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Zoning commissioner to give Tucson City Council his recommendation about proposed Main Gate balcony ban

Darien Bakas
Chris Gans, president of the West University neighborhood, speaks at the zoning examiner hearing on Thursday, June 16.

Due to several incidents of student tenants causing distress to the Main Gate area by throwing objects onto properties below, the Tucson City Council is discussing the banning of balconies on any future infrastructures built in the area.

A public hearing was held at Tucson City Hall for citizens to express their opinions about the proposed amendment in front of zoning examiner, Jim Mazzocco,who will give his recommendation to the council.

The zoning examiner will have five days to send in his preliminary report based on his suggestions, which will then be added to the material used by the mayor and council members to make the final decision.

RELATED: Councilman wants to ban Main Gate Square balconies

Staff presented three options for the council to decide:

  • to allow balconies only facing internally
  • to permit both internal and exterior balconies but only going up to the third floor
  • to cease any balcony use completely.

Only three citizens voiced their opinions at the June 16 meeting, all encouraging the zoning examiner to recommend an amendment to the 2011 Main Gate District – Urban Overlay document, which would restrict the use of balconies on future constructions.

Glass bottles and other items have been thrown from apartment balconies in the Main Gate District onto other structures like the Islamic Center of Tucson.

Mahmoud Obagi, a member of the centers’ board of directors said the center has sustained damages from crashing objects.

“We have covered many repairs due to these group dwellings, including roof repairs,” Obagi said. “Because they are higher than us, they’ll throw glass bottles to our roof, causing damage … which we won’t realize until it rains.”

RELATED: Local community members meet to address actions of student apartments surrounding mosque

Maryam Mir, an Islamic Center member of 37 years said she wants the zoning commissioner to seriously consider the amendment for the safety of all of Tucson.

“Basically it gets down to the fact that any one life is more valuable than the almighty dollar,” Mir said.

Obagi said he is glad actions are being taken to hopefully stop exterior balconies from being incorporated into further building plans because the Islamic Center of Tucson’s members have been verbally harassed and close to being injured.

“The incidents speak for themselves,” Obagi said. “There’s been incidents of people throwing items and yelling racial slurs.”

GMH Capital Partners, the group who owns the building, did not attend the June 16 hearing. The company is located in Pennsylvania and have management locally, but have not responded in a timely manner to work out solutions, according to Obagi.

“Whenever I try to get a hold of them it’s at least three to four days of me repeatedly calling,” Obagi said.

Windshields have also been reported broken by car owners who parked at restaurants close to the buildings.

“Property ownership evicted students involved in [a 2014 incident], but despite the installation of video cameras they have been unable to identify all of those involved in the most recent set of events,” said Tucson Council member Steve Kozachik in a Feburarymemorandum.”It is only a matter of time before somebody is seriously injured or killed if struck by an object thrown from the balconies.”

RELATED: Column: Drunks make all students look racist

President of the West University Neighborhood Association, Chris Gans, said that even though no injuries have been reported, public safety still comes first.

“Whether it’s our neighbors at the mosque, neighbors in the businesses or people on the street … public safety should be the first thing considered when removing the possibility of having future balconies on any other high-rises,” Gans said.

The area of University Boulevard between Tyndall and Park Avenues currently incorporate high-rise structures such as Sol Y Luna, the Hub at Tucson and will soon also contain Hub On Campus 2, a new high rise. No current buildings or balconies will be affected by the future decision of the council.

The city council is expecting to meet in August to decide whether new housing buildings will be allowed to incorporate balconies in their building plans.

Follow Shaq Davis on Twitter.

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