The Tucson City Council wants more information about what the UA plans to do with several city streets the school has asked to acquire before signing off on the ownership transfer request.
While University of Arizona officials said the transfer is routine, some council members opted to hold off on the request as the city and university deal with the issue of a 1,000-bed dorm the UA wants to build just north of the campus. Several of the streets the UA wants the city to relinquish control over run through the area where the Honors dorm is expected to be built. Some of the streets are on the south end of the campus.
So last week, the council put on hold a request from the UA to transfer more than a dozen streets from the city’s control to the university’s. Several council members said they were concerned about handing over city streets before learning whether the university would adhere to city zoning codes when it comes to building the Honors dorm.
Chris Sigurdson, a university spokesman, said the request is largely routine; the school regularly asks the city to hand over streets, alleys and easements inside of the university’s planning boundaries.
Control over the streets and alleys, Sigurdson says, is related to maintenance issues.
He said the request was not tied directly to the dorm proposal, but conceded that several streets the university is asking for direct control over go through the three city blocks where the dorm would be built.
Councilman Steve Kozachik, whose ward surrounds the UA campus, was skeptical of why the university would want to take control of the maintenance of the streets unless it had plans for the property.
“It allows the Board of Regents to assemble properties in that entire ¾-of-a-square mile area without going through any city process,” he said. “If the goal by ABOR is anything other than easing the ability to assemble parcels for development, then why would they be taking that obligation on?”
Neither city nor university officials could answer questions on what the university wanted to do with each street it asked the city to convey. The biggest unanswered question is whether the school would close those streets to public access if acquired by the university.
At least one — North Fremont Avenue between East Mabel and Helen streets — was identified by university officials as likely to be closed to traffic if the dorm project moves forward.
Councilman Paul Cunningham asked the council to delay the vote for a month, primarily to better understand what the UA planned to do with each section of road. “I am sure they have good intentions, but let’s make sure,” he said.
City Manager Mike Ortega said the city would get assurances from the university that private property owners will not be affected by a change in ownership.
“We can reach out to the university and find out exactly their intent on this,” Ortega said.
The council is expected to revisit the issue next month.