Desert Troon Caught Unaware On Marana Real Estate Investment

http://tucsonlocalmedia.com/marana/article_cfdb35fe-f35f-11e4-af2c-d758ec32082d.html

When you’re in Phoenix things get dropped between the cracks

See original article written by Marana News May 6, 2015

Story Highlights

  • Attorney admits Desert Troon was completely unaware of changes affecting its Marana real estate investment
  • The proposed changes were discussed in a council study session and were brought before the Marana Planning Commission
  • Developer threatens a lawsuit
  • One of the largest anchor tenants, Wal-Mart, threatens to pull out of proposed development
  • “We’ve been talking about if for a long time,” said Mayor Ed Honea. “It was posted on our website for our Planning Commission for all the world to see.”
  • “When you’re in Phoenix things get dropped between the cracks,” noted Councilman Herb Kai
  • Council Member Roxanne Ziegler voiced her displeasure with the developer’s lawyer

When a council holds a public hearing about a tax increase and a proposal to make a roadway safer, the tax increase usually attracts more residents who speak out against it. That was not the case last week during a Marana Town Council special session.

Besides a sales tax increase, the council also discussed changes to the Marana General Plan that drew criticism over a plan that would establish Tangerine Road as a primary connection to the Marana Road interchange.

The council voted 7-0 to approve a temporary half-cent sales tax to fund the construction of the new police station. The tax will conclude as soon as the funding for the construction is done. The estimates are 3-4 years.

“I am thrilled to death,” said Mayor Ed Honea after the meeting. “One of the biggest assets we have in this community is our policing.”

The sales tax is expected to begin July 1.

The only person choosing to speak was Marana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ed

Stolmaker, who was reiterating his organization’s support for the plan. 

The town and council expected little, if any, opposition to the plan. Before presenting the plan, Marana Police Chief Terry Rozema was required to hold several informational meetings and open houses to discuss the need for the new police station. By the time the police department presented the idea to the council, it was fairly well known that the plan had the support of the public and local business leaders. 

Honea’s own research backed up those claims. 

“Everybody signed off,” said Honea. “Simon Mall, Home Depot, Lowes, Costco. They said ‘you bet, we love having the police.’”

With the passing of the sales tax increase, the town can also begin the process of selecting a construction project manager, which they would like to do before the end of July. 

The council passed a resolution to adopt minor amendments to the transportation element of the Marana General Plan. The resolution passed 6-1, but was not without controversy, mostly related to the portion of the plan that would establish Tangerine Farms Road as the primary connection to the Marana Road interchange.

Lawyers representing the Uptown at Marana Project and the Marana Mercantile Project, owned by the Cardon Group and Desert Troon respectively, asked the council for a continuance before voting on the plan. The two developers have worked with the town on a 117-acre development on Marana Road, west of I-10.

Although the development would still be visible from Interstate 10, the developer is not happy that there would not be direct access from the freeway and felt that the changes threatened the feasibility of the project.

The Phoenix-based developers claimed they were unaware that the proposal, which was first discussed with them in 2013, was being considered at the time. The proposed changes were discussed in a council study session and were brought before the Marana Planning Commission, and were also discussed during presentations about the Marana Main Street.

“Our clients were completely unaware that the process had taken place and never had an opportunity to weigh in on this proposal,” said Adam Trenk of the Rose Law Group.

Trenk said that the projects were in jeopardy because the traffic to support those projects may not longer be there because traffic off of I-10 would be diverted down Tangerine Farms Road and not Marana Road. 

Trenk submitted a letter from Wal-Mart that said they would not be interested in the location because of the proposed changes. Trenk also reminded the council that there were agreements for the developers to pay for infrastructure improvements, but those agreements would become void if the roadway was changed. 

Council Member Roxanne Ziegler voiced her displeasure with Trenk.

“When you threaten us in your letters with a lawsuit, it tends to come off a little disingenuous,” she said. “What I am trying to say is your client is not going to suffer. That is a huge area that is going to grow and other things are going to go in there.”

After the meeting Honea noted that the Wal-Mart on Cortaro does not have direct freeway access and to enter the shopping center shoppers either need to go up half a mile and turn left at the light, or turn left across traffic, yet the store is the second-busiest Wal-Mart in the state. 

“If someone sees a Wal-Mart and wants to get to it, it’s not going to worry them to go down a quarter mile and make a right turn,” noted Honea.

Marana resident Sharise Steffens said that she was unaware of the proposed changes and questioned the transparency of the council, but admitted she was unaware of the past council meetings or the planning commission meeting. 

“We’ve been talking about if for a long time,” said Honea. “It was posted on our website for our Planning Commission for all the world to see and all the development people we deal with keep an eye on that thing to see what is going on. No one was trying to sneak anything.”

Councilman Herb Kai was the lone dissenting vote, questioning whether the town made the correct efforts to contact all affected parties. Although he did not believe the town did anything improper, he did think maybe direct contact with the Phoenix-based developers would have been a good idea

“When you’re in Phoenix things get dropped between the cracks,” noted Kai. “I think the town should reach out and say ‘we’re restarting this thing over again and you guys should come down and talk to us.’”

Kai said he voted against it because he wanted to explore options with all the parties involved, not because he had issues with the plan itself. 

Two others, a representative of a different development group and a local business owner, both spoke out in favor of the plan. Mitch Stallard represented Desert Heritage Partners, who also own land in the area, while Kent Crotts is a business owner on Sandario Road who feels the plan helps keep Sandario a viable business center and better connects it to other roadways where development will spring up.

For Honea, the changes were not only good for local businesses, but also a matter of safety. The Marana Interchange, as it is currently aligned, sees freeway access convene in a confusing manner with Sandario, the frontage road and Marana Road. 

“The biggest issue we have is that Marana Road is a deathtrap,” she said. “Marana Road, Sandario Road, the freeway and tons of traffic coming out of the valley and everything else, we had to make a change.”

The plan will also make changes in the right of way distance on Tangerine, remove plans for the Tangerine interchange to be moved and adjust right of way distances in areas deemed environmentally sensitive, mostly in the Tortolita fan.

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