A new focus on neighborhoods - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

A new focus on neighborhoods

Town makes a structural change to engage people, solve problems

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Posted: Wednesday, November 4, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 1:34 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

Residents of Marana Estates expressed their accumulated frustration to the Marana Town Council months ago, when an implement dealership was allowed a zoning change to build in the neighborhood close to I-10.

They've felt neglected, with other allowed commercial and industrial uses changing the environment of Marana's oldest residential community.

Those complaints, as well as the unrelated upset of Dove Mountain residents at the prospect of previously approved, two-story apartment buildings, "got the staff to thinking" about ways "to get our neighborhoods better engaged," assistant town manager Deb Thalasitis told the town council last week.

The response is a shift in Marana's community development department, adding in a neighborhood services component, and making Marana Estates the first neighborhood to receive more focused attention and broader interaction. The revamped department would function directly under the town manager's office.

Thalasitis said staff wanted to "find a way to get out into neighborhoods, meet with people, and try to find a way to solve problems." The idea is to find ways to "mitigate negatives and promote positives" within each neighborhood.

Marana Estates would be a "test site for really engaging neighbors, and getting them involved," Thalasitis said.

Mayor Ed Honea said Marana needs to "work with a lot of the older neighborhoods that need problems addressed."

The town's approach begins with a survey of the neighborhood for "majority interest." A neighborhood services team would pull staff from across Marana departments, and it would engage other governments and agencies, Thalasitis said.

Meetings would be held with residents to define objectives, and to identify roles, responsibilities, expectations and ground rules. The neighborhood would be asked to create a vision.

"A neighborhood is more than a group of residents," Thalasitis said. "It is a vibrant combination of homes and businesses working together to fulfill a common vision."

Marana Estates residents, led by Phyllis Farenga, have complained to the town council that nearby businesses have created increased truck traffic, and they consider it a hazard for young children.

One of their neighbors, truck driver Steve Darby, knows about the cars and large trucks all using Amole Circle. He said a sharp corner, with a posted 25 mph speed limit, "catches a new person off guard." Darby suggested a lower speed limit at that corner. "Many of the truck drivers are certainly new to this area," he said. "Cars can be just as dangerous."

Darby has noticed that, with attention paid to truck traffic in Marana Estates, "trucks have been moving very slow."

 "Thanks to the staff for doing this," Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler said. "It's long overdue. I'm happy you're going to star

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