After a lengthy presentation by the developer and 36 comments from the public July 20, the Marana Town Council has set an Aug. 17 date for anticipated votes on a development agreement and zoning change that would allow a commercial landfill on ground in West Marana.
Kevin Kish, Marana's general manager of development services, originally suggested the council continue its public hearing on the zoning change to the Tuesday, Sept. 7 meeting. Because that is the day after Labor Day, "we are looking at recommending to an Aug. 17 meeting," Kish told the governing board Tuesday.
"I would expect to see two motions, one for, one against," Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler said of the Aug. 17 agenda.
Kish said a development agreement between developer DKL Holdings and the Town of Marana would come to the council at a study session Tuesday, July 27, "so we can start talking about those items." A development agreement would address terms and conditions for landfill operation that are outside the rule of zoning.
DKL Holdings wants to build the landfill on a 590-acre parcel now in west Marana, north of Avra Valley Road.
Last week's public hearing on the Marana Regional Landfill Specific Plan stretched to nearly 10:30 p.m.
Vice Mayor Herb Kai, who owns the ground upon which the landfill would be constructed, participated in the early part of Tuesday's meeting, then recused himself when the public hearing opened.
Councilman Russell Clanagan, recovering from surgery, participated in the hearing by telephone.
36 tell council what they think
Among all cards submitted, 37 opposed to landfill, 16 in favor
Over the course of 90 minutes on July 20, 36 people stepped to the microphone before the Marana Town Council and a large audience, expressing their opinions on whether the council should approve a zoning change that would allow a commercial landfill to be built north of Avra Valley Road.
Mayor Ed Honea said he had received nearly 60 comment cards. Some didn't speak because others had made the same point; others left before their cards were called.
"Thank you, everyone, for being courteous and respectful," Honea told the audience. Commentary by the public "does have an impact on our council."
According to as-yet unapproved minutes from the meeting posted by the town clerk's office, 37 speaker cards were presented in opposition to the landfill, 16 for it.
Arguments for or against the landfill were widely varied.
Opponents questioned the science, and the wisdom of location above a potable aquifer. Several gave strongly emotional personal stories, showing pictures of grandchildren, telling stories of illness and loss.
"Look at these faces and tell me these children are going to be safe?" said Kris James, referring to a photograph of her sister's grandchildren.
Proponents said landfills are needed to handle the waste generated by people. They expressed benefits for town and school governments, the economy and the desert, which they believe would be impacted by wider wildcat dumping if landfill facilities are not available.
"I'm not here to speak emotions," said Marge Brooks. "If you decided to make decisions based on emotions, I'd be horribly, terribly disappointed. We need the dump. Call it what you will."
"I wouldn't want to be in your shoes," David Anway told the council.
The governing board was expected to talk about a development agreement between the town and landfill developer DKL Holdings at its Tuesday, July 27 study session. Consideration of the zoning change, which would create the Marana Regional Landfill Specific Plan, is now scheduled before the council at its Tuesday, Aug. 17 meeting.
The landfill subject has been "one of the most stressful things I have ever had to deal with," Elaine Ramirez said. She fears the erosion of property values, the impact of heavier traffic on Avra Valley Road, and illness. "I pray every day you council members will do what is right and stop this landfill," Ramirez said.
Matthew Vorholzer, a supporter of the project, said developer DKL Holdings "has gone far and beyond all requirements," with outreach for wildlife and restoration of the Brawley Wash to its natural course. "They've bent over backwards," he said.
DKL has said it would pay the Town of Marana $450,000 a year as a host fee, and pay the Marana Unified School District another $150,000 a year. Some people see the offers as a positive gesture; others consider them a bribe.
"I'm not against the school district having any more money," Vorholzer said. "I think that's a great thing. Everything is going to be better with this landfill."
"Don't be too hasty to ignore the people because somebody is waving a bunch of money around," said Thomas Hill of Silverbell West. "I know it's going to be the right decision for the right reason."
School teacher Tanya Anway takes "offense that DKL, in these times of economic hardship, would dangle money" in front of decision-makers. "No amount of money, or free dump days, are worth the risk of even one child getting sick."
Michael Racy, representing DKL, later took exception to "the truly cynical notion this was a buy off. That is truly offensive. A host fee is routine in landfills."
"I'm for the landfill," Rebecca LoPorto said. "We need infrastructure in this area. I'm glad Marana's stepped forward and decided to do something about a landfill."
Terri Faust pointed to the high number of properties for sale in Silverbell West. People can't "wait to get out before this monstrosity is built," she said. In other communities, "when potential buyers find out it's next to a dump, they run. … Make the developer find another place."
Pat McElroy, with Marana roots going back 56 years, fears "it's all about money. The prison didn't bother me. This is the lowest, or in this case the highest, thing you could dump on us, pardon the pun. Vote no."
"We have brought you information from our hearts and hard work, not from our pockets," said area resident Robert Ruppelius.
Steve Miklosi of Dove Mountain, manager of Breakers Water Park, gave his support to the landfill. "It satisfies all requirements, and is a benefit to the future development of the town of Marana."
Patty McGill, a longtime 4-H leader, was one of several who fears increased illegal dumping on the desert if there is not a landfill. "Where is there going to be a dump except in the desert, our beautiful desert?" she asked.
Nita Storzer, who lost a child to a defective heart when she raised her family on the Southside of Tucson near a landfill, said "more babies do not have to die. Please save our babies. Do not risk our water for money."
"I wish I didn't have to follow my mother," said an emotional Steve Storzer, a leader of the Silverbell West opposition.
"What more facts could you need?" asked resident Melissa Rohlik. "I have seven grandchildren. That's what I'm standing here for."
"I support the dump," said Chuck McGill. "It's something we have to have. We generate garbage, we need some place to put it. I would like to see a whole lot of recycling. I feel we need the landfill, but it needs to be done correctly."
Larry Sjulstad is "for the landfill. We all have filled the Tangerine landfill. This would bring revenue, jobs, tax dollars, and benefits to Marana and the Northwest regional area, and I hope you vote for it."
Vice Mayor Herb Kai, who owns the property upon which the landfill would be built, was criticized.
"I oppose the hypocrisy of a person who sits on this council, and who is, on the one hand, a farmer, and on the other hand, would put a landfill next to people who are not residents of the community," said Picture Rocks resident Janice Mitich.
"Avra Valley is worth far more than the money you will ever get from a landfill," Mimi Batten said.
"Try to do what your citizens would like you to do," said Pak Chan, a Cupertino, Calif., resident who owns land with his wife Christine near the landfill site.
"I say yes to the landfill," said Anna Felix. "It's your job to do what is best for our community and our future."
"I trust that this landfill will be built correctly, and there will be no environmental hazards," said Bill Essenmacher.
"The correct action is to approve," said Ernie Felix. "Pima County leadership has let the county down. I applaud DKL."
"Personally, I'd like to send the trash to Washington," said David Carr.