Our Opinion: New attack on minidormsby Tucson Citizen on Aug. 06, 2007, under Opinion
Regulations would apply within two miles of UA; earlier version was citywide.
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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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