Pima County zoning will allow taller buildings in some areas

Taking business to new heights

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - For the first time in more than 60 years, Pima County has voted to allow for taller buildings in industrial zones.

The new zoning rule will allow some buildings to extend 90 feet in the air, up from the previous 39-foot limit.

“We’ve know for a long time our height limits were pretty old fashioned,” said Chris Poitier, deputy director of Development Services. “They were set up when our county was a rural, more country county.”

That would be in the mid-1950s, when tall buildings were not needed or desired in the county.

Times have changed and unincorporated Pima County has become more urbanized and more attractive to big business.

Heads turned and the need for changes became apparent when Amazon came to town. It was looking at two potential sites for its expansion. One was limited in space so the company would need to grow up.

“The industry, the new technology, new logistics and new equipment, the needed to go taller,” Poitier said.

However, under the county height restrictions, the company’s choices were limited.

But it’s not just attracting new companies that has prompted the change.

“It also gives the ability for some home grown, to maybe grow up,” he said.

Another reason for the change is that the county is encouraging infill and and reuse of industrial property.

“Let’s get away from the old model of sprawling out in the desert,” he said. “We’re actually taking pressure off of urban sprawl.”

The new zoning fits the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, which stresses protecting the environment.

However, a trade-off for some, at least in residential areas, is they will lose some of their precious mountain views.

The county took that into consideration when formulating the height limits. Most will be restricted to 80 feet in those areas with a 160-foot setback. The setback needs to be double the height.

“The further we get from the height, the less impact there is on your view,” Poitier said. “We think we came up with a pretty good setback.”

There will also be restrictions in the flight paths for Davis-Monthan and Tucson International.

The new zoning code takes effect in early June.

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