A plan to build a “bike ranch” on 20 acres directly across the street from Saguaro National Park East’s entrance on Old Spanish Trail has the backing of a Pima County hearing administrator.

The recommendation, which lists 17 separate conditions that must be met by the developer to build on the site, is another setback for the roughly 200 people who crowded into Pima County’s administration building last week, voicing concerns about the project.

Plans to build 49 “casitas” on the mostly undeveloped, 20-acre parcel already has the blessing of Saguaro National Park’s superintendent as well as a recommendation for approval by the county’s development staff.

Jeff Bruce, one of the organizers behind the Save Saguaro National Park group opposed to the development, says he believes that a recent zoning hearing was merely a formality.

Bruce said many residents living near the proposed development feel the county isn’t listening to their concerns.

In a letter posted on the county’s website, hearing administrator Jim Portner wrote that the proposed development mostly fits into the county’s development guidelines and its construction would not pose significant harm to endangered and protected species.

Portner has a long history with the parcel, as he was the hearing administrator in 2013 when the same developers proposed building a similar bike ranch.

At the time, Kelley Matthews and her husband, Peter Lasher, proposed a 49-room development on what was at the time a 45-acre parcel.

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The property has since been divided into two parcels, including the 20-acre piece that the pair wants to develop now.

In 2014, Portner recommended against the development, saying the developers needed to better address neighbors’ concerns about protecting the national park and wildlife habitat.

While the current proposal doesn’t need a rezoning, the developers again need the Pima County Board of Supervisors to sign off on a conditional-use permit, which gives some leeway on how to build on the site.

Officials have not set a date for when the bike ranch will be formally discussed by the supervisors, but it is expected to be on the agenda soon.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@tucson.com or 573-4197. On Twitter: @JoeFerguson

Reporter

Joe has been with the Star for six years. He covers politics as well as the city of Tucson and other municipalities in Southern Arizona. He graduated from the UA and previously worked for the Arizona Daily Sun.