Plans to build 196 "luxury casitas" on undeveloped land along Sabino Canyon Road between East River and Cloud roads hit a minor snag this week when the Pima County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the developer build only 150 homes on the site.
The recommendation made Wednesday favored many nearby homeowners who have lobbied commissioners to reject the plan or at least reduce the project's density.
Residents told the commissioners they had several concerns about the project, including lower property values, increased traffic and noise and having enough water available.
The site is just south of East River Road, at the northeast corner of North Sabino Canyon and East Cloud roads.
The property currently has an approved land use for low-density suburban ranch development, allowing for three units per acre.
The request from the developer seeks to amend the county's comprehensive plan - a precursor to a rezoning request - to allow for 10 units per acre. They still need approval from the Pima County Board of Supervisors as well as complete the rezoning process.
Bob Gugino, an attorney and one of the owners of the 15.14-acre site, said he was pleased the commission has made a recommendation allowing the project to move forward. He said he plans to ask supervisors in September to approve a plan amendment allowing Aerie Development to build up to 13 units per acre.
The developers have asked for Medium High Intensity Urban, which allows up to 24 units per acre.
Gugino says they have voluntarily opted to restrict plans to no more than 13 per acre.
No plans have been released on what the developed site might look like, but Aerie Development recently received approval from the board to build 53 one-story rental units on about six acres across the street.
Kaye Roos, who has lived across the street from the proposed development for about 50 years, concedes construction on the site is an eventuality. But she is among the neighbors concerned about the proposal.
A smaller project would fit with the existing zoning and would not bring more traffic to already-congested streets, she said.
Portions of River Road are already reaching maximum capacity during rush hour, county officials said last month.
Commissioner Armando Membrila, who was part of the six-person majority recommending a plan amendment with a 10 unit per-acre maximum, said he knew many in the crowd would be disappointed with his vote.
He said the land was too valuable to stay undeveloped for long. Membrila urged those who felt strongly about keeping the site untouched by development to buy it themselves.
Keeping the land under their control, he said, was the only guarantee against eventual development.
Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at email@example.com or 573-4346.