Camino escuela

A portion of unpaved neighborhood road near the 4800 block of North Camino Escuela on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2014, in Tucson, Ariz. Neighborhood residents differ on whether to pave or not. Photo by Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

The Pima County Board of Supervisors approved a comprehensive plan amendment Tuesday that could pave the way for new development east of North Oracle Road.

The property is located east of North Oracle Road near Genematas Drive and includes the aging Catalina Foothills Lodge. The most contentious part of the plan was the development density near Genematas Drive.

The vote was originally scheduled for an October meeting, but was delayed after several residents spoke out against the project. Since then, the developer’s local representative, Jim Portner, has met with and gained the support of the Oracle Foothills Neighborhood Association.

“I’m very pleased they were able to find a path to supporting our project,” Portner said.

As part of the compromise with neighbors and the Planning and Zoning Commission, 27 acres will be categorized low-intensity urban with a maximum of 2.75 homes per acre. The developers originally sought a higher density designation that would have allowed 10 homes per acre.

Several residents voiced support during the public hearing preceding the vote.

“It is a very rugged piece of property that I believe needs to be developed sensitively,” said Reggie Smith, who has lived in the neighborhood for 50 years.

The vote also designated part of the property a neighborhood activity center, which is a more commercial label. The area that includes Pima Wash is designated resource transition because it is largely un-developable.

Jay DeAngeli is the treasurer and secretary of the Oracle Foothills Neighborhood Association. He said the group doubled their number of scheduled meetings this year to address the issue.

“We want what’s best for the county and best for our neighborhood,” DeAngeli said. “Neither will get everything we want, but we will not get anything by fighting tooth and nail.”

The next step will be zoning the property for a specific use such as retail, residential or hotel construction. Pima County Senior Planner Mark Holden likens the comprehensive plan amendment to a “pre-zoning” step.

DeAngeli, a former homebuilder, predicted the property will present challenges to the developers because it includes steep slopes.

“I will be waiting to see if Mr. Portner can put a tuxedo on this crocodile,” DeAngeli said.

Paving project
moves ahead

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The supervisors approved a resident-funded paving project in the Catalina Foothills on a 4-1 vote. Neighbors can move ahead with their plan to pave 1,525 feet of dirt road on Calle Angosta and Camino Escuela.

Neighbors pledged $60,000 for the project and collected signatures of support from 67 percent of the nearby residents. One neighborhood couple, Susan and Robert Murphey, had voiced concerns to the Arizona Daily Star that part of the neighborhood’s historic vibe would be lost along with the dirt road.

But the majority of residents agreed the dirt road was unsafe and created unsightly and unhealthy levels of dust.

“Many neighborhoods that have paved roads have a nice rural feel and don’t have the safety concerns we are dealing with,” said resident David Diamond.

Supervisor Richard Elías was the sole dissenting vote and raised concerns that the county could be held liable if there were problems with the construction.

Pima County Transportation Director Priscilla Cornelio said the county would inspect the work.

Resident Julia Pernet said a bank account for the project has already been opened. All they need to do is collect funds from residents who agreed to contribute.

“We’re going to do it as fast as we can,” Pernet said.

Contact reporter Mariana Dale at 573-4242 or

On Twitter: @mariana_dale