Plans to redevelop the grounds of Tucson’s iconic Benedictine Monastery have overcome one hurdle after the city’s planning commission forwarded a proposal that would allow for the construction of market-rate apartments to the City Council.
The planning commission took no stance on the proposal, leaving it to the council to decide whether to modify neighborhood plans to accommodate the developer’s vision for the site.
In a vote of 6 to 1, the commission moved the decision to the next level with a caveat that the mayor and City Council consider some neighbors’ concerns about lowering the height of the proposed development on the residential east side of the property, 800 N. Country Club Road.
After much go-round with neighbors and the area’s city councilman for several months, plans for the development were modified multiple times with concessions on height, buffers, architectural style, preservation of certain plants and trees, and public use of the monastery.
Local developer Ross Rulney bought the 5-acre site from the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration when they relocated to Missouri.
The site is zoned for office use and group dwelling, which would have allowed the developer to move forward with student housing sans any public input or hearings.
In a nod to the neighbors, Rulney instead agreed to market-rate apartments and a public use for the historic monastery and its preservation.
After months of sometimes contentious back-and-forth, Councilman Steve Kozachik hosted three meetings to find common ground between the developer and neighbors.
The meetings happened earlier this month.
Neighbors for Reasonable Monastery Development and Tucson Monastery LLC — who represent adjacent neighbors — sent the commission a letter supporting the development as long as agreed-upon conditions were binding.
On Thursday night, two speakers at the commission meeting voiced objections to the height of the development on the east side of the property.
Instead of the modified four stories — which is 4 feet taller than current zoning allows — they asked for the height to be reduced to three stories.
The issue now goes to the City Council, likely in December, but it has not yet been set on an agenda.