Residents of Jefferson Park have crafted a valentine to residential living — a neighborhood plan that includes the tightest rules for new building in the region.
At a meeting tonight, neighborhood leaders hope to gather additional support for the plan, which asks the city of Tucson to stand up to what neighbors deem inappropriate development, despite a state law that could make the city liable for reducing the value of property there.
The neighborhood plan itself is no guarantee that the rules for building will change in Jefferson Park, north of the University of Arizona's medical complex, where residents have complained for years that "mini-dorms" full of students are inappropriate intrusions in a neighborhood zoned mostly for single-family residences.
"The plans are a guidance for future development, not the same thing as hard zoning," said council member Karin Uhlich, whose Ward 3 council office sits on the Grant Road edge of Jefferson Park.
Where they may gain some teeth is in an anticipated mechanism the City Council has yet to approve — a Neighborhood Protection Zone with design guidelines tailored to individual neighborhoods.
The committee drafting that ordinance is split on whether the council should make that design manual voluntary or required, said city planner Jim Mazzocco.
"The development community would prefer advisory and some of the neighborhood folks would prefer mandatory. We're quiet on that. It's up to the council. It can go either way," Mazzocco said.
Residents of Jefferson Park began meeting on a neighborhood plan and a proposed overlay zone more than two years go. In November 2006, voters statewide approved Proposition 207, which requires compensation to property owners for any changes in land-use laws that diminish the potential value of property.
When the City Council began considering an overlay zone ordinance, some university-area landowners threatened lawsuits.
Now the city hopes to create the zone as pilot programs in Jefferson Park and Feldman's Neighborhood, which adjoins it on the northwest. It wants to encourage neighborhoods to form historic districts and draw up design guidelines for appropriate development.
If the guidelines are advisory, nothing will have been accomplished, said Bob Schlanger, vice president of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association.
"I think what you do when you add rules is, you take out a lot of creative people, and you add the schemers," said Richard Studwell, who has built some of the area's student-filled dwellings and has also worked with the city to devise a solution to mini-dorms.
Studwell and other developers recommended tradeoffs in Downtown neighborhoods, especially along the exterior streets, where denser development could take advantage of bus routes and other proposed forms of mass transit.
Uhlich suggested a mechanism for transferring development rights that would allow developers to give up multi-family zoning in the core in exchange for higher density on the perimeter.
"In the Neighborhood Protection Zone, we want to be sure to protect the core," she said.
If you go
Meeting on Jefferson Park Neighborhood Plan tonight.
• 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Refreshments and conversation with neighbors and city staffers.
• 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Presentation and discussion of plan.
• Where: Ward 3 City Council Office, 1510 E. Grant Road.