Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

SW Side Wal-Mart gets OK

The county cleared the way for construction of a Wal-Mart at Ajo Way and Kinney Road despite concerns the store will blight an environmentally treasured area near the Tucson Mountains.

Many residents said they wanted the Wal-Mart because it would fill a much-needed hole for retail services on the Southwest Side, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said Tuesday.

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of a development plan reached by the county and project developers. Supervisor Richard Elías voted against the plan, saying he objected to “social ills” caused by Wal-Mart such as poor labor practices.

Because the property is zoned for commercial development, the county didn’t have much leverage to stop the store’s construction, Huckelberry said.

But the development plan will help reduce the store’s negative effects while allowing it to provide needed services, he said. Wal-Mart will help the county with $20 million in road construction funding for projects in the area.

Wal-Mart will also use landscaping and architectural features to help the store blend into the area, the development plan says.

Also on Tuesday, supervisors:

● Voted to approve a $24 million purchase of the Bank of America Plaza downtown.

Although the county and Colton Co. of Irvine, Calif., have reached an agreement on the selling price, the parties don’t expect to close the sale until February, Huckelberry said.

Private tenants will remain in the building as county court personnel move into the 22-floor building, the second-tallest in Tucson. Eventually, all of the county’s public defenders and probation officers will work there, while county prosecutors will work in the county high-rise across Stone Avenue from the Bank of America Plaza, Huckelberry said.

The county will save money by owning downtown office space instead of renting it, Huckelberry said. The office building will limit the size and cost of a courts complex under construction on Stone Avenue.

● Voted to raise the pay of court personnel 10 percent in the bottom of all pay grade ranges with a few exceptions.

Supervisors held off on making the pay raise retroactive to August until the county can receive an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office about the legality of such a raise.

Superior Court Presiding Judge John Leonardo said a dispute with Huckelberry, who opposed making the raise retroactive, had become a source of “angst” for him.

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