Forum spurs talk of more cooperation
Contributed photo, Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis speaks at the Tucson Regional Town Hall last week. In certain situations, like economic development, localities can and should work together, he says.

How business and government leaders view the region’s future is one thing, the mayor said. How to set policies — or even agree on a set of policies — that might improve the region’s future is another thing, especially when it comes to water and land use.

“Regional land-use planning is very different from regional visioning,” Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis said. “Land-use … it’s one of those powers that’s very sacred to the jurisdictions.”

At a regional town hall meeting held downtown last week, area political leaders discussed ways in which Tucson, Pima County and outlying towns could work together to grow while managing precious water and land resources.

The consensus among audience members, which included mostly planners, engineers and builders, was that area governments don’t play well together, Loomis noted almost disbelievingly.

“We are working better today than we have in the past,” the mayor told the gathering last Wednesday.

But, localities must work together on issues that “make sense,” Loomis said later.

So, when Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup suggested that the idea of creating a regional water authority “has value,” he raised some eyebrows. Walkup was careful to note that Tucson Water, which provides potable water to residents throughout much of the region, wouldn’t necessarily become that regional authority.

The guarantee of water is central to a community’s ability to grow.

“To create a regional water authority cuts off the legs to growth in a community,” Loomis suggested.

As each local leader addressed the crowd last week, a single buzzword dominated the discussion: planning.

In Marana, for instance, officials have begun creating a general plan for all future development in the 127-square-mile town, Mayor Ed Honea said.

Mapping out Marana’s future is key to managing growth that will bring as many as 100,000 people to the town by 2035, Honea said.

And, owing to so-called “smart-growth” legislation the state passed a few years ago, the town will have to consult with its neighbors as it plans its future development.

Improving Marana’s future, Honea suggested, requires improving the fortunes of the entire region as well.

The creation of high-paying jobs and the continued recruitment of money-making events like Tucson’s gem and mineral show and Marana’s Accenture Match Play golf tournament are vital to improving the region’s economy, the mayor added.

“A rising tide lifts all boats,” Honea said.

Loomis would agree with that.

To work cooperatively, area jurisdictions should look for ways to partner that create “win-win” situations for all involved. It’s the only way to foster a sense of regional cooperation, Loomis asserted.

Behind the scenes, area officials probably do a thousand things well and without argument, Loomis said. High-profile discussions, like last week’s regional town hall, are what’s required to improve regional planning, Loomis said.

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