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Marana residents ‘caught off guard’ by construction of a massive distribution center

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 10:56 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s the age-old adage of quality of life versus job growth and development. That’s at the heart of a huge construction project underway northwest of Tucson.

It’s called the Silverbell Gateway Distribution Center and it’s going up at Ina and Silverbell roads in Marana, making for some unhappy neighbors. Construction equipment started clearing 65 acres of desert land to make way for a nearly 221,000-square-foot industrial building.

Architectural renderings show it’ll be 45 feet high and it’s going up right across the street from hundreds of homes including where Dennis Justice lives, “It’s just a bad place for an industrial site with tractor-trailers, there’s plenty of places that 2,000 people can park and all of the tractor-trailers going in and out.”

Justice was one of a dozen homeowners who addressed the Marana Town Council on Tuesday night, May 4.

Lewis Marshall’s home is considered the closest and he had no idea this was happening until he saw the construction equipment and began looking into it the past few days.

“I spent several hours reading literature that the developer had put together,” he said. “One of the things that they said is they were going to send, by mail, a letter to everybody that lived within 300 feet of the development they were working on. There’s nobody who lives within 300 feet so no one was notified in 2014 when they were asking to have the property rezoned for what they wanted to develop. That was pretty disturbing. They did follow the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law.”

Marana residents "caught off guard" by construction of a massive distribution center
Marana residents "caught off guard" by construction of a massive distribution center(Ware Walcomb)

Neighbors are concerned about the increased traffic, exhaust from delivery trucks, light pollution and noise, along with its proximity to the loop walking and biking trail that runs alongside the Santa Cruz.

“I do the birding down there. I do the hiking the biking,” Dennis Hoffman, another Marana resident told the Town Council, “And I am just shocked that in this day and age, where we have such amazing communication ability, that we don’t know that this is even happening. I can’t even comprehend how a project of this magnitude can slip under the door. So I’m disappointed.”

He ended with, “It brought to mind, almost immediately, a song written in the late 1960s by Joni Mitchell, ‘Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone. They paved paradise, put up a parking lot.’”

Despite their concerns and overwhelming opposition, the project is already a done deal as explained by Marana Mayor Ed Honea.

“We’re a pretty good group at listening to people,” Honea said. “Unfortunately, with a lot of things, if people have zoning and they build something that qualifies in the zoning and we go in and tell them they can’t do it, they’re just going to turn around and sue us and they’re going to do it anyway. I don’t want to be a naysayer but it’s kind of where we are.”

And with that, the council moved on with its agenda.

When asked what business will be using the building, a spokesperson for the Town of Marana said it’s common practice for corporations to withhold their names from a new development until certain approvals are granted.

“Many take this approach to control the messaging and timing of the announcement,” Vic Hathaway said.

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