Brand new $135,000 guesthouse near Gates Pass Road must go

Board of Supervisors rejects variance, says it must be torn down
2013-05-15T00:00:00Z 2013-05-15T00:10:22Z Brand new $135,000 guesthouse near Gates Pass Road must goJoe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Pima County Board of Supervisors wants a west-side resident to tear down his $135,000 guesthouse, which was erected too close to Gates Pass Road.

The board on Tuesday unanimously rejected a variance request by the Paseo Montana neighborhood homeowner to let the home he built for his visiting family members and close friends in 2010 stand, even though it is too close to the scenic route.

An attorney representing homeowner William Timmins said the decision will be appealed. He said he believes that board made the decision based on factually incorrect information.

At the heart of the neighborhood fight is precisely where the home was built, with the southern edge of the box-shaped home just 19 feet away from the edge of Gates Pass Road. This violates a 1984 subdivision condition requiring all structures be at least 85 feet north of the scenic route.

Attorney Jesse Callahan pointed out that county officials initially approved the construction three years ago after reviewing the plans and making an on-site inspection.

County officials acknowledge they approved the building plans, but learned from an anonymous tip after construction had already started that the home was being built on a bluff too close to the road.

According to county documents, a portion of Timmins' guest home would have been in a flood plain had he complied with the 85-foot setback requirement.

The anonymous complaint in July 2010 forced Timmins to seek a number of variances from the county for building code violations unrelated to being too close to the road.

Although the Board of Adjustment denied those variance requests, they were overturned by a Pima County Superior Court ruling.

But Timmins still needed Board of Supervisors approval to encroach on the 85-foot scenic road buffer, since the structure was never issued a permit for that.

The board voted unanimously to deny his request.

Supervisor Richard Elías, who represents the area, said he doubts the home will be torn down anytime soon, assuming Timmins would file another lawsuit.

"It probably will take some more time," Elías said.

He dismissed arguments from Callahan that the judge in the previous suit said it would be "a waste" to tear down the structure.

He said that ruling "was very limited in scope, and generally it wasn't addressing what the people were complaining about," Elías said.

Supervisor Ray Carroll said given the three decades of experience Timmins says he has working with GPS systems in an online profile, he should not have made - or at least caught - the mistake in the first place.

"He had every available technology ... but he decided to eyeball it," Carroll said.

Carroll worried about the precedent the board would set if it had sided with the homeowner.

"Scenic roads will mean nothing in Pima County," he said. "Scenic roads are what tourists aim their cars toward because they lead to destinations we treasure."

A number of neighbors came to the morning meeting, with most opposed to the variance request.

Donald Faulkner said he was relieved that the board rejected the request but concedes the battle over the guest house is far from over.

Like the board members, Faulkner said he anticipates another legal battle. "He could build another home if he wanted to (instead of fighting)," Faulkner said.

Arguments between Timmins and some of his neighbors became heated after the board's decision, requiring a county security guard to step in to break up the argument.

County officials will begin the process to force Timmins to tear down the structure, but concede a legal fight could delay any action for months or even years.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346.

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