At the applicant's request, consideration of a "significant" land use change for a new construction and farming equipment business in Marana has been delayed two weeks while the company meets with nearby residents concerned about its impact.
Earhart Equipment Corporation, with a current operation in southeast Tucson, wants to open a retail sales dealership and rental facility for construction and agricultural equipment on 2.65 acres at 13968 N. Adonis, close to the railroad tracks, Interstate 10 and the Marana Estates subdivision, a longtime residential neighborhood south of the San Lucas development in northwest Marana.
Town staff has recommended approval of the land use change. On June 24, the Marana Planning Commission agreed with a unanimous 7-0 vote, saying the business "would be beneficial to both the agricultural and construction industries" in the community.
On July 21, residents of Marana Estates expressed their opposition to the Marana Town Council.
Longtime resident Phyllis Farenga spoke on behalf of the "historical barrio," with 27 homeowners, some of them third-generation, and many elderly.
"I oppose, but not for the reasons you may think," Farenga said. "It may be possible to accommodate the proposed facility."
The focus of neighborhood attention falls not as much upon Earhart as it does on several nearby businesses, and a perceived lack of enforcement by the town of Marana in the face of too much noise, fumes and traffic.
"Staff has destroyed our community, and now threatens the San Lucas community," Farenga insisted. "Because of what's happened in the past, we want to participate with this one, we want to be there. We're a little nervous, because of what's gone on."
"We are asking for a healthy and safe environment for our families," said Alisha Meza, a resident.
Councilman Jon Post understood the neighbors' frustrations, but wondered if they could "correlate them to Earhart, specifically."
"We choose this opportunity to bring other problems in the neighborhood to your attention," Meza said.
While Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler agreed there are issues needing resolution in Marana Estates, "we're here tonight to discuss Earhart," she told residents.
"We're a stand-up company, we're stand-up people," Gordon Earhart told the council. The company has been in business 40 years. He said a delay of several weeks would allow meetings, "and try to get some genuine answers." Several council members praised his cooperative spirit.
Earhart wants the location because it needs space. The company, an authorized dealer for New Holland, Kobelco, Mustang and other machinery brands, has "quite a customer base" in Marana, and in Pinal County as well, and would add up to 25 employees to run the new location. The parcel is visible, accessible and affordable, Gordon Earhart told the planning commission.
The property is zoned "E," within a transportation corridor and ineligible for residential use. "It would have to be some type of commercial business," said assistant town planner Lisa Shaffer.
"We want low-impact business," Farenga said. "We're not complaining about the zoning, we're talking about the types of business, low- versus high-impact business. If I don't solve the fume and noise issues, my property will have no value."
"This neighborhood has long fought to clean up and bring our homes forward," resident Lynda Washburn told the planning commission. "This business would be offensive to our quietness."
The planning commission stipulated that an eight-foot masonry wall be built between the dealership and adjacent properties.
"Staff felt eight feet is a sufficient height," Shaffer said. "Council can change that if it wants." Farenga said the wall should be at least 12 feet.
Fuel would be stored in an aboveground tank, which is "less likely to contaminate the soil, because you see leaks," Shaffer said.
Access to and from the property would be on Adonis Road, listed as a major route on the town's rights-of-way plan.
If the land use change is approved, Earhart would be required to create a development plan, with improvement, landscape and building plans part of the process.
Several people spoke in favor of the proposal.
Clay Parsons has done business with Earhart in Tucson. "I've had a great experience," he said. "Marana needs these kinds of businesses. They're a company with a good reputation. We need that."
Devin Murphy, who owns acreage nearby, said Earhart represents "a great opportunity to bring a great company to the town of Marana. They'd be a huge asset."
Principals met with neighbors this winter to explain their proposal, to hear concerns and try to reach agreement. A subsequent July 16 meeting was "a very good start, but it was only a start," Farenga said. Earhart met again with at least one resident and town staff last week, and another session is expected before the town council's meeting this Tuesday, Aug. 4.
Post insisted that any conversations and negotiations among neighbors, the town and Earhart address specific concerns. "I'll go with two weeks, but these are issues that have absolutely nothing to do with Earhart. I want to make sure we keep those separate.
"I firmly believe this is a business that needs to be established in Marana," Post said.
"There's no value added by continuing this for two weeks," Ziegler said. "I don't think anything will change in two weeks."
"I would like to see everyone work together to come up with a quality project that benefits everyone," Councilwoman Patti Comerford said.
Post told assistant city manager Deb Thalasitis to be sure pavement chunks dropped onto a lot in Marana Estates be picked up "tomorrow. That's embarrassing," he said.