Political "educators" hired by the developers of the planned Riverview at Dobson project in Mesa are going toe-to-toe with petition circulators who are trying to stop the development.
Developers DeRito Brothers and Kimco hired political consultant Doug Cole to tell their side of the story of the retail project at Dobson Road and Loop 202, which is scheduled to have a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, a theater, restaurants, stores, an auto mall and a business park.
Opponents are seeking signatures in an effort to put the rezoning of the site to a public vote. Opponents have been motivated by the incentives Mesa wants to give developers.
City officials said last week that incentives could be as high as $80 million.
Cole, who was a spokesman for former Gov. Fife Symington, is coordinating an effort to hand out fliers near where petition circulators are working.
He said referendum backers are spreading misinformation by lumping arguments about high utility rates in with the Riverview project, and telling people their signatures are protesting the incentive package, not the zoning.
Zoning for the 250-acre project sailed through city hearings, but a week ago Valley business owners formed three committees to kick off a referendum effort to put the three related zoning issues on an election ballot.
Stop Excessive Subsidies, Stop Corporate Welfare and Protect Mesa’s General Plan are backed by the group which has convinced voters to reject the city’s food tax, helped defeat both Cardinals stadium proposals and is fighting in court to put a rollback of the city’s recent $8 million utility rate hike on the ballot.
The petitions don’t directly address the incentives, but by jeopardizing the zoning they do freeze the entire project. The city will likely call a special election in May if enough valid signatures are collected by the Dec. 2 deadline.
David Molina, leader of the referendum effort, said the groups have gathered about 1,500 signatures for each of the three measures.
They need to collect about 3,300 to get the measures on the ballot, and have set a goal of 4,500 signatures.