'Reluctantly,' neighbors to accept a new business - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

'Reluctantly,' neighbors to accept a new business

Earhart dealership granted land use change at Marana Estates

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Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:26 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

A "significant" land use change to allow an agricultural and construction equipment sales and service dealership onto a Marana parcel has been passed without dissent by the Marana Town Council.

Earhart Equipment Inc., which also has a Tucson location, plans to expand onto 2.65 acres at 13968 N. Adonis, close to the railroad tracks, Interstate 10 and the Marana Estates subdivision in northwest Marana.

Residents of that "historical barrio," upset by the effects of other nearby businesses and what they perceive as lack of enforcement by the town, are agreeing to the land use change.

"We have reached a level of confidence needed to support the Earhart SLU change," Phyllis Farenga, a Marana Estates resident, told the town council and audience at the Aug. 4 meeting.

"Reluctantly," she added.

"Why reluctantly?" Farenga was asked.

After a project is established, "the development department does not … enforce its code," Farenga said. "But we have faith. We're going to try and live with it. I still don't think it's a good match for the community. We're going to try. We're going to be vigilant."

Assistant planner Lisa Shaffer said two meetings had been held among Earhart representatives, residents of Marana Estates and town staff since residents objected to the land use change at the July 21 town council meeting. One of those meetings was held Aug. 4. Shaffer said residents spoke both for and against the project. Proprietor Gordon Earhart shared information about the business's day-to-day operation at its current south Tucson location.

Farenga believes "a high-impact, polluting industry next to a residential neighborhood and a public park can be accomplished."

But, she cautioned earlier, "past behavior predicts future behavior." Farenga told the council she wants "an internal investigation" of Marana code enforcement. She criticized local government for "allowing dangerous industry into our neighborhood."

She further derided attitudes by town employees that, to her, suggested people in Marana Estates should not be surprised that heavier industry comes to their neighborhood because it is adjacent to the railroad tracks, and is of lower income.

"Next election, I will let the people know the children of Dove Mountain will have a higher level of safety" than those of Marana Estates, she said. "The children of Dove Mountain will get a video game, the children of Marana Estates will have 18-wheelers driving down their roads."

Councilman Jon Post told the council he went to Amole Circle recently, and commented on "what a neat little neighborhood that is. There are things we need to do." He thanked town employees for removing pavement chunks from a vacant lot.

Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler said Marana has been "remiss about our handling of Amole Circle. We do put a lot of emphasis in Continental Ranch, Dove Mountain, Gladden Farms. I'm glad you told us we're not paying attention."

Permission next step in firm's process

Permission from the Town of Marana for a "significant" land use change is the next step in a Tucson equipment dealer's plan to open a dealership in Marana.

More lies ahead, Earhart Equipment owner Gordon Earhart said Tuesday morning.

Funds to acquire the land adjacent to the residential Marana Estates development remained in escrow, pending the land use change permission.

"We've jumped that hurdle," Earhart said Tuesday morning. He wants further resolution on flood plain issues before the company closes on the property.

From that point, it'll be time to study the market.

"There's been an awful lot of change in the economic climate" since December, when Earhart began the Marana deal. "We're going to have to take a look at where we see things headed for the somewhat near-term future, then make our plans to proceed based upon that."

Earhart understands the concerns of neighbors, who protested to town government before agreeing to the land use change after meetings with Earhart.

"I respect their feelings," he said.

But neighbors have misconceptions. Some have "made us out to be a dirty business, that we're going to create noise and fumes and vapors. That's just not the truth. Our operation is not a noisy operation. There are spurts of noise, yes, but it's not a 10-hour a day drone of loud noise and racket."

He said residents should understand that "something commercial is going to go on that space ultimately. It's not going to be residential property."

Earhart remains committed to being neighborly. "We've been around for an awful long time, and I don't think I've got any enemies," he said. "We stand up and we say what we're going to do, and we do what we say we're going to do. That's the way we handle things."

His son Mitch is the president of Earhart Equipment. "He's put together a pretty good team of people," Gordon Earhart said. "We all share the same type of values. I don't think we'd embarrass anybody."

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