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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Editorial: Jefferson Park debate calls for compromise

Long-term residents near the UA have long battled the constant cycle of students moving into the neighborhood, partying for a couple semesters and moving out. They leave a trail of red cups and noise complaints in their wake, and live in giant eyesores called “”mini-dorms,”” residents claim.

Or they’re relatively quiet neighbors, who really don’t attract very much attention or cause any problems. But they still live in those horrible mini-dorms, which, though newer and better kept than many of the run-down homes down the street, are totally destroying the appeal of Jefferson Park just by being there.

Thank goodness for the Tucson City Council, which is on its way to making it easier to keeping those damned kids out of the yard by giving its preliminary approval to a new design manual last week.

The council voted 5-2 to give the measure preliminary approval. Mayor Bob Walkup and Councilman Steve Kozachik voted against it. The council will vote on giving the design standards its final approval later.

The new design manual limits house size, height and architectural style according to recommendations made by Jefferson Park homeowners, including a suggestion to restrict the construction of a second floor in new homes. Developers and City of Tucson staff pressed for more leniency. Their recommendations do require new homes meet design and aesthetic standards, but would still allow for mini-dorms.

The approved restrictions also limit more intensive development on large streets that cross or surround the neighborhood, including North Euclid Avenue, North Park Avenue and East Grant Road.

While the homeowners in Jefferson Park have perfectly valid concerns, which deserve to be addressed just as much as those of the developers, this situation calls for compromise.

It’s fair for the homeowners to imagine the mini-dorms distract from the cozy charm of their chain-link fences and unkempt yards. But there are also some undeniable truths in the Jefferson Park showdown: First, the college kids aren’t going to go away. You can’t pick up the UA campus and shove it into the desert, far, far away from your precious house. Second, college kids might be assholes sometimes, but that’s just really people in general. They’re not worth a lawsuit.

According to Kozachik, the recommendations of the homeowners open the city up to being sued. Local developer Michael Goodman, who believes the manual limits development and therefore, housing options for students, has already sued under Proposition 207, the Private Property Rights Protection Act. The act requires the government to compensate property owners when regulations lower property values. City Attorney Mike Rankin told the Arizona Daily Star the more restrictive the construction standards are, the more exposed Tucson becomes to lawsuits under Proposition 207.

“”Both sides (the homeowners and developers) are at the point where they’re at such a level of animosity with the other that trying to get them into the same room at the same time to reach a compromise just isn’t going to be productive,”” Kozachik told the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

Kozachik also said that the City of Tucson staff’s recommendations were a “”kind of a middle ground between the neighborhood and the developers”” to protect the city from more legal battles.

The options are simple. Follow the recommendations of the Jefferson Park residents, follow the recommendations of the developers or follow the recommendations of the City of Tucson.

When the council meets again to give final approval to Jefferson Park’s design manual, it needs to remember that the student housing debate isn’t going to have any one clear winner. Everyone’s got a stake in the outcome. But getting sued probably sucks the worst, and the only way to please everyone a little bit is for everyone to give in a little, too.

— Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat editorial board and written by one of its members. They are Kristina Bui, Ken Contrata, Michelle A. Monroe and Heather Price-Wright. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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