One by one last Tuesday, 14 residents west of Marana told the Marana Town Council they oppose an annexation of acreage that may be used for a proposed Marana Regional Landfill.
The council listened and accepted comments, but took no action. "There's no vote," Mayor Ed Honea told the audience. "This is just a public hearing tonight."
Tuesday's hearing started the clock on actual annexation; petitioners have up to one year to gather necessary signatures for recording, followed by the drafting of an annexation ordinance for council consideration.
The Avra Valley – Kai annexation proposal is a 1,200-acre parcel within which would be sited a 430-acre commercial landfill.
"We are looking at this as a normal extension of the Town of Marana," said Kevin Kish, Marana's general manager of development services. An accompanying specific plan amendment "for a landfill on the northern portion of this site" has moved through the town's planning commission, where it received a 3-2 approval in March. Kish said Marana is "in discussions with the applicants on a development agreement for the landfill itself."
The proposal includes 1.5 miles of Avra Valley Road. Kish said a report is forthcoming on the condition of a bridge on the roadway.
Residents of neighborhoods near the site repeated their concerns with potential groundwater contamination, floodplain issues, road conditions and diminished property values.
Silverbell West resident Richard Swartz asked about water quality studies around the existing Tangerine Landfill, part of which is unlined. "Are there any preliminary water reports regarding a landfill on the land proposed to be annexed?" he asked.
"Please don't double down on the risk of destroying a critical aquifer," Swartz said. "It's not necessary. Please don't do it."
Silverbell West resident Jens T. Hill said recharge of the aquifer is done "to assure our communities have the critical water for our future development. … Why would we take such a risk with our future? Vice Mayor (Herb) Kai and his family have fought diligently to protect our water. Why change now?"
Kai, who owns much of the land proposed for annexation, did not attend Tuesday's hearing.
Resident Melissa Rohlik repeated her belief in "questionable politics within the town council." She said that, while Kai has recused himself from discussions on the annexation and the landfill proposal, he is "out soliciting letters of support." She said Kai and his family previously fought a landfill proposed for a different location in the Northwest, and have expressed opposition to a Union Pacific Railroad switching yard proposed near Picacho Peak.
"Where does Herb Kai really stand?" Rohlik asked. "He should have resigned his seat. He is using his position as vice mayor to promote his own agenda."
According to a town question-and-answer sheet on the landfill, when Kai or others on the council are dealing with the town concerning their own property, they "take on the status of a normal private citizen.
"The vice mayor will not be allowed to participate in conversations from the dais regarding annexation or rezoning, nor would he be allowed to vote on either proposal," the document indicates.
Happy Acres resident Bob Spencer said "I feel for everyone in Silverbell West. My biggest concern is traffic and trash on Avra Valley Road." He said Marana is "doing a great job building up the area, doing things in other areas, but Avra Valley is going down, down, down. … Consider all the things it's going to do to that area. Please do the right thing."
Happy Acres resident Annie Shellberg shared 680 photographs she took of Avra Valley Road, a road with "thousands of cracks. That road is the most atrocious thing on the planet," and inadequate for heavier truck traffic associated with a landfill, she argued. "Please don't do that to us."
"Money is behind this whole thing," said Silverbell West resident Steve Storzer. If Central Arizona Project water was "guaranteed forever, maybe it would not be a huge deal to go ahead and contaminate this groundwater." He sees no such CAP guarantee. "It's important to preserve that water at any cost," Storzer said. "Let's earn our money somewhere else."
"There are too many concerns to start this process," said resident Kris James.
Silverbell West is "a nice place to have a family, and a great country lifestyle," resident Pam Ruppelius said. "I'm not against growth. But this is the most disgusting proposal for this valley I have ever seen."
Given the volume of information about a landfill, "I am disappointed … you insist on still going ahead with the annexation and rezoning. How irresponsible is that? If you vote to proceed, we are prepared to put this on a referendum. Look at your hearts, the facts and the community, and reconsider your opinion."
Robin Meissner asked those in the audience who opposed the landfill to stand, and nearly everyone not associated with town government did so. "This is no Tangerine Landfill," Meissner said. "It'll still be a mountain."
She said the Pima County Supervisors are alerting the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality about the landfill proposal. "I urge you to take responsibility with your decision," Meissner told the council.
"How many of you would be willing to have this in your backyard, or would buy a home" close to a landfill, asked Silverbell West resident Elaine Ramirez.
Given proximity to a floodplain and an aquifer, "This is a poster child for the worst location for a landfill ever," said resident Charles Goddard Jr. "Is being the dumping ground for nearby states really what Marana wants to be known for?"
"I urge and strongly encourage you to deliberately and thoroughly investigate" what a landfill would mean, said resident Janay Young. "My family has cultivated this land for eight decades. We have been good stewards. I urge you to do the same. Be transparent, be trustworthy."