From the April  12, 2002 edition of the AJ News

http://www.ajnews.com/

Developments Face Public Vote
Court rules petitions valid, county voters will decide fate of huge projects near Oracle

By Robert Moore
The News

FLORENCE- A citizens group opposed to the construction of two master-planned communities in southern Pinal County have survived court challenges by the developers who want to use more than 7,100 acres and build nearly 15,000 housing units near Oracle Junction. The developers earlier filed suit against the county to block the countyís validation of the groupsí referendum petitions.

Superior Court Judge William OíNeil issued the rulings against Robson Ranch Mountain, LLC and ANAM, Inc./Willow Springs City on April 11, which sought the invalidation of two referendum petitions which would put the construction of the communities to a public vote.

"The rulings are both correct and thoughtful of the citizens of Pinal County. Our families deserve nothing less than equitable engagement in decisions regarding such major land use issues as these," said Mary Ellen Kazda, leader of the citizens group Pinal Citizens for Sustainable Communities.

The attorneys for both Robson Ranch Mountain and ANAM, Inc./Willow Springs City stipulated to allowing the court to rule on the validity of both referendum petitions, and immediately announced plans to file appeals of the decision to the Arizona Court of Appeals in Tucson.

The referendum petitions were initiated by the citizens group in response to the sheer size and location of the proposed developments, said Kazda.

The two developments are planned for the same general area near Oracle Junction, which is pristine desert according to the group. They say the area is unsuitable for the master-planned communities, which has plans for an eventual build-out of tens of thousands of more homes.

Several issues have been raised concerning the developments, but chiefly the water resources and potential environmental damage of such large communities.

Kazdaís group was successful in itís initial daunting task of gathering 5,900 county-wide signatures for each referendum, for a total of nearly 12,000 valid signatures.

"The people worked extremely hard, and in extreme weather at times. They were dedicated and believed in what the were doing," said Kazda. The group had petitioners cover more than 30 cities, towns and areas in Pinal County during the petition drive.

County Supervisor Lionel Ruiz, a supporter of the developments was unavailable for comment last week.

Kazda is hoping for expedited treatment of the cases because success on her groupís part will put the issue on the ballot this November.


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