Pecan groves near Green Valley get zoning OK; development not imminent

2014-03-12T00:00:00Z Pecan groves near Green Valley get zoning OK; development not imminentBy Jamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The Pima County Board of Supervisors allowed Farmers Investment Co. to rezone its property Tuesday for residential and commercial use, but don’t expect shovels to turn dirt anytime soon.

The board allowed Fico to rezone almost 1,100 acres of its pecan groves near Green Valley as part of a master plan, dubbed the Continental Farms Specific Plan, that could bring homes and businesses to the area.

However, it could be at least 20 years, and maybe more, before homes and businesses start to sprout on the land.

The plan is more of a long-term vision of what to do with the land if the company decides to shut down the pecan groves, said Tim Campbell, project manager for Fico’s Sahuarita Farms Land and River Master Plan.

“This is just the end of the beginning. There’s a lot more work to be done,” Campbell said.

There could eventually be more than 1,900 homes along with several businesses in the area, including rural residential homes, assisted living communities, offices and a small-scale resort, he said.

The plan encompasses an area stretching from Canoa Ranch north to Continental Road and the Union Pacific railroad tracks to an area west of the Santa Cruz River.

Most of the businesses would be along Continental Road.

About two-thirds of the area would be preserved as open space.

The Tucson City Council recently approved a pipeline to take Central Arizona Project water to the pecan groves in the area, which could benefit the development in the future.

The council’s approval of the pipeline and the Board of Supervisors’ consent to the rezoning were not connected, despite the timing, Campbell said.

“Whether there was going to be rezoning or not, that pipeline is moving forward,” he said.

Fico decided to pursue zoning changes to the property because of past inquiries from developers, government and school districts regarding the land.

The company also wanted to gain a head start on addressing potential infrastructure issues, he said.

“We never really had a plan where we holistically looked at our properties — if we were willing to sell and, if we sold, what could it be used for?” he said.

Fico officials will have to work with local and federal officials to make improvements to the Santa Cruz River to address flooding concerns, including a proposal to recontour a portion of a river channel.

The next step is for Fico and county officials to enter into a development agreement to divvy up flood control and utility responsibilities since multiple agencies will be involved, said assistant county planning director Chris Poirier.

The plan hasn’t received much opposition from the county, community groups or residents.

“Overall, we’re supportive of this plan. It fits with what’s already out there,” Poirier said. “Since we’re having the conversation, we will have a better opportunity to line up the appropriate infrastructure.”

The plan has also received approval from the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection and the Green Valley Community Coordinating Council, among other groups.

Fico held several meetings with the Green Valley Community Coordinating Council through the process.

“The project went through a very thorough public review process with many meetings open to community neighbors,” said Bill O’Malley, chairman of the coordinating council’s planning and architecture committee. “And it went through a well thought-out planning process.”

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at jyounger@azstarnet.com or 573-4242. On Twitter: @JamarYounger

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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