TUCSON, Ariz. — Residents of a Tucson neighborhood who have worked to block a new grocery store proposed for the area have been sidelined by the state legislature that passed a new law that makes it harder for local residents to stop unwanted development.

Until the law, which passed last spring and took effect in August, opponents of a proposed Fry’s supermarket on the city’s east side had collected enough protest signatures to force the “supermajority” vote requirement for a zoning change. That would have required six Tucson City Council members to approve the rezoning.

Tucson city planning official John Beall said four votes now will be enough to approve the zoning change under the new law.

The council is scheduled to vote on the proposed commercial zoning Tuesday, the Arizona Daily Star reported .

Linda Schaub, a neighborhood activist fighting the Fry’s, said she felt “kicked in the gut” and blindsided when they learned of the new law in recent months.

“This bill was specifically structured for developers,” said Schaub, team leader for the Save Houghton East Coalition. “I feel like they stole our supermajority from us.”

The new law’s Republican co-sponsors, Reps. Bob Thorpe of Flagstaff and Brenda Barton of Payson, didn’t return phone calls and emails from the Arizona Daily Star seeking comment on the bill.

Under the previous law, if opponents of a rezoning rounded up protesting signatures from owners of 20 percent of adjacent properties on any one side of the project site, the supermajority vote was needed. That would require approvals from 75 percent of council members.

The new law says opponents must get signatures from 20 percent of property owners on all sides of a project site. The new law also states opponents must also garner signatures from owners of 20 percent of all those adjoining properties.

For a seven-member council such as Tucson’s, a 75 percent requirement used to mean six votes were needed to be a supermajority. Now, five votes will be needed.

Under the new requirements, if the property owner seeking the rezoning owns more than 80 percent of the land used to calculate protests, that alone would make a supermajority vote impossible.


Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.tucson.com