Laveen crusade could bring flurry of zoning referendums

[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — Laveen resident Randy Jones is cruising up 35th Avenue in his pickup truck, a pair of neighbors in the backseat and Toby Keith on the radio, when he spots a sign announcing a possible rezoning.  Most Valley residents shrug at signs like this one, if they see them at all.  Jones pulls over like a cop responding to a crime.  “That could be troublesome,” says Carol Pacey, a fellow activist, as she whips out a pen and paper.  Jones agrees.  They scribble down the developer’s information.

Jones and his neighbors have been on sign-spotting patrols like this one frequently in recent years, as the fastest-growing part of Phoenix becomes home to ever-denser developments.  Afraid that unchecked development would destroy their neighborhood’s character, they asked the Phoenix City Council for help.  When the council rebuffed them, they took the city to court.  Today, they find themselves at the center of a legal case that will have ramifications statewide.  If the neighbors’ view prevails, it could result in a flurry of referendums in some of Arizona’s largest cities, including Mesa and Tucson, and could affect such decisions as where shopping malls go or whether unpopular budget cuts are adopted.

From Jones’ perspective, his story is about how far one neighborhood has gone to protect itself against unwanted development.  From the city’s perspective, it’s a story about how small-scale efforts to preserve neighborhoods raise questions about the Valley’s long-term sustainability.  And for both, it’s a story about a legal case that could tip the balance of power in zoning cases back to residents.  It’s a legal case that, for the moment, Jones is winning.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

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