Land wars begin again in Pima County - Tucson News Now

Land wars begin again in Pima County

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

It's been a long time since the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan has come between conservationists and developers.

But with the uptick and stabilizing of the housing industry, the battles are underway again.

This time on Thornydale Road near Cortaro Farms.

120 acres on four parcels.

The developer, Red Point Development, wants to change the comprehensive plan to accommodate a higher density on the 120 acres than is now allowed under the Conservation Plan.

"Our concept all along is not to come in with super high densities but to match the type and character with development on the residential side very consistent with what's already been established," Jim Portman of Red Point told the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

The county listened to the developer, conservationists and residents for three hours before telling them to talk over the holidays and come back with an agreement they can all live with in January.

The issue is, the higher densities in the area are the result of planning and platting which took place in the 1980's when conservation was not as big of an issue.

But since the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan which was written in the 1990's, a different set of rules are in place.

For those rules to be amended, a change must be approved in the Comprehensive Plan by the county supervisors.

And there's no assurance that will be done.

Of the four parcels, the county administrator issued an opinion which would allow the biggest parcel, 50 acres, to remain untouched but allow the other three to be developed.

That hasn't been with a lot of acceptance.

"The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan doesn't allow for exceptions like that," says Carolyn Campbell of the Sonoran Alliance.

She argues it will jeopardize the integrity of the plan.

"I don't think it sends a very good message," she says.

Residents don't either.

"We've been left out of the conversation," says Rod Benninghoff who lives in the area. "The shouldn't take all four parcels at once."

He believes in order to be true to the area, each parcel should be debated on its own.  

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