A controversial plan to build on 120 acres of environmentally sensitive northwest-side land has been given a tacit go-ahead by the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

All five supervisors agreed to give Red Point Development the necessary approvals to amend the Pima County Comprehensive Land Use Plan, but not without major concessions.

Red Point Development agreed to set aside more than 100 acres, including a large parcel owned by the developer along Interstate 10 near Marana — part of a key wildlife corridor, but well removed from the planned project along North Thornydale Road.

The group also agreed to develop only 15 percent of 54 acres at Thornydale and West Cortaro Farms roads, which abuts open space owned by the Tucson Audubon Society.

The other three parcels owned by Red Point Development are at Thornydale and West Linda Vista Boulevard, Thornydale and West Magee roads, and on West Hardy Road just east of Thornydale.

Supervisor Ally Miller, whose district the planned development is in, said the developer made a good-faith effort to make a proposal both environmentalist and one neighbors could accept.

“I know this isn’t the perfect solution everyone wants. I know I am going to lose some votes from some of you,” Miller conceded.

Roughly two dozen nearby residents opposed to the development spoke during this week’s meeting using a variety of tactics to plead their case, from heartfelt testimony to mimicking the bird calls that can be heard in the area.

Most said they were concerned about traffic, wildlife corridors and how the new development would hurt their property values.

Concessions on these points, among others, largely swayed the developer’s one-time rivals, the Coalition of Sonoran Desert Protection.

The coalition’s executive director, Carolyn Campbell, argued only three months ago the two sides were largely at odds over how much land to set aside in order to comply with the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

The revised plan allowing for several hundred homes, she said, was a good compromise that protected environmentally sensitive land.

The development was considered one of the first tests of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, which calls for up to 80 percent of lands to be set aside when private land is rezoned for a large-scale development.

The plan went largely untested in this area since the real estate crash hit in 2007 and 2008.

Red Point Development won the right to reclassify the parcels, allowing up to 10 homes per acre and some commercial development on two parcels. All four parcels are now classified as low-intensity urban, allowing about one home for every three acres.

A comprehensive plan amendment, which the developer is seeking for all four parcels, is a precursor to a rezoning request.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson.


Reporter with the Arizona Daily Star. I cover politics as well as the city of Tucson and other municipalities in Southern Arizona.