Tucson city council: Mini-dorm motion passed; Mediation with Rio Nuevo board

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Tucson's city council took a major step forward in resolving the mini-dorm controversy that the city has been facing for years.

Jefferson Park and other neighborhoods have fought hard against developers who've built up group dwellings in their communities.

Wednesday the city clarified what's allowed and what's not.

"I think we're making a mistake by going in this direction," said Councilman Steve Kozachik during Wednesday's meeting.

Councilman Steve Kozachik and Mayor Bob Walkup voted no.  But the motion passed anyway, 5 to 2.

"That measure that provides clarity about mini-dorms and where they're allowed and not allowed," said Councilwoman Karin Uhlich.

The motion advanced the zoning administrator's ruling that mini-dorms were in fact "group dwellings" and in clear violation of R-1 zoning.

"Just simply by getting this on the books we're going to eliminate 90% of the problem," said Uhlich.

The ruling says 5 or more unrelated persons aren't allowed to live together in neighborhoods like Jefferson Park.  And Councilman Steve Kozachik has a problem with that language.

"Do it by saying you' can't have more than 4 bedrooms," said Kozachik.

The ruling also allows the city to investigate anonymous complaints from neighbors who suspect land code violations.

"I don't want the city knocking on doors.  I don't want the city validating whether people are related," said Kozachik.

"This definition isn't out to get people," said Councilwoman Regina Romero.

Around the table, other council members stood by the ruling saying it's only meant to clarify what was a fuzzy part of the land use code.

"I'm sure we're not going to go house to house and ask people for their relation," said Romero

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, whose ward has seen most of the mini-dorm construction, says Wednesday's action saves neighborhoods.

"It'll be far less harmful than the proliferation of mini-dorms that we're seeing in our neighborhoods," said Uhlich.

And she doesn't buy Kozachik's argument.

"This idea that the city's going to turn into some kind of gestapo enforcement agency entity is ridiculous," said Uhlich.

"I don't want mini-dorms there anymore than anyone else does," said Kozachik.

But Kozachik says Wednesday's action eliminates mini-dorms in local neighborhoods, while potentially infringing upon Tucsonans' 4th amendment rights.

The Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association and mini-dorm developer Michael Goodman are still involved in a mediation effort.

All council members say they're interested in seeing the results of that effort.

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- City council says they're open to talking to the Rio Nuevo board again.

After meeting with City Attorney Mike Rankin, the council unanimously moved to start an attempt at mediation with the Rio Nuevo board.

It's an effort to resolve the $47 million claim against the city before both parties head to court.

The council also asked the board to refrain from filing future claims for property until this claim is resolved.