESTORATION PROJECT MEETING JUNE 4***
Please join us for a meeting on the Agua Caliente Restoration Project
June 4 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Himmel Library, 1035 N.
Treat Ave., Tucson. The guest speaker will be Julia Fonseca from the
Pima County Flood Control District, who will provide details about the
project and answer questions. Other county staff and consultants will
be on hand to answer questions as well.

As you may know, Pima County is in the process of exploring
alternatives for aquatic ecosystem restoration of the Roy P.
Drachman-Agua Caliente Park. The Army Corps of Engineers is funding
the initial study, and the consulting firm, RECON, is developing a
"Detailed Project Report" to be released in June. There are 6
alternatives, including a "No Action" alternative, being investigated,
and there have been several public meetings to provide information and
solicit public comments regarding these alternatives.

This project is a major undertaking and will have great influence over
how future restoration projects are conducted. As knowledgeable and
concerned community members, we need to inform ourselves of this issue
and help influence decision-makers to make sound decisions based on
the long-term impact to species and habitat restoration in Pima
County.

For more information on the project, go to
www.dot.co.pima.az.us/flood/AguaC/

***COALITION SPONSORING ECONOMIC FORUM SEPTEMBER 21***
Mark your calendars! The Coalition will be sponsoring a public forum
on the economics of conservation Saturday, September 21 =96 time and
place to be announced. Please check our website and future issues of
our Friends newsletter for more information. We hope to see you
there!

If you know of anyone who would be interested in receiving this
newsletter, or if you would like to be removed from this list, please
reply to csdp@azstarnet.com.

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