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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    City council slow to act on UA-area minidorm ordinance

    Tucson resident Jim Clark has seen four generations of his family grow up in his house on East Seneca Street.

    But Clark has also witnessed the deterioration of the surrounding area, the Jefferson Park neighborhood north of the UA campus, as developers build “”minidorms”” that landlords rent to students who residents say have little to no stake in the future of the neighborhood.

    “”It’s just a mess in that area,”” Clark said.

    Clark is among the many university-area residents who are pushing for the Tucson City Council to amend a land use code and add a neighborhood preservation zone around the UA. This zone, or overlay, would disable developers and property owners from building multiple-story housing that is uncharacteristic of the neighborhood or single-family housing with as many as nine bedrooms, dubbed “”minidorms.””

    So what is a
    minidorm?

    Minidorms
    are usually classified as single-family houses with bedroom additions that are mainly rented out to college students in university-area neighborhoods.

    In a public hearing last night, the city council gave the green light to a pilot neighborhood preservation overlay, which will launch in an undetermined neighborhood around the UA. Progress on the project will be reported to the mayor and city council, and the first overlay is expected to be completed in 90 days.

    Until then, the council hopes to continue discussion on a city ordinance and meet with stakeholders to address issues such as developers who have already purchased land and have made plans for such minidorm arrangements. Another conflict is that a ballot initiative that was recently passed may be violated by the overlay.

    Anne Mehochko, director of public policy for the Tucson Association of Realtors, said she is concerned that the plan is incomplete.

    “”The way it is currently written is quite vague,”” Mehochko said. “”It could have unintended consequences for the entire city.””

    Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, a leader in the discussion, said the city council should not be premature in its decision to allow an overlay.

    “”I think we need to be fair and prudent,”” she said. “”I think we need to do this well.””

    Many UA-area residents were hoping for more progress than was seen in the hearing last night, including Clark, who said he was surprised by the city’s reluctance to pass a city ordinance.

    Mayor Bob Walkup said the university needs a chance to participate in this discussion.

    “”They are waking up to the notion that they need to provide housing,”” he said.

    If the UA can figure out long-term growth, then it will be easier for the city council to piece together a development plan, Walkup said.

    Councilwoman Carol West acknowledged the university’s role in providing student housing. “”We wouldn’t be having this conversation if it wasn’t for the fact that we do not have adequate student housing,”” she said.

    According to the UA Commuter Student Affairs Web site, there are more than 29,000 students who are commuters.

    “”We have a responsibility to try and shape a livable community, one that is sustainable,”” said council member Steve Leal.

    “”There’s a lot at stake for everybody,”” he said. “”It’s new ground.””

    The next public hearing on the subject will be held Aug. 7 at 5:30 p.m.

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