The Santa Cruz County Planning and Zoning Commission aims to reclassify over 3,500 acres of land for mixed-use development in Rio Rico.

Opposition from local residents raises concerns about potential negative impacts on the town.

The community of Rio Rico is described by its residents as quiet, quaint, and rural. While they do not oppose the zoning plans, they emphasize the need for increased transparency and opportunities for input in decisions that will affect their beloved hometown.

The reclassification of the extensive land area, along the I-19 corridor in Rio Rico, received approval from the Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors in December 2022. However, the plans faced significant opposition from residents residing in the serene retirement community.

“Ive lived here for about two years,” shared Bath Pirl, who moved to the area for its scenic nature two years ago.

The proposed plans highlight the creation of a significant economic center for the region, with potential opportunities in education, housing, and business.

However, the proposed hosting of a mining site was a major point of contention for many residents.

“Our big concern was some of the language surrounding mining of a region that is largely rural and that is a fairly fragile ecosystem with the Santa Cruz River and flora and fauna that are really unique to this region,” Pirl said.

Despite the plans being approved over six months ago, the first public meeting took place on Tuesday, attracting hundreds of upset residents. It was more of the same on Thursday.

The landowner for the project, Andrew Jackson, acknowledged the residents’ concerns and made several amendments ahead of Thursday’s public meeting, including the removal of the proposed mining site.

“Those are the people whose concerns we addressed,” said Jackson. “We were in Tubac last night until 7:30 working on amendments to the proposal.”

During the nearly 4-hour-long public meeting, individuals on both sides of the issue expressed their opinions.

While many support economic development, some believe that the current proposal lacks clarity, while others fear potential environmental costs associated with the plans.

“I mean theres always going to be growth,” said Jan Espe with the Tubac Nature Center. “Things have changed even since weve lived here. But not this kind of growth. Small with a small bit and see what happens.”

The meeting concluded with the proposed amendments being adopted. In total, there were 23.

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors is set to vote on the plan in 60 days.