A common complaint about City of Tucson government is how it pits business interests against neighborhood interests. But both sides can agree the bureaucrats administering oversight of zoning laws have botched it when it comes to these so-called minidorms in neighborhoods around the University of Arizona. And the city has been botching it for more than a decade.

Of course when you're talking about bureaucrats there is no accountability. And so, now 10 years after allowing minidorms to be built replacing single-family homes, City Zoning Administrator Craig Gross came up with a determination on March 14 that minidorms don't comply with R-1 and R-2, single-family resident zoning because they "are occupied by multiple college students, typically unrelated in any manner other than their desire to reside near a university they attend" and generally have no "legal, social or moral commitment" to each other. In making his determination Gross also wrote that rent is usually collected individually from tenants and that rooms in the buildings have separate keys.

Minidorm developer Michael Goodman was due to appeal Gross' determination this week.

In the meantime, City Councilman Steve Kozachik has been asking questions. Mainly, "what's changed?" City officials have been OK'ing the demolition of older single-family homes in these neighborhoods and the construction of minidorms.

"Every single person on either side of this issue should be scratching their heads wondering, ‘what changed?'," Kozachik wrote.

He notes there have been no changes in the zoning rules or land use codes. "Nothing in the set of facts has changed but the determination."

Residents arguing that the character of their neighborhoods has changed can't get back the homes that are now gone. Goodman and other developers legally invested money on these projects.

The real culprit here is the fact that the University of Arizona has only about 6,000 beds in student housing and has failed to keep up with its growing enrollment that now numbers more than 38,000. And, oh goody, the UA in a partnership with other developers, is due to announce today that it is building another 1,200 beds of student housing on the modern streetcar line downtown.

City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich countered Kozachik's arguments saying nothing has changed and that neighborhoods and city staff have tried for years to work out mutually acceptable ways of reducing harm. When that didn't happen, neighbors organized, raised money and pushed back.

"I for one am pleased that, when residents banded together and stood up to the bullying, they prevailed in their request that the city investigate specific violations and enforce regulations on the books," Uhlich wrote to the Tucson Weekly. "The fact that minidorm developers ‘got away with it' for years points to values long held in Tucson - we like to think people mean well and want to work through differences cooperatively."

Unfortunately, what it really shows once again is that Tucson lacks leadership. If the zoning administrator had made the determination 10 years earlier when developers sought to build the first minidorm, this question would have had a 10-year head-start going through the courts system and the monetary damages would have been a fraction of what they are about to become.

Right or wrong, Tucson leaders - not bureaucrats - need to get backbones and start making decisions. If there's a dispute, there are legal avenues. Businesses and neighborhoods will be better off if they know the rules at the beginning of the game.