APHZAB View of Baffert Rezoning

 

Both our neighborhood association and our historic board are actively engaged with the city and developer regarding the proposed Baffert project. I published my views on the subject a few days ago. Since then, the APHZAB has submitted the following letter to the zoning examiner to be entered into the record of the rezoning case. I am not optimistic that neighborhood opposition to the project’s shortcomings will prevail over the economic and political pressure, however, if we do nothing, a bad outcome is certain. Both of our neighborhood organizations are working hard to defend our community’s historic character and they need your visible support. 

The hearing will be held on April 12, 2018 at 6:00 PM in Mayor and Council Chambers, first floor, east side of City Hall, If you care about preserving the historic character of Armory Park, you should attend. 

Note: This hearing has been postponed to May 3rd at the same time and place.

April 6, 2018

Dear Mr. Shell [zoning examiner]

RE: Case: C9-18-02 the Baffert @5 Points & 733-735 S Stone, HC-3 to C-3 and C-3 to HC-3

The purpose of this letter is for the Armory Park Historic Zone Advisory Board (APHZAB) to express its concerns and provide a unique historical perspective for the Armory Park Historic District regarding the potential rezoning and parcel exchange at the 5 Points area.  The APHZAB is charged with advising the City of Tucson about the preservation of our historic district, not only for today but for generations to come.  Armory Park became the city’s first Historic Preservation Zone in 1974 and has historical roots that date back to the early 1870’s and then significantly in the 1880’s with the arrival of the railroad.

We are concerned that the Planning and Development Services Department (PDSD) Director’s Memorandum Subject:  Rezoning Planning and Development Services Report, signed by Ms. Lynne Birkinbine, dated March 28, 2018 mistreats the Armory Park Historic District as simply a collection of structures.  Historic districts are far more than the sum of their buildings. They are a harmonious blending of structures, landscape and streetscape that create an experience for those who live, work, and travel in and through them. Any inappropriate or discordant element detracts from the overall experience like a missing tooth in a smile. This has been understood and valued since the Armory Park Historic Residential District was established in 1976. Historic Preservation Zoning was established to protect the integrity of historic districts. Although the PDSD Report references “the location’s gateway into Downtown”, we characterize the 5 Points area as a gateway juncture of multiple historic neighborhoods including the Armory Park Historic District to the north and east, the Barrio Libre Historic District to the west and north, and the Santa Rita and Santa Rosa Neighborhoods to the south.  Hence, it is important for all development to be consistent with established historic design principles. Inappropriate development would cause blight to all four adjacent historic neighborhoods. Contrary to a misinformed belief, the actual “Gateway” to the downtown area is not at 5 Points but is located five blocks north at the intersection of S. 6th Avenue and E. 13th Street.

The APHZAB unanimously disagrees with the rezoning proposal that removes the ‘Baffert’ parcel from the Historic Preservation Zone (HPZ).  Removal of the contiguous semi-vacant lot located at 747 South 6th Avenue from the HPZ without a previously approved planned development plan and remove historic zoning is unprecedented since HPZ zoning was implemented. There has never been a “precedent” case for this rezoning in the 42 years since HPZ zoning legislation was enacted.  Although the staff report from PDSD cites the Trinity property rezoning (C9-16-13) as a precedent, the Mayor and Council (M&C) specified it could not be used as a precedent, and technically should not be because it effectuated a H-PAD rezoning, not a straight rezoning with conditions as is the Baffert case. We are equally concerned that the rezoning of the Baffert out of the Armory Park HPZ will create an adverse precedent to allow developers to request rezoning of similar properties thereby further eroding the Armory Park Historic District Preservation Zone.

The APHZAB wholeheartedly endorses the letter to you from the President and Vice President/Development Chair of the Armory Park Neighborhood Association, dated April 3, 2018.

Additional APHZAB feedback with a historical preservation perspective regarding the PDSD Memorandum Report dated March 28, 2018 follows:

–  Proposed Parcel Exchange:  The proposal refers to 733 S. Stone Ave. (Parcel #117-07-2050 and referred to as Parcel B in the Report).  However, the supporting graphics in the Report show only the single triangle shaped parcel with a ramada bordered by S. 6th Ave. on the east and S. Stone Ave. on the west.  The Report does not mention inclusion of the Wanslee garage that exists between the ramada and the Alamo Apartments (parcel #117-07-203A) in the swap.  The ramada and garage are physically connected.  The Report concludes that a one for one swap is equitable.  However, the Report ignores the fact that the contiguous Baffert parcel to be taken out of the HPZ is 14,045 SF (minus the 720 SF carriage house) in exchange for an isolated parcel of 3,182 SF. On the comparison of the square footage, as well as the context, it is not an equitable swap.  Also, please note that the Wanslee parcel was never included in the HPZ, by intention, and its building, though originally built about 1920 and is “eligible contributing” in the expanded National Register District, has never met HPZ guidelines or been maintained under HPZ standards. We feel the trade for a much smaller, non-contiguous property located at 733 S. Stone Ave. does not compensate for the erosion of the integrity of our historic district boundaries.

–  Historic Design Reviews:  We believe this unique location is properly described as the gateway to Armory Park and the other adjacent neighborhoods and unanimously rejects the proposal to remove the Baffert property from the HPZ.  Furthermore, the multiple development concepts presented do not conform to the massing, height, or setbacks of the development zone. The proposed development would dominate the historic streetscape and overwhelm neighboring historic properties.  However, if M&C decides to rezone the property, then the APHZAB requests that the following conditional recommendations by the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission Plans Review Subcommittee on March 23, 2017 are included in the agreement:

  1. “Historic carriage house will be subject to standard HPZ design review/demolition approval process for any future proposed changes in perpetuity (i.e. run with the property as a condition of the boundary amendment rezoning;
  2. “The proposed development and any future development on the (Baffert) site to be reviewed for compatibility with the adjacent HPZ by both the T-PCHC PRS and Armory Park Historic Zone Advisory Board in perpetuity; and
  3. “Building height will be limited to no higher than forty-eight (48’) feet in perpetuity.”

–  Building Height:  The developer is proposing a three story, 48-foot maximum height, mixed use development on the Baffert parcel.  However, the APHZAB is concerned that we have seen multiple building heights proposed by the developer in past proposals.  The APHZAB recommends that the rezoning include the following conditions:

  1. No part of the building including all rooftop appurtenances will exceed 48’.  This is in conformance with UDC 5.8.9.B.3 New construction shall be no taller than any contributing structure in the development zone (HPZ).
  2. The developer will agree to limit the height of the eastern 30’ portion of the lot to no higher than 25’ as an appropriate transition to the adjacent HR3 residential zone per IID standard 5.12.B.2 Development Transition Standards.

We look forward to an opportunity to advise throughout the design process to maximize the compatibility of the development upon the historic streetscape and National Register Historic Districts today and in the future.

Thank you in advance for your consideration and for your support to preserve our historic district.

Sincerely,
 (Original Signed 4/6/17)
Martha McClements
Chair, Armory Park Historic Zone Advisory Board

Cc:
Honorable Mayor and Council Members
City Manager’s Office: Michael Ortega, City Manager
PDSD: Scott Clark, Director, Lynne Birkinbine, Deputy Director, and John Beall, Principal Planner
Historic Preservation Office: Allison Diehl and Marty McCune
T-PCHC PRS: Terry Majewsky, Chair
APNA: Anne Cooper, President and John Burr, Vice President and Development Chair
HPZ Advisory Boards: Barrio Historico, West University, El Presidio, Fort Lowell

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