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Our Opinion: New attack on minidorms

Regulations would apply within two miles of UA; earlier version was citywide.

University of Arizona student Brett Rottman, 21, plays lacrosse in April in front of a student duplex in the 400 block of East Adams Street in the Speedway-Drachman Historic District Neighborhood, where more and more student "minidorms" have popped up.

University of Arizona student Brett Rottman, 21, plays lacrosse in April in front of a student duplex in the 400 block of East Adams Street in the Speedway-Drachman Historic District Neighborhood, where more and more student "minidorms" have popped up.

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Four months after an attempt to limit private “minidorms” in university-area neighborhoods died in controversy, the Tucson City Council will take up the matter again Monday.

This version of a Neighborhood Protection Zone is far more limited. But instead of eliminating the problem, it seems more likely to shift it to different neighborhoods that would not be afforded city protection.

The city must deal with that potential now and not wait for it to flare up in another neighborhood.

The city has tried to address this issue for several years, since residents in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, north of the University of Arizona, began complaining about new, large homes.

Moderate-sized homes were being demolished or enlarged to include five or more bedrooms.

Property owners were renting bedrooms to UA students, earning them the “minidorm” moniker.

The large homes and the influx of many students changed the character of the neighborhood.

The proposal the council discusses Monday tackles the issue through regulations on historic neighborhoods.

Residents in any neighborhood within two miles of UA that is either designated historic or is eligible to be designated historic may apply for an overlay zone.

That would require an extra review to ensure that new or expanded homes keep the historic character of the neighborhood.

While that may limit development of minidorms in those neighborhoods, it also may lead builders to move to other neighborhoods.

For example, if Jefferson Park is protected, neighborhoods just across East Grand Road are not.

The city also is considering incentives for building higher density residential and mixed-use developments in appropriate locations, such as along major streets and transit lines.

Four months ago, the city considered permitting an overlay zone in any neighborhood where residents requested it. By shrinking the eligible area to historic and historic-eligible neighborhoods within two miles of UA, far fewer areas will be affected.

This is an exceptionally difficult problem for the city to regulate. There is not enough on-campus housing for students. Minidorms comply with zoning codes.

If the city moves to down-zone property to make it difficult or impossible to build minidorms, it will surely face lawsuits based on Proposition 207, approved by voters last fall to forbid the “taking” of property rights.

Many of the problems related to minidorms have to do with behavior of students and cannot be regulated by the zoning code.

But given all of that, we worry that the new limited approach to this matter will only shift problems into neighborhoods that are not old enough to be historic or are slightly farther from campus.

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This Jefferson Park home at 1387 E. Edison St. also has been carved into separate units for students

This Jefferson Park home at 1387 E. Edison St. also has been carved into separate units for students

1. Jefferson Park </p>
<p>2. Catalina Vista Historic District</p>
<p>3. Blenman-Elm Historic  District</p>
<p>4. Speedway-Drachman Historic District</p>
<p>5. Barrio Anita</p>
<p>6. John Spring Neighborhood Historic District</p>
<p>7. West University Historic District</p>
<p>8. UA Campus Historic District</p>
<p>9. Sam Hughes Historic District</p>
<p>10. Menlo Park Multiple Resource Area</p>
<p>11. El Presidio Historic District</p>
<p>12. Warehouse Historic District</p>
<p>13. Iron Horse Historic District</p>
<p>14. Pie Allen Historic District</p>
<p>15. Rincon Heights</p>
<p>16. El Encanto Estates Historic District</p>
<p>17. El Hoyo/El Membrillo</p>
<p>18. Barrio Libre Historic District</p>
<p>19. Santa Rosa</p>
<p>20. Armory Park Historic District</p>
<p>21. Colonia Solana Historic District

1. Jefferson Park

2. Catalina Vista Historic District

3. Blenman-Elm Historic District

4. Speedway-Drachman Historic District

5. Barrio Anita

6. John Spring Neighborhood Historic District

7. West University Historic District

8. UA Campus Historic District

9. Sam Hughes Historic District

10. Menlo Park Multiple Resource Area

11. El Presidio Historic District

12. Warehouse Historic District

13. Iron Horse Historic District

14. Pie Allen Historic District

15. Rincon Heights

16. El Encanto Estates Historic District

17. El Hoyo/El Membrillo

18. Barrio Libre Historic District

19. Santa Rosa

20. Armory Park Historic District

21. Colonia Solana Historic District

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