backs county on Oracle vote
ALAN LEVINE, Staff Writer
rules 2 referendums can appear on November ballot
- Pinal County and an Oracle citizens group emerged as victors in the most
recent skirmish of an ongoing battle between a pair of major developers
and Pinal Citizens for Sustainable Communities.
April 12, Presiding Superior Court Judge William O'Neil rendered a decision
in favor of the county in a lawsuit initiated by Anam Inc. and Robson Ranch
Mountains LLC that sought to keep two separate referendums from appearing
on the ballot this November.
the past two years, both Anam and Robson had been successful in getting
their respective master-planned community projects through the county's
Planning and Zoning Commission and received a final OK from the Pinal County
Board of Supervisors. They were well on their way to planting a bumper
crop of rooftops across 7,100 pristine acres in the Oracle Junction area,
bringing in an estimated 33,000 additional people.
before Anam and Robson were able to mobilize their earth-mover machines,
a relative handful of concerned Oracle residents went about garnering a
total of more than 12,000 signatures, bringing a halt to both projects
and forcing ballot measures that would allow the citizens of Pinal County
to decide whether plans for the two huge communities should continue or
be torn up and assigned to the waste basket.
developers quickly retaliated, however, when their attorneys detected some
minor, technical infractions on the part of the Pinal County Elections
Department having to do with the manner in which the petitions were issued
and the specification of a due date.
petitioners are given 30 days from the time they receive the official petition
documents from the elections office to the time the materials are to be
returned. As specified in his ruling, O'Neil acknowledged that Gilbert
Hoyos, county elections director, had erred when he issued the petition
materials to PCSC. At the time of issuance, Hoyos noticed that the 30th
day fell on the weekend, so he assigned a due date for the following Monday,
which fell beyond the 30-day limit.
the broad technical interpretation of the statutes, PCSC's petitions were
invalid because Hoyos had not complied with those statutes, but in his
written opinion, O'Neil said:
(Hoyos) informed them (PCSC), without request from them, of the due date
and inserted it upon the application and made clear, even during his testimony,
that he is still of the opinion that the Monday date given was the proper
is not a case in equity," O'Neil wrote, "but a case in law. Referendum
is a Constitutional right but it is an 'extraordinary' power ...
coupled with the statement of the Arizona Legislature ... of the Arizona
Session Laws of 1989, which sets forth in clear language the Legislature's
intent regarding the power of referendum, the county's position is persuasive."
statement reads: "The right of initiative and referendum shall be broadly
construed ... the effective failure to comply with these requirements shall
not destroy the presumption of validity of citizens' signatures, petitions
or the initiated or referred measure ..."
based his decision mainly on the people's right to be heard. The folks
at PCSC contend that by signing its petitions, more than 12,000 residents
expressed their desire to have the people of Pinal County decide how much
development should be allowed to take place within the county as opposed
to leaving the decision in the hands of big-money interests and a relative
handful of county officials.
have the right to be engaged in decisions regarding the outcome of the
largest land-use issue to date in the county," said Mary Ellen Kazda, an
Oracle resident and member of PCSC.
developers have decided to challenge O'Neil's ruling in the Court of Appeals
in Tucson. With the county out of the picture, PCSC has hired Anne Graham-Bergin,
a Tucson attorney, to look after its interests during the process.
announced the court's schedule on Wednesday: "Opening briefs by the plaintiffs
are due May 10; our response briefs are due May 31, with their reply briefs
due June 10. If granted by the court, oral arguments will be set later
in June and a decision will be rendered late June, early July."