A near-capacity crowd packed the Marana Town Council chambers on Aug. 17, ready to comment during a resumption of the public hearing on a zoning change that would allow a commercial landfill in Northwest Marana.
"You'd think we were giving away free ice cream or something," Mayor Ed Honea quipped. "I haven't seen this many people in a very long time."
They came forward again Tuesday night to voice their views on the Marana Regional Landfill Specific Plan, a zoning change that would allow developer DKL Holdings to pursue state permits to build a commercial landfill within 590 acres of recently annexed land now owned by Vice Mayor Herb Kai north of Avra Valley Road. Forty-five speaker cards were handed to the mayor; some people opted not to comment. A majority of speakers, and those who chose not to speak, opposed the zoning change.
Before the hearing continued, Honea told the assembled crowd that "we don't intend to take any action this evening." A companion development agreement between DKL Holdings and the town has been sent to the planning commission for its expected review on Sept. 29. Honea expects the council to vote on the rezone in late October or early November.
"It'll be a couple months before there's any voting on this issue," Honea said.
DKL representative Michael Racy said his client is in "full agreement with staff and their recommendation to continue (the rezone) until after the development agreement goes through the planning commission."
Racy reminded everyone that the council has been "asked to authorize a land use. This isn't a permit for a landfill." That duty falls upon the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, which will study all aspects of the proposal in "excruciating detail." If any repeatedly expressed public concerns regarding a landfill's effect upon drainage, groundwater, public health and safety are accurate, "the developer will never be able to get a permit," Racy said.
"ADEQ has yet to turn down a landfill location," Silverbell West resident Charles Goddard told the council. "It's not up to them, it's up to you" to reject the proposal, he said.
Among the comments made Tuesday:
• Elizabeth Ramirez presented new signatures against the project to the council. She said a total of 2,120 people have signed documents opposing the landfill;
• Anna Felix urged the council to "do what is right and vote 'yes'. This is best for the financial and environmental future of the surrounding communities;"
• "If you can get past the dollar signs in front of your eyes long enough to see the enormity of this thing," the council would vote "no," Pat McElroy said;
• "We may be old, with a lot of gray hair, but we do have a memory," said Continental Ranch resident James Alam, who opposes the project;
• "This whole area is already industrial," resident Rebecca LoPorto said;
• "It's just not the right location," resident Debbie Rogers said. "It's irresponsible. Please do not allow this to happen;"
• "People are more important than money," resident Tanya Anway said. She said the residents of Silverbell West and others outside Marana "have been disenfranchised by the landfill. … If this landfill were to be put in Gladden Farms or Dove Mountain, those people would be hooting and hollering;"
• When he retired from the military, Tom Hill chose to live in Silverbell West, with the intent of building equity in his home. "Now, DKL comes along, and will take away everything people in that subdivision have worked for all their lives;"
• Landfills are built in "lower income and minority neighborhoods, areas of least resistance," Terri Faust told the council. "Silverbell West is not a neighborhood of least resistance;"
• Several speakers responded to advertising in The Explorer urging the council to approve the Marana Regional Landfill, and in effect stop a proposed trash transfer station south of Tangerine Road.
"One does not hinge upon the other," Picture Rocks resident Janice Mitich said. And, she added, well-run transfer stations like that near Catalina off Oracle Road are difficult to detect;
• "I know you want to do your best for the Town of Marana," Kris James said. "Are you willing to sell out the residents for money that is not a guarantee? … We're still a neighborhood, and through this project, we've become a close neighborhood;"
• Previously, Linda Zupi had voiced her support for the landfill. She did so again Tuesday, while acknowledging, "I love my family no less than they love theirs. … In a perfect world, there would be no trash, no need for landfills. I hope to see this community grow, and direct its own future. I believe this will benefit our community in a number of ways;"
• "Keep emotions aside, look at facts," Tisha Felix said. "Keep Marana beautiful, keep it safe, please approve this project as soon as possible."