Dec. 22, 2004 - The developer of the Tortolita Vistas property and a group of Marana residents who opposed the project have come to an agreement that may avoid a voter referendum.

Bill Hallinan, the vice president of Cottonwood Properties, and Kim Poynton, the chair of Citizens for Responsible Growth in Marana, said the two groups reached a compromise about the scope of the development that should occur on the property near Moore and Thornydale roads.

Hallinan said the two groups came to a "meeting of the minds" on the matter.

Through their negotiations, Cottonwood Properties agreed to reduce the number of homes on the 230-acre property from 400 to 155, and the individual lot sizes on the property increased more than five times, from 6,000 to 32,000 square feet.

Poynton said the negotiations between Cottonwood Properties and the citizens group that initially opposed the development had gone smoothly, and overall she'd been impressed with the developer's willingness to work with the community.

She said the groups had reached a compromise that would allow for the protection of the Sonoran Desert without inhibiting growth in northern Marana.

Marana Town Attorney Frank Cassidy said the council would first have to repeal the ordinance passed in July that allowed for the 400-home development, and then pass a new ordinance approving the 155-home development. Cassidy said town staff would recommend that action take place at the Jan. 4 council meeting.

The Marana council approved the Tortolita Specific Project at a July 20 council meeting, and allowed the development of 400 homes on a piece of land previously zoned to allow for 70 homes. At the meeting, community members Doug McVie and Carol Phelan-Smith said they had concerns about the development's effect on the environment and the neighboring community. Despite their statements, the council approved the rezoning.

Those who opposed the council's action then brought their concerns to the Citizens for Responsible Growth in Marana, the group that challenged the council's rezoning of 100 acres south of Cortaro Farms Road, east of Hartman Lane and west of Star Grass Drive. In a Sept. 7 special election, Marana voters upheld that rezoning by passing Proposition 400, which allowed for the 200-home Willow Ridge development.

To challenge the Tortolita Vistas project, Citizens for Responsible Growth gathered the necessary signatures to force the council's decision to be subject to voter approval. The Pima County recorder verified the signatures Sept. 10.

Meetings between the developer and the citizens have been ongoing for the past few months, with both groups reluctant to openly discuss the negotiations until they had reached a compromise.

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