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Developers say resort near Saguaro National Park would attract visitors, activists object

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Posted at 3:10 PM, Mar 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-15 21:49:10-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — A proposed luxury development near Saguaro National Park is drawing controversy, but the people behind the project say it would only help the park.

A group of concerned citizens are opposed to the idea that would bring a high-density commercial development within feet of the entrance of the national park, but the developer says this would be a unique infrastructure for Tucson that would attract more tourists.

For the past five years, developer Kelley Matthews and her husband have been working on a proposed eco-friendly bike resort that would promote Pima County as a destination for outdoors enthusiasts. But those opposed to the project feel the resort goes against the intent of the buffer zone for Pima County, and say the bike barn would not be compatible to the existing area.

"I think it presents a great danger in the future," Connie Franz of the Save Saguaro group said. "Should it fail, we have 20 acres of bulldozed desert and 35 buildings that we don't know what to do with."

The group believes if the development is allowed it would open the door for more developers to buy land anywhere in the buffer zone, including adding another high-density commercial enterprise.

But those in the county's Development Services Department say each scenario is judged on a case-by-case basis.

"Even more intensive commercial uses like offices or retail or restaurant those would have to go through a completely different process, with at least a rezoning," said Mark Holden, the principal planner with the department.

We'll know a lot more about the project April 4, when the hearing administrator will listen to the staff report and either recommend an approval or denial for the project to the board.