A Pima County valuation study regarding a proposed landfill in Marana has confirmed what nearby residents say they've known all along: A 40-foot-deep landfill—with refuse allowed to go up to 200 feet high—could drastically harm the value of their homes and community.
Pam Ruppelius, who lives in a subdivision near the proposed landfill site, says property values were discussed at the Feb. 24 Marana Planning Commission meeting, at which the commission voted to rezone the site as industrial, which could pave the way for landfill development. The private landfill project is being pursued by DKL Holdings, represented by Tucson attorney and lobbyist Michael Racy.
Ruppelius says Racy presented results from an appraisal done by Southwest Appraisal Associates, which made it seem like a landfill's effect would be negligible—but Racy has not released the study to the neighbors as they've requested.
However, the Pima County study, done by senior property appraiser Brian Johnson of the Pima County Assessor's Office, concludes that being close to a landfill greatly "depreciates residential property values."
The study, released on March 12, looked at sales in four subdivisions near the Tangerine Landfill and the Los Reales Landfill which were developed in the previous 10 years. The study states that although the economy needs to be taken into consideration, it doesn't help that, for example, Gladden Farms also shares a road with the Tangerine Landfill.
"The traffic mix of large waste haulers and commuter cars, as well as families traveling to and from shopping, as well as the close proximity to the landfill, has diminished the desirability of this location," the study states.
The Rancho Valencia subdivision, near the Los Reales Landfill, is in a similar position, which "makes (the) Rancho Valencia subdivision a less desirable location," according to the study.
The study states: "In the case of the proposed Marana Regional Landfill, the negative impact of economic obsolescence would be imposed after (the neighbors') properties were purchased. Since the local residents purchased their homes with the existing zoning ... they could be negatively impacted at a greater rate of depreciated value than the subdivision properties used in this study," the report states.
The study is only part of the information the county is gathering in preparation for the April 6 Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting. At a meeting in early March, the supervisors voted 3-2 to send a message to the Marana Town Council that plans for the landfill were moving too fast.
Neighbors and advocates have used another landfill development as an example of what should occur: the Durham Regional Landfill project in southern Pinal County.
During the early March supervisors' meeting, Republican Supervisor Ann Day voiced concerns about comparing the Pinal County project to the proposed Marana landfill. Day alluded that something unethical could be going on between Pima County and the Durham project.
She drew attention to Ron Asta, a former supervisor who now works with CPE Consulting. The company represents the Durham landfill and worked closely with Pinal County officials on rezoning and the landfill agreement with the county. Asta has also been a vocal critic of the Marana project, which would compete with the Durham landfill on collections from northwest Pima County.
It also troubled Day that after the supervisors voted to approve the resolution to the Marana Town Council, the next vote focused on renewing the contract for a countywide manhole count. The company doing the count: CPE Consulting.
"This firm has had that contract for a number of years," Bronson said in response to Day's comments. "What's incoherent are Supervisor Day's comments."
Asta told the Tucson Weekly that he was asked to get involved in the Marana project by John Kai, who wanted Asta to talk with neighbors who oppose the landfill. John Kai's brother Herb Kai, is a Marana Town Council member who owns part of a parcel where DKL wants to build its landfill. John Kai is against the project, while his councilman brother supports it, although Herb Kai told the Weekly he'll recuse himself from voting when the matter comes before the council.
Ruppelius says neighbors don't care about competing landfills; they just want to protect their neighborhood and water. Supervisors Bronson and Richard Elías seem to get it, she says.
Elías pointed out that the Marana landfill allows for a height of 200 feet of refuse, which is taller than the 11-floor county building where the supervisors meet.
"That would destroy our neighborhood," Ruppelius says.
Racy claims there is too much misinformation being spread around about the Marana landfill proposal—and he says much of that misinformation is coming from Asta.
Asta counters that if any misinformation is being spread, it's being released by Racy.
"This project is on a fast track," Asta says. "There has been no plan amendment process, and they haven't had to go through as many hoops as we did for the Durham landfill. ... I'm being singled out as a competitor with Marana, but I'm just pointing out what's true—that we had to do much more before the (Pinal) County even rezoned the property."
According to Pinal County Assistant County Manager Ken Buchanan, the process took 24 months before rezoning took place. The rezoning process for the Marana project took only several months.
Buchanan says that after the rezoning process, the county and CPE put together a development agreement.
"(CPE is) going through these (agreements) as we speak," such as acquiring a road for access and the construction of four transfer stations.
Asta says the process also included talking to nearby communities and working with the Picacho Peak State Park ranger's office and park advocates. Height was an issue, which is why the Pinal County landfill was approved at 90 feet, he says.
"I have never seen a project of this magnitude," Asta told the board of supervisors regarding the Marana proposal. "I know we did do it correctly (in Pinal County)."