UA Honors College proposal, aerial view

A conceptual view of the proposed Honors College complex.

University of Arizona/

The city of Tucson might be on the verge of locking horns with the University of Arizona over a planned 1,000-bed, multi-story dorm just north of campus.

The proposed honors dorm complex is again on the executive session agenda for the Tucson City Council’s meeting Tuesday, Aug. 8, nearly three months after the council warned the university that the project needed to follow city zoning regulations or face legal action. The university, as a state-run entity, may not be legally obligated to follow the city’s zoning rules .

Multiple city officials confirmed the university has never formally responded to the letter written by City Attorney Mike Rankin.

Expected to be at the heart of the closed-door council discussion is whether the university and its private partner, American Campus Communities, have made any changes in the last few months that could have an impact on the city’s legal position.

In May, Rankin wrote the city had legal standing to challenge the university over the proposed dorm.

The university and the ACC-backed project would span a city block between East Drachman and Mabel streets and North Fremont and Santa Rita avenues, north of East Speedway. The UA owns only a portion of the proposed development, with ACC owning the rest of the property.

Chris Sigurdson, a university spokesman, said the UA is continuing to work with the neighborhood association and with homeowners in the project area.

Additionally, he said the UA has hired local land-use attorney Keri Silvyn, a partner in the law firm of Lazarus, Silvyn & Bangs, to work on the dorm project.

Sigurdson declined to discuss the council’s executive session agenda item.

In a previous interview, Sigurdson said the UA would follow “all applicable laws,” although it may not be legally obligated to follow the city’s zoning rules.

Councilman Steve Kozachik blames former UA President Ann Hart for not putting the brakes on the project, what he calls an “end run by ACC,” before leaving office.

The ACC attempted to go through the regular zoning process four years ago, showing a nearly identical proposal to area residents in 2013. It faced stiff resistance for a six-story dorm and several other buildings.

“I’ll be looking to the city attorney to bring us an honest assessment as to whether we have grounds to challenge this deal from a legal perspective,” Kozachik said.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at or 573-4197. 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.