Members of the Tucson Bus Riders Union accused the City Council of betrayal after it voted to move forward with a plan that could transform the Ronstadt Transit Center downtown into a mixed-use transit hub.
Activist Brian Flagg said Councilwoman Karin Uhlich promised his group the issue would be tabled.
But the council didn’t stop the process. It voted 5-2 only to delay the start the city’s acceptance of applications for such a project from November to early next year. Councilmen Paul Cunningham and Steve Kozachik voted no.
Flagg said his group was “totally blindsided” by the vote. He vowed to resist any plan that would cede the transit hub to developers.
Uhlich said the council acted as best it could to strike a balance between moving the process forward and ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard before making a final decision on the long-standing, polarizing issue.
The current flare-up dates to 2012, when city officials were negotiating a deal to hand over the Ronstadt Center and up to two other downtown properties to the owners of a scenic 284-parcel in Painted Hills, on the city’s west side, as a way to block development there. The city would have then sold the Painted Hills parcel to Pima County for $3.6 million.
When word leaked about the discussions, bus riders and their advocates voiced their opposition.
In February, the mayor and council directed the city staff to create a “development vision” for the center that would maintain it as a transit hub and allow for some mixed-use as well.
The city then paid Corky Poster, from the firm Poster Frost Mirto, $10,000 to collect input from residents on what they would like to see spring up on the transit center site.
Poster presented his findings to the council Tuesday. Suggestions included urban open space, parking lots and grocery stores.
Regardless of what direction the city chooses, Poster said, it should take its time and vet options closely.
“There’s a lot at stake on this site and we need to get it right,” Poster said.