The Pima County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to build a bike ranch on nearly 20 acres in the buffer zone directly across from Saguaro National Park East. Republican Supervisors Steve Christy and Ally Miller and Democrat Ramón Valadez voted to approve the ranch yesterday.
The vote came after several hours of contentious discussion and public testimony. In the end a last- minute addition of conditions from the Audubon Society assured a tie-breaking yes from Valadez. Christy, who represents the district where the bicycle-tourism site will be built, was fully behind the project.
"This is project I believe in and is good for Pima County," he said. "It meets all the regulations and has no opposition from the Park Service. It also meets with the image that Pima County is trying to maintain as bicycle community and an international Mecca for such."
Board Chairman Richard Elias led the opposition – saying it was vital that Saguaro National Park be protected from further commercial encroachment. With a motion on the table to approve the permit, Elias tried to turn the question around.
"I'd like to make a substitute motion that we deny this conditional use permit," he proposed.
None of the other supervisors stepped up to second the motion, so it failed.
With the vote knotted two Republicans for and two Democrats against, the tie-breaking vote fell to Valadez. Having received assurances from property owners Peter Lashar and Kelley Matthews that they would include input from the Audubon Society, he voted yes, and the Tucson Bike Ranch was approved.
That approval was a long time coming. Lashar and Matthews first tried five years ago but withdrew the proposal after the Park came out against the project.
But the new design met all the county requirements for a conditional use permit in the restricted buffer zone outside the park and received a letter from the park supervisor rescinding the park's objection.