Downtown Overlay

Existing land use 2

The Marana Town Council unanimously agreed to changes that make it easier for developers to invest in its future downtown.

The changes mean residents and developers will have more flexibility to build and remodel without having to go through as many permitting steps. 

In the downtown area, called Downtown Marana Overlay—surrounding the Marana Municipal Complex, Barrios de Marana, Marana Main Street area and the eastern portion of the Marana Towne Center—the code amendment wouldn’t nix the current zoning, but rather give property owners an option to use a new mixed-use, walkable concept.

“Any property owner in the Downtown Overlay area has the option to develop and redevelop with their existing zoning if they like,” said Frank Cassidy, the town attorney. “This is simply an incentive, essentially, to create a walkable downtown.”

The end goal is a downtown area where buildings are against the street with parking behind, and there are a mix of uses that include commercial, offices and residential. Developers could take advantage of this Overlay zoning without having to go through a rezoning process, offering a flexibility not previously available.

The town has been talking about this concept for at least a dozen years. In 2005, the town hired an architecture firm to prepare a possible design for the downtown area. In 2016, the town worked with a consultant to create regulations for a walkable downtown with mixed-use zones. 

In an interview, Cassidy explained this might look like a four-story building with a grocery store on the first floor, offices above and condos on the top, with parking in the back, surrounded by high-density residential. He suggested the Mill Avenue District in Tempe an example of what the end goal would look like.

Another part of the amendment allows anyone who owns 40 acres in Marana to apply for a rezoning for “blended use”—meant for walkable, mixed-use development—that would not be pre-approved outside the Overlay area, and would have to go through the normal zoning process.

The town is in the process of an entire rewrite of their land-development codes. But they’re bringing this amendment forward now to “have the downtown zones ready to go in case somebody wanted to come in during this hot development time,” Cassidy told the council. 

“I don’t see anybody knocking down our doors, honestly, but at least we wanted it to be in place for that,” he said.

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