The Marana Town Council July 20 voted 5 to 0 to approve an ordinance rezoning 230 acres of land south of Moore Road and west of Thornydale Road, despite opposition from some local residents.

The property is currently zoned Rural Density Residential, a designation intended to preserve environmentally sensitive land, which allows one home per two acres. The ordinance calls for the creation of the Tortolita Vistas Specific Plan, an amendment to Marana's general plan, redesignating 92 acres as Clustered Residential Area and leaving 138 acres as open space.

According to the plan, the developer, Cottonwood Properties, would build no more than 400 homes on the property with land use limited to 40 percent of the 230 acres.

Three residents at the meeting who live near the property opposed the rezoning.

"The local people do not want tract housing, and unfortunately that's exactly what this is," said Marana resident Carol Phelan-Smith.

Two other members of the public dissented with the council's decision and said allowing up to 400 homes in an area currently zoned for 92 is more than a minor amendment to Marana's general plan. They said the town should compile more information to determine a better use of the land.

Still, Vice Mayor Herb Kai and council members Jim Blake, Tim Escobedo, Ed Honea and Carol McGorray all voted in favor of the rezoning. Mayor Bobby Sutton and Councilwoman Patti Comerford were absent from the meeting.

According to the Tortolita Vistas Specific Plan, the new development could create as many as 400 additional students for the Marana Unified School District. Because no schools would be built within the property, the developer would contribute $1,200 per residence to alleviate the effects on MUSD.

The developer would also provide $1,400 per lot for park and trail systems outside the proposed development, in addition to the two parks that will be within the development.

Town Manager Mike Reuwsaat said the Tortolita Vistas Specific Plan coincides with the proposed Tortolita Preserve Expansion Plan, which would increase the area of Tortolita Preserve by more than sevenfold in exchange for greater development in areas outside the preserve.

With respect to the current rezoning, Interim Development Services Administrator Jaret Barr said the proposed 40 percent disturbance of the site is conditional on the approval of the Fish and Wildlife Service to make sure the development complies with the Endangered Species Act and will not threaten the Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl.

The plan requires that lot sizes be a minimum of 6,000 square feet with front yard setbacks staggered by a range of four feet. The maximum building height is set at 30 feet, with the possibility of two-story houses so long as they are not adjacent to one another and not located on corner lots.

At the July 20 meeting, the town council also approved an agreement giving MUSD more than $1 million instead of a second school site within the Gladden Farms development.

The original plan proposed two 10-acre school sites within the master planned community to handle the increased burden on the school district. Town Attorney Frank Cassidy said the district preferred the additional money in lieu of the second school site. The developer would provide $900 per lot in phases two, three and four of the development instead of building the second school.

In its consent agenda the town council approved an Intergovernmental Agreement between Marana and the Arizona Department of Transportation, which calls for the town to receive $1,260,900 for improvements on Tangerine Road from the Breakers Water Park, at 8555 W. Tangerine Road, to Thornydale Road.

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