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1999-08-05
Tucson, AZ. Council Wants Ban on Superstores

On June 28th (see newsflash below) we told you about the battle to stop Wal-Mart and Home Depot from locating amidst the historic homes of Tucson's El Encanto neighborhood. On August 2nd, the Tucson City Council voted unanimously to ask the City Manager to write an ordinance banning the construction of retail stores of 100,000 s.f. or more, and to limit outdoor activities at retail stores. A reluctant City Manager told the Arizona Daily Star the Tucson would become the first city in the country to ban superstores. Not so. A number of communities from North Elba, New York to Clermont, Florida have already placed a cap on retail size, and many other towns are considering the same approach. Councilman Stever Leal said "these stores have impacts on neighborhood integrity, and on traffic volume and related infrastructure, air quality, noise pollution and the viability of small businesses in our community." The Council's Superstore Ban would have to go to public hearings, and most likely will not be voted upon until September. According to a Tucson assistant City Attorney, if the ordinance is adopted, any big box retail store that has not been issued building permits will be denied. Developers who are planning to reconstruct the existing El Con mall by adding stores purported to be Wal-Mart and Home Depot, say their mall will not be stopped by the proposed ordinance. The developer's attorney blamed area residents for killing a compromise plan that was being worked out regarding traffic flow and other mitigation measures at the mall expansion. The developer said he would offer $3 million to soften the impact of the expanded mall on nearby residential property, some of which are less than 300 feet from the mall's property line. "A handful of vocal neighbors have killed the compromise," said the developer's lawyer. "The vocal few have overcome the work of the many." Councilman Leal, meanwhile, said the new ordinance was aimed at making sure that the city doesn't lose its sense of "community identity and sense of place." Leal came up with a backup plan as well if the outright ban is not implemented. The backup plan calls for a "special exception" process through which large scale projects would have to pass in order to obtain Council approval. The Arizona Daily Star, and the Tucson Citizen have editorialized against the construction of a Wal-Mart and a Home Depot in the El Con mall. Three of the neighborhoods abutting the El Con mall are on the National Register of Historic Places.

What you can do: For more information about the battle to protect the historic neighborhoods of Tucson, contact The Union of Citizens to Save our Neighborhoods (TUCSON) by emailing ctanz@azstarnet.com. Why not call or email a congratulatory note to the Tucson City Council (see their website).










 
 
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