by Jim Nintzel
Ward 3 Councilwoman Karin Uhlich responds to Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik's recent letter to us regarding the city's new stance on mini-dorms:
Councilman Kozachik recently wrote to ask "what changed" in response to the City Zoning Administrator's finding that minidorm operators violate zoning laws by leasing group dwellings which are explicitly prohibited in R1 and R2 areas.
Despite eight years of good faith effort on the part of neighbors and elected officials (including my predecessors), nothing changed. Minidorm developers continued to tear down houses and construct minidorms without care for the neighbors they impacted. They disregarded legitimate concerns as countless hours were spent by neighborhoods and city staff to find mutually acceptable ways of reducing harm. Then they filed lawsuits against those attempts at compromise to let it be known they'd fight the community at any cost to amass their profits—good faith be damned.
So neighbors fought back. They organized across neighborhood boundaries, did their homework, raised thousands of dollars and filed a formal action with the City—organizing a movement to push back against harm. That movement has been fueled by the aggression and disregard that minidorm developers could have abated themselves long ago. But they didn't and so they're now facing the results of their own egregious practices.
Like it or not, it took a long time for Tucsonans to abandon their preferred path of dialogue and good faith. I for one am pleased that, when residents banded together and stood up to the bullying, they prevailed in their request that the City investigate specific violations and enforce regulations on the books. The fact that minidorm developers "got away with it" for years points to values long held in Tucson—we like to think people mean well and want to work through differences cooperatively. The fact that minidorm developers have finally been called on the carpet points to another truth—we're willing to fight to defend fairness and the fabric of the community we love.