2 ACTION ITEM – Protect Water Resources/15,000 unit developmetn not following Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan

Important Pima County Comprehensive Plan Amendments
Better Protection for Water Resources / Riparian Areas
As part of Pima County’s Comprehensive Plan Amendment process, the Water Resources Element of the Regional Plan Policies is being amended. The overall goal of the amendment is to address water resource issues earlier in the land-use decision making process. The Coalition provided comments on a draft of this amendment in September as part of the public review process. The two most significant comments we provided were in relation to (1) more thoroughly addressing local groundwater depletions and (2) the need for more specific policies and guidelines:

  • The draft did not adequately address local groundwater depletions. Currently, under state law, water can be drawn from one part of a water basin as long as it is recharged elsewhere in the basin. This reflects an emphasis on a regional water balance. However, when this happens, localized groundwater depletion occurs, often negatively impacting groundwater-dependent riparian areas in proximity to the point of water withdrawal. The Coalition requested that property owners be required to mitigate their impacts on local groundwater in the area that will be affected in order to better protect nearby riparian areas.
  • The draft amendment did not provide adequately detailed policies for land-use decisions. For example, a previous draft included the following provision:

Plan amendments that would increase the development potential in areas that are less than five miles from a shallow groundwater area or groundwater dependent spring or stream shall not be approved if the development is likely to have negative impacts on the flow or stability of these ecological areas.
Unfortunately, this policy, along with others, was removed from the most recent draft and replaced with more general policies. The Coalition requested that specific policies be included.
In general, the Coalition supports the revision of the Water Resources Element within the Comprehensive Plan. Accounting for water resource impacts early in the land-use decision-making process will assist in protecting Pima County’s riparian areas and many endangered species. The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan states that, “Riparian resources and aquatic systems are the most vulnerable and least protected habitats in Pima County.” (emphasis added) By revising this section of the Comprehensive Plan, Pima County will make great strides towards protecting these vulnerable habitats and resources.
What You Can Do! Contact the Planning and Zoning Commissioners and the Pima County Supervisors to let them know that you support the following points and want them included in the Water Resources Element of the Regional Plan Policies:
1.                  Recharge activities must occur in the area being affected.
2.                  The inclusion of detailed policies that will ensure the protection of Water/Riparian Resources.
The text of the Draft Amendment can be found at http://www.rfcd.pima.gov/Recharge/index.htm under “Draft Policies,” along with additional background information. Coalition comments can be found at http://www.sonorandesert.org.

PUBLIC COMMENTS ON THE WATER RESOURCES AND MISSION PEAKS AMENDMENTS:

Attend one or both of the below meetings:
9 AM – Wednesday, October 31, 2007, Planning and Zoning Commission, Public Works Building, Basement Meeting Room C & D , 201 N Stone Ave, Tucson, AZ
9 AM – Tuesday, December 11, 2007, Board of Supervisors, Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, Pima County Administration Building, 130 W. Congress,1st floor, Tucson, AZ
Send written comments to:

Due October 29th – P&Z Commission, C/O Ben Changkakoti, Pima County Development Services/Planning Division, Public Works Building, 201 N. Stone Ave., 2nd Floor, Tucson, AZ 85701. Send your email to: manbendra.changkakoti@dsd.pima.gov  Due December 10th – Board of Supervisors, Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, Pima County Administration Building, 130 W. Congress, 1st floor, Tucson, AZ 85701

 

 

 

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             Mission Peaks Proposal for up to 15,000 Housing Units
A Las Vegas firm, American Nevada Company, has submitted a development proposal to build up to 15,000 residential and commercial units on more than 4000 acres of biologically sensitive land near the Green Valley/Sahuarita area in unincorporated Pima County. The development proposal will be considered as a Comprehensive Plan Amendment by the County’s Planning and Zoning Commission on October 31. The proposed development, known as Mission Peaks, is located south of Helmet Peak Road on the west side of I-19.  The current zoning allows for 1 house per 4 acres, or about 1,200 houses. An adjacent Plan Amendment for 632 acres has been concurrently submitted for high density commercial by the Arizona State Land Department.  Both sites lie within the County-designated Conservation Lands System.
 
Conservation Lands System

The Conservation Lands System (CLS) is a key element of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP). The CLS was developed by the Science and Technical Advisory Team (made up of prominent University and agency biologists from Southern Arizona) and adopted by the Pima County Board of Supervisors in 2001. CLS designations and associated development mitigation guidelines are part of the County’s comprehensive land use plan. Pima County lands were assigned CLS designations based on the biological value of the habitat and their contribution to landscape connectivity. The Mission Peaks development proposal seeks to designate only about 1000 acres, or roughly 25% of the site, as natural undisturbed open space, even though CLS guidelines require that over 3,500 acres of the residential and commercial projects need to be preserved on the site

 

Off-site Mitigation Option
County guidelines, which the Coalition supports, allows for other suitable lands, off-site, to be purchased and protected, in order to off-set the impacts on the site and better facilitate a comprehensive and connected preserve system of protected lands in the County.  In a letter from the County Administrator to the developer dated January 4, 2007, he states that preserving only 1,054 acres on-site is allowable if the developer provides mitigation money to purchase, “potentially a minimum of 2,500 acres of private lands now subject to development, primarily in the northern Altar Valley.” However, a minimum of 9,500 acres of land would need to be purchased to comply with the CLS, depending on the type of habitat that is impacted. Considering that the price of land in the Altar Valley area is at a minimum $6,000 per acre, the land mitigation required to off-set development impacts would require a minimum of $57 million; the developer has offered merely $13 million. The developer is also asking for exemption from the County’s Watercourse and Riparian Habitat Protection and Mitigation Requirements.
WHAT YOU CAN DO!
We need your help to let the Planning and Zoning Commissioners and Pima County Supervisors know that you support the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and want CLS guidelines followed for the Mission Peaks development proposal. See box below for public input / meeting information.
Talking Points:

  • The development should comply with the Conservation Lands System guidelines adopted by the County.
  • Compliance would require: ~3,500 acres should be preserved on site OR if only 1,054 acres will be preserved on-site the developer should transfer at least $57 million to the County to acquire conservation land.
  • The development should comply with the County Watercourse and Riparian Habitat Protection and Mitigation Requirements.  
PUBLIC COMMENTS ON THE WATER RESOURCES AND MISSION PEAKS AMENDMENTS:
Attend one or both of the below meetings:
9 AM – Wednesday, October 31, 2007, Planning and Zoning Commission, Public Works Building, Basement Meeting Room C & D , 201 N Stone Ave, Tucson, AZ
9 AM – Tuesday, December 11, 2007, Board of Supervisors, Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, Pima County Administration Building, 130 W. Congress,1st floor, Tucson, AZ
Send written comments to:
Due October 29th – P&Z Commission, C/O Ben Changkakoti, Pima County Development Services/Planning Division, Public Works Building, 201 N. Stone Ave., 2nd Floor, Tucson, AZ 85701. Send your email to: manbendra.changkakoti@dsd.pima.gov  Due December 10th – Board of Supervisors, Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, Pima County Administration Building, 130 W. Congress, 1st floor, Tucson, AZ 85701

 

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