A labor union and a consulting firm have joined forces to stop Mesa from giving $42 million in subsidies to developers who want to build an outdoor mall.
Citizens Opposed to Subsidies filed referendum paperwork with the city clerk on Thursday.
The group is made up of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 99, and Primary Consultants. Both are located in Phoenix.
Last week, the City Council voted 5-1 to negotiate a contract for Riverview at Dobson, a proposed commercial complex in northwest Mesa where loops 101 and 202 meet.
Plans call for a theater, restaurants, and retail outlets, including a Wal-Mart Supercenter, which is nonunionized and has emerged as a competitor to traditional grocery chains.
Last year, the union and Primary Consultants led a referendum drive to stop Wal-Mart from building a site in Gilbert. The union helped gather signatures in a drive several years ago to stop Wal-Mart from building in east Mesa. Voters approved both projects.
Mike Vespoli of the UFCW, who is listed as the treasurer of Citizens Opposed to Subsidies, didn’t return calls Friday.
Paul Ulan of Primary Consultants, listed as chairman of the group, denied that it was about Wal-Mart. He said the subsidy the city offered is "staggering."
Mesa Vice Mayor Claudia Walters said the incentives go to the developer, not Wal-Mart. She said it was premature for the group to file for a referendum because last week’s vote can’t be referred to the ballot. Those decisions will happen later, when the council votes on new zoning and the contract.
"I hope we can talk to these folks and they can see it differently," Walters said.
The project is being developed by Kimco Developers, a national firm, and Phoenix-based DeRito Partners.
The $42 million in incentives for Riverview would come from waived fees, sales tax rebates, roads and other property improvements. All of the funds would come from the project, and the city would not have to lay out any money up front.
City Attorney Debbie Spinner said she spoke to the group’s lawyer Thursday, but hasn’t researched whether the proposal can be referred to the ballot.
Citizens Opposed to Subsidies needs to gather 3,261 signatures in 30 days to force a public vote, but a deadline hasn’t been determined.
Usually, a referendum targets an ordinance, said Linda Crocker of the city clerk’s office. Because there was no ordinance in this case, the clock starts ticking when the council approves the meeting minutes recording the vote, she said. That is scheduled to happen at Monday night’s council meeting.