Tucson City Council to dive into front yard swimming pool issue

Tax breaks could be at sake for several historic neighborhoods in the Old Pueblo
Battle for front yard pools
Published: Dec. 17, 2019 at 10:37 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - (update)

The Tucson City Council voted unanimously to take the swimming pool issue public rather than discuss it behind closed doors.

There will be a series of public hearings and public meetings before the city makes a recommendation whether to rezone to keep front yard swimming pools out of historic neighborhoods. We will continue to follow this developing story.

The Tucson City Council will meet in executive session Tuesday, Dec. 17 to discuss the issue of front-yard swimming pools.

Several Tucson neighborhoods, including Feldman’s and Jefferson Park, claim the pools jeopardize their historic designation.

Feldman’s received its historic designation in the 1980s and with it, homeowners are eligible for a property tax abatement.

According to some residents, that abatement may be 40-50% of their tax liability.

For a neighborhood to receive the designation, a certain number of homes must fall into the historic definition.

While the homeowners can change the character of the inside of the home or even the backyard, the front yard must maintain the same look and feel of the era in which it was built.

Many of the homes were built in the 1920s.

When a front-yard swimming pool is installed, by state law, the owner must also build a 5-foot safety wall. But a wall like that would take the home out of compliance for the historic designation.

So far, high walls have caused 10 homes in the Feldman’s neighborhood to be delisted.

If that happens to enough homes, the neighborhood will lose its historical designation and those tax breaks.

Kathy Bell moved into Feldman's when she relocated from Seattle.

She wanted a community close to midtown that wasn’t a cookie cutter neighborhood.

Because of the historic nature of Feldman's, it met her standards.

Now, that's being threatened.

“I think it’s about both,” she said. “I think it’s about preserving the historical designation for the neighborhood and I think it’s about preserving the tax credit for homeowners.”

The neighborhoods are asking the Tucson City Council to enforce zoning codes which will prohibit the pools. But there’s a potential issue.

Arizona is a private property state, which has been upheld by voters.

Those laws protect from onerous city zoning codes and allow the freedom to do whatever you want with your property.

“We can’t allow something in the front yard that’s going to delist the property,” said Steve Kozachik, the city council member for Ward 6.

Kozachik wants to move Tuesday’s hearings out of a closed-door session to make them public. He said that is the only way each side can present their case.

Property owners would have to prove the zoning regulations would do them financial harm, which he said they would have a hard time doing.

“If the property owners want to stand up in front of the zoning examiner or the Mayor and council during a public hearing, and say ‘I’m going to sue you,’ fine and dandy, let’s hear it,” he said.

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