NOGALES, Arizona (KVOA) – An ambitious proposal that would have opened the door to large-scale commercial and industrial development in Rio Rico’s Santa Cruz County community has been withdrawn.
The proposal was made by prominent landowner Andrew Jackson, who owns thousands of acres along Interstate 19 in Rio Rico.
His proposal was to rezoning approximately 3,500 acres for multiple uses.
He officially canceled the request on July 31 after the idea faced a lot of backlash from local residents.
Last month’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting was likely one of the committee’s busiest, with hundreds in attendance, most of whom spoke out against the idea.
A few people also voted in favor, hoping to create more job opportunities in the region.
Most opponents of the initiative fear it could open the door for mining operations related to the expansion of the Hermosa mine near Patagonia, led by Australian mining giant South 32.
Residents interviewed by Tucson News 4 were relieved to hear the news of the proposal’s withdrawal, but they felt it wasn’t over yet, and it was only for a short while.
“We know this situation won’t go away,” said Ed Pirul, a Rio Rico resident.
Pirul and his wife Beth have been heavily involved in speaking out against the plan. Beth is unconvinced by the lack of continued efforts to bring mining-related businesses to her quiet rural community.
“No amount of money will help you if you lose your health and the environment – water, air, soil – is destroyed,” she said.
Robin Lackey formed the Calabasas Alliance, a group to help organize efforts to protect the area.
“I feel like this is a temporary victory, and I think we need to work to ensure that there are no manganese treatment plants in the neighborhood, let alone in the county,” she said.
News 4 Tucson obtained a letter from Jackson to the Planning and Zoning Commission after a heated meeting last month, in which Jackson revealed plans to respond to and encourage South 32 development. made it
However, when News 4 Tucson contacted South32 about his remarks and residents’ concerns, Hermosa Mine President Pat Lisner sent the following statement:
“South32 was not involved in the rezoning proposal, which was not always material to our plans, nor is there any contractual relationship with the landlords who proposed it. Efforts continue to explore potential sites throughout Santa Cruz County for site facilities.Decisions have not been made as to where these facilities will be located.The development of Hermosa depends on locating facilities within the county. We have not, but we believe that locating our facility here will create local jobs and increase opportunities for local suppliers.”
Santa Cruz County Superintendent Manny Lewis told News4Tucson that the county faces high unemployment and needs to find a solution.
“We need to find ways to attract high-paying jobs for our residents,” Lewis said.
But he didn’t commit to suggesting that South32 could be a way to solve that problem.
Mr. Lewis and other elected officials have been accused by many of putting the interests of the mines above those of the population, and large donations have been made to improve various areas of the county. Some told us they felt the regulator would do whatever South32 wanted because of the
Just this week, South32 donated nearly $110,000 to a local school program, but some residents we spoke to said they felt there were conditions attached to it.
When we asked Lewis about such accusations, he said: “The answer is no, and will always be no, and we will ultimately consider all facts before making decisions affecting the mine.”
Even with a temporary victory in having Mr. Jackson’s proposal removed, outraged groups of residents told us they would continue to voice their opposition.
After Jackson’s proposal was cancelled, County Community Development Director Frank Dillon made several recommendations to county leaders regarding future proposals of this magnitude.
He sent the following letter:
“Nogales, Arizona – July 31, 2023 – Santa Cruz County Regional Development Authority withdraws Bakafloat #3 Major Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA) and Specific Zoning Zone Plan (SZP) Applications Originally Scheduled for Public Hearing announced in front of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on August 15, 2023.
Applicant Mr. Jackson formally withdrew both applications on July 31, 2023. Throughout the application process, both the CPA and SZP requests met with significant opposition from community members, leading to widespread public comment primarily expressing opposition to the proposed application. Santa Cruz County Community Development understands the importance of community input and is committed to promoting transparent and inclusive public processes.
Many of the concerns raised by the community were communicated to applicants by our staff prior to the June 22 Planning and Zoning Committee meeting. While community development can identify areas of concern and provide recommendations to applicants, it should be emphasized that the final decision on how to proceed with the application request rests with the applicant. It is important.
On June 29, the Community Development Agency issued a letter to Mr. Jackson outlining his concerns about the request and providing recommendations for consideration. Community Development has been in open communication with the Oversight Board to ensure these concerns are recognized. Lessons learned from experience with these recent applications have prompted community development to increase transparency and provide recommendations that may improve the publishing process for future requests.
Beyond statutory notification requirements, develop clear and consistent procedures for communicating complex and potentially controversial items to the community. This could include increasing engagement with local media and publishing clear, easily accessible information on the county website.
Temporarily suspending the use of Article 31 “Special Use Area Plans” so that staff can review and review existing texts to determine the scale of the request, its relevance to a particular development project, its compatibility, its public nature; To enable the development of additional regulatory safeguards related to hardening. Engagement, and Other Related Concerns. The goal is to ensure that the use of Section 31 aligns with the long-term vision of Frank Dillon, Responsible Development Director for Santa Cruz County Community Development Division 2. Other tools, such as development agreements, may be established for specific projects to ensure that developments are consistent with community goals, regulations and zoning requirements, and may be approved by the property owner or It provides a framework for developers to follow during the development process.
If county regulators consider supporting remote training center development or similar future projects, they should seek direct collaboration and development agreements with stakeholders. This approach ensures stable and predictable standards of development that are mutually beneficial to the interests of communities, counties and businesses.
Respect the character and integrity of the community and promote inclusive and inclusive economic growth and development in Santa Cruz County. The ‘Rio Rico Vitality District’, a successful long-term planning initiative based on economic data and input from the community, serves as an excellent example of such an approach.District planning processes can provide a framework for community development
A comprehensive long-term plan for the rest of the county. The link for that project is here: https://www.santacruzcountyaz.gov/DocumentCenter/View/17140/230202-RRVD
Master_Plan-Report-ReducedSize As we move forward, we believe these improvement recommendations will contribute to stronger and more transparent relationships between the County and its valued residents. We remain committed to engaging with the community and look forward to working on future development proposals with a focus on constructive dialogue and cooperation. ”
Jackson could resubmit the same or similar offer in the future, and Jackson could sell his land directly to South32, as some residents fear. .