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City Council proposes land swap for Painted Hills

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City Council proposes land swap for Painted Hills

City hopes to resolve water/development issue, annexation still on table

The Tucson City Council voted Tuesday to reconsider annexing the Painted Hills area, but will ask the county to pursue a land swap for the parcel.

The council, under pressure from a $46.25 million claim by the developer of the Tucson Mountains property, voted 4 -3 last month to pursue annexation of the area.

The vote puts off any move to add the parcel to the city until the possibility of exchanging other land for the westside area is examined.

TDB Tucson Group, which represents the property owner, a Dallas firefighters pension fund, claims losses based on the city's refusal to provide water service to the development.

The developer wants to construct 250 houses on the 300 acre property.

The city has said the area is outside the zone in which Tucson Water automatically provides service. Annexing the land will put it inside the water service area.

Councilwoman Regina Romero proposed that the city put a hold on annexation, and that Pima County be asked to swap another land parcel for the Painted Hills area. The council was unanimous in approving the motion.

The move would add the property to the county's preserved open space areas.

The council asked city staff to report back in 30 days on progress toward a land swap.

New councilman Paul Cunningham, who was on the winning side of the previous vote, requested that the council review the decision. Only councilmembers who are on the prevailing side of a vote can request reconsideration.

Council members Regina Romero, Richard Fimbres and Steve Kozachik voted against annexing the area at the previous meeting.

The firefighters pension fund purchased the Painted Hills property from the state in 2008 for $27 million.

The land had been revalued several times since. Pima County cut the assessed value to $12 million in 2008, and it was cut to $8 million after the fund petitioned for review in 2010. For 2011, the developer has requested the land be assessed at $2,500.

Pima County voters approved the land's designation as open space in two bond programs, but the county was unable to purchase the property because it was too expensive when the state auctioned it. The pension fund has been unwilling to sell the property.

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