Oftentimes, if someone wants to build something new, they will need to go through the rezoning process. This requires meetings with residents in the area, the oversight of our Planning and Development Services Department and a vote of Mayor and Council. Most rezonings that come before the council are non-controversial. However, there can be concerns about impact on the area such as traffic, noise and protection of our environment expressed by people in the area.
In those cases, my staff and I will meet with neighbors and the developer to see what issues can get resolved before it goes in front of the Zoning Examiner, the person who writes the report on the rezoning request and sends it to Mayor and Council. Does this mean every point of contention is resolved at the conference table in my office? No, but it is necessary that we sit down and try to hammer out as much as we can.
My word and reputation are on the line as much as the developer’s. I’m promising the neighbors that when their concerns are aired and they result in a guarantee from the developer, my office will ensure they follow through.
That’s why my office is so concerned about the Brake Max that just opened on Tanque Verde near the Madera Village shopping center.
This did not have the makings of a controversial rezoning when my office was first informed of it at the beginning of last year. It’s a site that’s barely an acre surrounded by a busy stretch of Tanque Verde, a shopping center, self-storage franchise and an apartment complex.
The previous zoning, C-1, for low intensity commercial businesses, would not have allowed any sort of auto repair shop, so the owners of Brake Max needed a rezoning to C-2, which allows for higher intensity uses.
Initially, I had seen building a Brake Max as a benefit. An auto repair place will typically generate 80 trips a day. Other proposals for the parcel over the years were for a fast-food place, allowed under C-1 with no rezoning process necessary, which would have generated 200 trips a day.
I understood and many of the concerns residents had and they were brought to the Zoning Examiner. His decision included items such as the hours the sign out front would be lit, how the existing landscaping would be preserved and many other issues affecting the lifestyle of the residents in the area, which is considered one of the city’s scenic corridors. That decision was brought in front of Mayor and Council and my colleagues and I approved the request, with the conditions asked for by area residents, late last year.
Over the last few weeks, my office has received numerous complaints, particularly about the signage and the destruction of old mesquite trees on the property. Some of these complaints came from people that did not oppose the Brake Max initially but were confident that promises would be kept.
When this process started, Brake Max was a locally owned company that had a local reputation to protect. Unfortunately, they’ve since been sold to a company out of Florida. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they now are not interested in promises made to Tucson neighbors or to me and my colleagues.
My office has been talking to Planning and Development services as well as the City Manager, and they are cataloging the issues at the site and evaluating options. Keep in mind, these promises were not just handshakes, but were part of the zoning ordinance we passed and have the force of law.
Moving forward, this company will be looking to expand in our community in the future. No one is entitled to getting a rezoning; I will remember their broken promises.
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