300-Unit Development Gets Challenged

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In Marana, the end of 2007 welcomed new development--along with some heavy-duty criticism from local desert protection activists. 

Last week, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection issued a press release calling attention to a 300-unit development approved by Marana that would destroy some prime desert on the Hardy Wash. The project is called DeAnza, and contradicts the habitat-conservation planning the city of Marana is currently working on, according to Carolyn Campbell, executive director of the coalition.

Almost 500 signatures were given to the city in December from citizens challenging the Marana Council's vote to approve the rezone supporting the development.

"This development destroys 70 percent of the land in and around a very sensitive area, identified in the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan as an Important Riparian Area. The Town Council has a stated policy requiring rezonings in the Tortolita Fan to protect 70 percent of project sites as natural undisturbed open space, which is essentially reversed on this development," Campbell stated the in the release. "Marana should consistently implement conservation and smart growth tenets and require proper protection for natural areas."

Marana residents are also concerned about the development. Carolyn Nessinger, a resident of subdivision directly south of DeAnza, filed the referendum. Nessinger worries that "the increase in traffic created by all these new houses was not taken into consideration by Marana. Cortaro Road is a nightmare and this development, as currently planned, will only add to the problems."

Marana is developing a Habitat Conservation Plan, an example of which is the county's Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. "DeAnza is a perfect example of the disconnect between Marana's regional conservation goals, and current land use decisions being made by the Town," stated Campbell.

According the Campbell's release, the Coalition has been in talks with the developers of the DeAnza project since filing the referendum. Progress is being made on reconfiguration of the project that would better protect the riparian area and contribute to wildlife movement within the Tortolita Fan.

"It is unfortunate that collaboration is taking place after the rezoning process. The Town Council could have directed staff and the developer to address our issues, but failed to take a leadership role," Campbell stated.

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