Rio Nuevo board approves plan to settle all differences with city

Proposal would end all audits, litigation and property disputes
2013-02-05T00:00:00Z 2013-02-05T11:17:35Z Rio Nuevo board approves plan to settle all differences with cityDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 05, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The legal tussle that has engulfed the Rio Nuevo District and city of Tucson the past two years may be coming to an end.

On a 5-1 vote, the Rio Nuevo board approved its most recent offer to the city to resolve all litigation, property disputes and other issues between the two entities.

The board first publicly released what it thought was a final offer back in October. But the city rejected it the next day.

Rio Nuevo Chairman Fletcher McCusker said he believed the new terms would be enough to get City Council backing.

"I am hopeful the city will agree to this," McCusker said. "So this board can get back to work" on developing downtown Tucson.

Some of the provisions in the offer include:

• An end to audits. The agreement "settles and resolves all past disputes, known and unknown, between the parties" including the audits. It stipulates that both sides participate in good faith during future audits mandated by law.

• A funding statement on the Tucson Convention Center. Rio Nuevo will allocate no less than $6 million to renovate the TCC.

• An end to litigation. The agreement would end two lawsuits the district has against the city, totaling more than $70 million in claims.

• A statement on hotel development. Once Rio Nuevo expends money on a mutually agreed-upon hotel project, the city must recognize that will satisfy state statute allowing Rio Nuevo to spend money on projects other than a hotel.

• An agreement on the Depot Garage. The city gets ownership of the garage and agrees to pay Rio Nuevo $16 million over 37 years.

• An agreement on the 351 S. Brickyard property. The city will retain ownership.

Rio Nuevo Board Member Alberto Moore cast the lone no vote.

Moore said while he thought it was the best deal possible given the circumstances, the city's track record of duplicity and possible malfeasance over the years made it impossible for him to approve the deal with a clear conscience.

"My decision on settlement ... is solely a statement and indictment against the city and not a rejection of the settlement," Moore said. "I do have concerns about some of the terms of the settlement today. Not because the terms are unacceptable, but because the city's past performance gives me little confidence it will act in good faith and in the public's best interest."

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com.

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