Babbitt's Secret Growth-Control Plan

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That, Woods feels, "will do effectively what growth boundaries would do. Very few people are going to develop if they have to do everything themselves."

Woods had thought that Hull's original growth-control plan, 1998's Growing Smarter, would be impotent because it was backed strongly by developers. Woods expected Growing Smarter Plus to be more of the same and so he signed on to the Sierra Club's CGMI.

Hull's faction made overtures to Woods and the environmentalists. Growing Smarter Plus was greatly improved in the negotiation between the two camps.

Woods, along with Sandy Bahr and Rene Guillory from the Sierra Club and Jennifer Anderson from the Center for Law in the Public Interest, wangled a number of concessions from Hull's negotiators, which included Jack Pfister, chairman of Hull's Growing Smarter Commission, and developers. Among those concessions: allowing cities to charge development fees, assurance that cities would have to stick with their growth plans, setting designated growth areas, limiting annexation to what municipalities can realistically provide service for, and building in provisions for voter participation -- requiring a two-thirds majority vote before changing a plan and holding all changes until the end of the year so that they are considered as a package instead of piecemeal.

Woods appreciated the compromise; but his environmental associates were not impressed.

According to Anderson of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, the Hull contingent wanted to make Growing Smarter Plus just palatable enough so that the environmentalists would drop their initiative.

"They were trying to find out what we would agree to," says Anderson, "but we were not going to come to them and say, 'This is our bottom line and we'll compromise on this, this and this.' We have the initiative. We think the initiative is the best package for managing growth in Arizona, and we thought it was incumbent on them to come up with some proposals about how they can improve Growing Smarter."

Woods, on the other hand, was ready to deal.

"For whatever reasons, it was all or nothing [for environmentalists]; they're really wedded to the CGMI proposal," Woods says. "And to me, I didn't care at all whether it was this proposal or that proposal, or who's behind it, or who's in charge, or who gets the credit. What I want is to accomplish these goals and get it done."

On February 12, Citizens for Growth Management announced that Woods had suddenly defected and thrown his support to Hull's Growing Smarter Plus. Hull had certainly been wooing him, and in the end he had been negotiating more as a freelancer than as the head of an environmental consortium. But whether he jumped from one side to the other or got pushed is a matter of some argument.

Woods was on a ski trip to Colorado with his son, hammering out draft language with the governor's people over the telephone. He had his secretary call the Sierra Club to pass on a message that the governor was set to make an announcement.

Sandy Bahr of the Sierra Club says the environmentalists blew the whistle on Woods' change of heart because Woods' secretary had said that Woods was taking Hull's side.

"It wasn't a done deal that I was going to," Woods insists. "They clearly jumped the gun." Bahr claims she and her colleagues tried in vain to reach Woods.

"We left messages all over the place for him," she says. Then she called the secretary back to make sure they got the story straight before issuing the press release.

"And by the way," Bahr points out, "he's still never called and talked to anyone [from the environmentalists' campaign]."

Woods considered all the plans on the table. The dealmaker-dealbreaker was Babbitt's plan.

"There's nothing in CGMI that preserves one inch of land," he says.

The 270,000 acres that Hull proposed for her conservation reserve was a scant 3 percent of the total nine million acres of state trust lands. But most of those nine million acres are in remote corners of the state that weren't at risk for development in the near future. It was a start.

But added to Babbitt's 200,000-acre proposal, it looked even better. And there were still other legal tools to continue adding to the open space bank.

For instance, the Growing Smarter Plus ballot initiative also would legalize land exchanges between governments, meaning that in the future Arizona could trade state trust lands in areas worth saving for federal lands worth developing.

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Michael Kiefer