After months of talking by others, the Marana Town Council voted 5-1 on Nov. 3 to approve a zoning change and related development agreement that would allow construction of a 430-acre commercial landfill on land in west Marana.

The council, after a final public hearing with dozens of speakers both for and against the landfill, talked about the 10-month deliberation before casting votes. A standing-room-only crowd near 200, some with signs in opposition, others in green shirts with white lettering that read “Vote Yes for the Marana Regional Landfill,” packed the council chambers.

Councilwoman Patti Comerford made the motion to adopt the zone change and development agreement, seconded by Councilman Russell Clanagan. Comerford and Clanagan were joined by Jon Post, Roxanne Ziegler and Mayor Ed Honea in the affirmative; Councilwoman Carol McGorray voted against it. Vice Mayor Herb Kai, who now owns the ground upon which the landfill would be constructed, recused himself from the decision and did not sit on the dais Tuesday. He was in the back of the room following adjournment.

Adjacent property owner Pak Chan had protested the zone change, thereby requiring a supermajority of the council to vote for the rezoning. Had two council members voted against, it would have been defeated.

The Marana Regional Landfill Specific Plan zones the 590-acre parcel — generally located one mile north of Avra Valley Road, one mile east of Trico Road and one-half mile south of Silverbell Road — for use as a landfill, with associated recycling and other related activities. The landfill itself would occupy 430 acres. The development agreement among applicant DKL Holdings, the property owners and the Town of Marana set certain terms and conditions for its operation, including a tipping fee paid to town government and improvements to Avra Valley Road.

Now, landfill developer Larry Henk must proceed toward state and federal regulatory agency review and approvals. After Tuesday’s vote, Henk said it may be several months before he is ready to proceed with applications.

The decision triggers a 30-day period in which opponents can collect signatures and refer the ordinance to the May general election ballot. To do so, 303 valid signatures from town residents must be submitted with a referendum application to town government by Dec. 3.

Dan Rogers, one of dozens of speakers Wednesday, said a referendum in Marana “would exclude the very people most affected by the mega dump, Silverbell West,” which is outside the town limits. And, he said, DKL and its supporters would muster the money to persuade voters of their case.

“Working people could simply not compete,” Rogers said. “The election would just be bought and sold.

“Or,” Rodgers continued, “the council could do the job it’s elected to do and vote ‘no.’”

Marana’s Strategic Plan, adopted by council last year, includes references to the need for solid waste disposal facilities in north Pima County and south Pinal County, a town release said.

“Council’s action helps meet a pressing need in the area,” Honea said. “The landfill and resulting opportunities it helps create will be of great benefit to this region.”

The town council approved annexation of the property in May. The town’s planning commission in February recommended approval of the rezone, and in September recommended approval of the development agreement.

Henk says he’s willing to work with Silverbell West

Larry Henk, a principal in DKL Holdings, was “a little speechless” Wednesday, after the Marana Town Council approved a zoning change and development agreement to allow the Marana Regional Landfill on ground at the community’s west edge.

“It’s been a very long process, approaching a year of review,” Henk said. “It’s been very taxing on both sides. I wish there was a way for two winners. I don’t like seeing anybody feel like they lose. I have some empathy for the Silverbell people.”

Residents of Silverbell West, the subdivision of less than 100 families closest to the landfill site off Silverbell Road, fought to the end Wednesday.

“I’m still willing to work with them,” Henk said. “I won’t close the door. I wish they would have been willing to sit.”

He hopes the question does not go to a referendum on the May ballot.

“That just creates controversy and hard feelings,” Henk said. “I’d rather see the community get back together. But I’m not afraid of the referendum.”

Henk said he is “pleased with the council. I know it was a difficult decision. They did look at facts, they listened to science.”

DKL Holdings is five months away “from being ready to submit” permit applications to state regulators for the 430-acre commercial landfill. There are expenses to be incurred that he did not want to pay before the council signed off on the rezoning and the development agreement.

With Wednesday’s vote, Henk said, “I’m more comfortable in spending it.”

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