Good News, Bad News at Zoning Hearing

So I can move to a more positive note, I’ll begin this piece with the bad news. Perhaps the worst is that before this hearing and as it progressed, I had the feeling that this rezoning is a done deal. There are several steps ahead but it is hard not to feel that the outcome is already determined.

Another disappointment for me was the small turnout of Armory Park people. There has been extensive discussion on the listserv about the threat of this proposed rezoning and the importance of a strong community representation was stressed. The top figures of the neighborhood association and historic board were present but relatively few of their board members attended. I counted five AP people not members of either board. This was way short of the up-welling of community support that might have influenced the examiner.

Baffert View Looking Northeast

It seems that the questions of building size (48′), appearance (modern), business parking (minimal) and operating hours (5:00 AM until 1:00 AM) will not be adequately addressed.

There was some good news. The hearing examiner was actively engaged in the process and asked many appropriate questions. He also sought areas of accommodation which would mitigate the impact of rezoning.

More good news: The developer, Larry Kappler, has made adjustments to the design of the project to make it more acceptable to the neighborhood. He has also agreed to a number of provisions to mitigate impact on neighbors and historic preservation. These, however, can only be relied upon if they are incorporated into the final zoning with his concurrence.

Remaining concerns: This will be the first removal of a property from a historic zone by the zoning process. It has been stipulated that this will not be a precedent for future actions but that is hard to believe. The Trinity Church removal from The West University HPZ by another process was also stipulated to create no precedent. In fact, that action has been cited as a precedent for the Baffert rezoning. One can only imagine how many property owners north along 6th Avenue will soon be seeking to remove the historic restrictions on their properties. This could be the death of historic protection downtown.

The hearing examiner’s preliminary report should be available early next week. Our historic board will review the report and decide whether to appeal the outcome at its regular meeting next Tuesday,

Tension at APHZAB

Immediately after the normal opening routine, the regular April Historic Advisory Board meeting took a dramatic turn. Board Chair Martha McClements read into the record a written complaint sent to city government by Brian Kassel regarding John Burr. He claimed that John was biased against him because of some unexplained animosity. She further read her reaction to the complaint stating that she had great respect for John’s knowledge and integrity and intended to take no action on the complaint. John stated that he would not vote on Brian’s project but would participate in discussions as he deemed appropriate. There was further discussion from the board which supported the Chair’s decision. Remarks by Brian did nothing to clarify the situation but his perception may have been influenced by John’s attempts to point out some issues which may cause problems for the project if not addressed until a later date.

I have been observing the board for over two years now, rarely missing a meeting. Since application of historic preservation standards requires some subjective judgement, one might disagree with any particular board decision. My observation, however, is that board members take their responsibilities seriously and are conscientious in applying the standards as they interpret them. They want property owners to be able to use their properties as desired but historic preservation is always the first priority.

Martha and John gave a brief update on the upcoming zoning hearing regarding the Baffert project at 6th Avenue and 18th Street. You may recall that the hearing had to be rescheduled because of mistakes in the notice of meeting when first scheduled. The meeting has been rescheduled to May 3rd but may not happen even then. There were so many mistakes and missing or incorrect information that it may take more time to research the issue properly. City staff has really done a poor job on this process and has strained its credibility with the neighborhood. Because of his extensive understanding of zoning matters, it was John who detected the errors and brought them to the attention of city staff.

Some in the community feel this poor handling of the hearing is an attempt to discourage neighbors from participating. I certainly hope that is not the case. More likely is that because the rezoning is seen by staff as a done deal, preparation for the hearing was not given appropriate attention. There is no question that economic pressures from developers and the expressed priorities of Mayor and Council suggest that the property will be developed largely as planned with only the details to be worked out. If you are not happy with this situation, keep watching for details of the hearing, whenever it may finally be held.

There was one major review to be considered, a new multiple unit residential construction at 726 S Bean Avenue of which Brian Kassel is the property owner. After extensive discussion of various aspects of the project, the discussion focused on application of historic standards to the project. A motion was made and adopted to recommend against approval of the project as presented to the board. The first of two main issues was total structure height. A new structure cannot be taller than the tallest historic structure within a legally defined development zone and the proposal does not comply. The development zone can be expanded to take in nearby taller structures but no application has been made to do so. The second concern is about massing and that too is related to height. Massing is the visual impact of a structure because of size and shape. Because the proposed buildings would be two story and flat roofed with parapets, it would loom over surrounding historic properties.

The three remaining action items were about code violations for failing to apply for historic review before making exterior building alterations. The first, a major renovation at 245 S 5th Avenue by Waverly Rentals was quickly resolved as agreement was reached to replace the new inappropriate vinyl and aluminum windows with traditional appearing wood windows. The Waverly Rentals representatives were anxious to understand the historic standards and review process because they plan to do another project in Armory Park soon and they want to do it correctly. I was pleased to see their constructive attitude because that is not always the case. 

The second violation concerned removal of security bars and replacement of windows at 821 S 4th Avenue (Fernando Chiquette, property owner) without historic review. Apologies were offered for the failure and this issue and another project will be brought to the board at its next meeting. 

After completing the action items, discussing of the website, most board members indicated their support for continuing to develop the site. When completed, the site will collect the guidance needed to design an approved project in an Historic Preservation Zone and particularly Armory Park.

In the interest of clarity and disclosure, I want to briefly explain my role in all of this. I am not a member of the APHZAB but I value the important work the board does. Members are all unpaid volunteers who take on a difficult job. To support their efforts I manage the online data repository used during meetings. Using a projector and screen to display documents makes the meetings go more smoothly.

I have also built the Historic Tucson website (above) to support the board by helping prospective historic review applicants to better understand the standards and review process. This site will also serve the other four HPZs, should they desire. I offer the site as a community service. I also manage the website for the Armory Park Neighborhood Association ( for the APNA board.

All APHZAB meetings are open to the public. I attend meetings as a member of the public as you should when possible. Since many of you can’t attend, I report on my view of the meetings here. This website is mine for offering comments and news about matters I feel are important to the neighborhood — like APHZAB meetings.

If you want to give me feedback, email

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Baffert Headlines APNA Agenda

The most important subject for the meeting was the Baffert Project at 6th Avenue and 18th Street. Both APNA and APHZAB (historic board) have sent letters to the zoning examiner for entry into the record of the hearing to happen at the Mayor & CouncilIMG_2607chambers Thursday (12 April) at 6:00 PM. Both boards will also make presentation of their concerns at the hearing. Neither board is pleased with the proposed building height of 48 feet, much taller than any structure nearby. However, the most important issue is retaining the property in the historic zone so that the APHZAB will have some voice in how the project proceeds and to avoid a newprecedent which could destroy our Historic Preservation Zone and others. The board asked for maximum resident attendance at the hearing to show that the community was very concerned about developments. There was consensus that if this rezoning is approved, there will be a succession of such actions going north along 6th Avenue (Wanslee Motors, Philbaum Gallery, Roy’s Market and more). Imagine what 6th Avenue will look like lined with buildings 48 feet tall or taller. The most public face of Armory Park will be disfigured and the western part isolated from the rest. Continue reading “Baffert Headlines APNA Agenda”

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.

Continue reading “APHZAB View of Baffert Rezoning”

APHZAB Elections & Design Review Process

The 19 December APHZAB meeting had no projects to consider however there was other business conducted.

Michael Taku, Lead Planner at PDSD made some comments and handed out a copy of a portion of the Uniform Development Code from which I extracted the following. If you are considering any project in Armory Park you should review the process described in the code. Otherwise you may want to move past this. Continue reading “APHZAB Elections & Design Review Process”

Save Your Historic Neighborhood

Yesterday, I wrote about the APNA board meeting where the propose Baffert project and removal of the property from our HPZ was extensively discussed. I want to follow up on the subject.

Bill Duffy, Chair of our historic board (APHZAB), recently posted an excellent email to our listserv on the subject. Most of it is quoted here: Continue reading “Save Your Historic Neighborhood”

APNA Concerned About Baffert Project

The most important discussions of the meeting were regarding the proposed Baffert project at Five Points. While some have expressed concern about the height of the proposed building or its impact on the on-street parking situation, those are not the most important problems with this proposal.  The mechanism being used by the developer and the Tucson planning department is to remove the project’s lot from our Historic Preservation Zone. The precedent created is a threat to the historic character of our entire neighborhood and others across the city. Continue reading “APNA Concerned About Baffert Project”

A Busy Evening at APHZAB

The November APHZAB meeting was a little different than usual because it opened with a presentation by Michael Taku, lead planner in the PDSD historic office. A central message was that the board has a recommending role and is not a final decision maker. The PDSD director has the final say subject to appeal to Mayor and Council. He also asked for feedback from the board to streamline the review process. Streamlining will be easier said than done because of the many obstacles: a split building- historic permit process, shortage of staff, staff inexperience and a culture that does not seem to value customer service. I will remain a hopeful skeptic until I see concrete improvements. Continue reading “A Busy Evening at APHZAB”

Houghton East Has Lessons for Armory Park

Earlier this month I attended a Zoning Examiner hearing for a large Fry’s store, gas station and other stores in the Houghton East neighborhood planning area. The community was annexed into the city with a detailed and restrictive neighborhood plan as a precondition. The debate is about whether the project complies with the neighborhood plan. This was a rehearing because the first one did not include sufficient  notice. Continue reading “Houghton East Has Lessons for Armory Park”