Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Bits and Pieces (Pre Thanksgiving Edition)

Tree Lighting date set
The holiday tree will be located once again at the Oro Valley marketplace. The lighting ceremony is December 2 at 6 PM. There is also an all day holiday festival taking place that day.

Community Center Milestones 
In October, the Community and Recreation Center (CRC) achieved a record-breaking membership with over 3,200 currently registered members. This is a 51% increase from the prior year, adding 1,077 members. Situated at the heart of our town, the CRC stands as a cornerstone of our community, and this substantial growth underscores the growing enthusiasm of the town’s community's amenity and recreation programs. (Town Manager November Report To Council)

Town upgrades 911 system … adds automatic call back feature
In October, the town upgraded its 911 system. The upgrade introduces a major new feature: Automatic Abandoned Callback (AAC). AAC is designed to call back abandoned 911 calls, providing response prompts. Yes. The majority of abandoned 911 calls are accidental. Still, there is a portion of these calls that originate from individuals in urgent need of emergency assistance. (Town Manager November Report To Council)

Treat the “Yellow Signs” kindly

Property owners, applicants, and/or developers are required to submit applications to the Oro Valley Planning and Zoning Staff for proposed land development (e.g., General Plan Amendment, Rezoning, Conditional Use Permit, Grading exception) changes The Town is then required to publicly announce all hearings related to the proposed development. Prominent yellow signs are installed on the property to inform residents about upcoming public meetings. 

These signs contain details about the proposed changes, meeting date/location, and the website/contact information for residents seeking additional details. They serve as a visual prompt for residents to engage and gather information about the proposed developments in their community. Unfortunately, some yellow signs have been defaced, knocked down, or blown over by the wind. To report damaged or fallen signs, please call 520-229-4800.

Town focuses on identifying short term rental registrations... issues violation notices
The following are short-term rental (STR) statistics through October:
  • There are 341 STR rental unit listings as of 10/30/23, down from 348 listings the prior month.
  • September: 67.5% of STRs are single family units, 31.3% are multifamily units, and 1.2% are unknown type. 
  • October: 68.8% of STRs are single family units, 29.9% are multifamily units, and 1.3% are unknown type. 
  • 2-3 bedroom rentals constitute 41% and 35.1% of all rental listings, respectively. 
  • Of the single family units, approximately 96.% include the entire home as the rental unit.
Town staff assesses STR registrations monthly, initiating a review process at the start of each month to detect any registrations that remain outstanding. Staff issues a violation notice once it has identified a non-registered STR. (Town Manager November Report To Council) 

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Sinking Houses Delay GPA Request

Located near Big Wash
The Oro Valley Town Council voted unanimously to continue a type-2 general plan amendment (GPA) request to build 51 medium density single-family homes off the Moore Loop Road. The property is located on the edge of Big Wash.

Concerns of sinking homes
Several council members expressed concern about the soil’s suitability for housing in this area, given the subsidence of two homes, the (sewage system) lift station and a street in the nearby Valley Vista development. 

Caused by moisture reactive soil
The subsidence is attributed to a layer of soil that is reactive to moisture. One home has been jacked up 18 inches. The town has not yet determined the source of the moisture, whether it’s groundwater, gray water, or another factor – it remains uncertain.  You can watch Town Engineer and Director of Public Works Paul Keelser explain the current situation at Valley Vista.

Keesler: Special conditions needed
As a result of this situation, Keesler recommended special conditions of approval for the proposed 51 home project. This included a provision that "Additional soils testing during construction may be required in locations and to specifications as determined by the Town Engineer;" and "All homes will need gutter systems directing roof drainage to the adjacent street."

Council wants more soil testing
Despite these provisions, the council wants to proceed with utmost caution. Council Member Jones-Ivey expressed concern about whether the applicant and the town had conducted sufficiently thorough ground testing to ensure the prevention of subsidence, especially given that certain soil in the area is known to absorb moisture. Also the soil in Big Wash, which is adjacent to the project, does absorb water. Others voiced similar concerns. Thus, the council voted to continue the hearing to a future, unspecified date.

Uncertain as to when the proposed amendment will be back
The applicant, seeking clarification, asked for specific metrics beyond “more ground testing needs to be done.” Council provided no guidance. 
- - -

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Council Acts: Oro Valley Village Center Ready To Go

The way is clear to remake the Oro Valley Marketplace
The remake of the Oro Valley Marketplace can now begin. Last night, the Town Council unanimously approved the final clearances needed to break ground. The project will have two expansive apartment buildings housing a total of 504 units, a hotel and a recreation area.

Approval cleared two motions
Clearing the way required that the council approve two resolutions: First, relinquished the rights to two "right-of-ways." Second, approved a recreation area that will be developed solely by the developer. The final design of that recreation area is a bit fluid and will be "worked out" with town staff.

A phased approach to building the recreation area
Town West secured approval to advance the project by working through the final "sticking point". That point was the town's refusal to pay for part of what was to be an "entertainment center."  To work around this, Town West offered a scaled-down recreation area. It is one that can be expanded to the original concept. However according to Town West, that will only happen if the Town of Oro Valley invests in under-grounding the wash that runs through that area. That would cost the town $6 million, according to Vice Mayor Barrett, speaking at the meeting. 

Nothing will happen quickly
Developer representative Keri Silvyn said that it will take 18 months before any of the three planned buildings is ready for occupancy. The first building to be occupied will be a hotel because town council specified in its initial project approval last year that a hotel must receive a Certificate of Occupancy before any apartment can be occupied. Town West will complete the two apartment complexes, one on Tangerine and the other on Oracle, within a few months of that. 

Click here to learn more about the plan for building the center.  

- - -

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

8 years and $22.3 million later, Municipal Golf seems to be on a stable course

It's been a long, long time
Oro Valley Municipal Golf may finally be in a place where it is a viable enterprise. It has taken eight years and more than $22 million in spending. That’s the story that the numbers tell us. The numbers to which we refer are from the town staff’s quarterly report to the council on town finances. The staff will deliver that report tomorrow night to Town Council. Included amongst the many schedules is Attachment C-3, page 1. It is entitled 'Golf Analysis.' It provides a brief financial history of the financial impact of municipal golf. We’ve created a chart [panel right below] which tells the story: operating losses in the earlier years and heavy investment in the most recent years

It's been an interesting Ride
Heavy operating losses compelled the Winfield Council take action to stem the bleeding
Municipal golf was facing tremendous financial losses when the Winfield Council took over in fiscal 2019. The previous council had no idea what to do. There were calls from some to close down the golf courses. The Winfield Council held several neighborhood meetings and council hearings to determine the community's preferences. Clearly, those who live and use the golf courses (The Green Shirts) wanted them to remain open. Recognizing the tremendous negative impact that closure would have on them, Winfield chose to frame the discussion in terms of a target subsidy level: Municipal Golf could continue to operate as long as it did not cost the town more than $750,000 a year,

The following year, 2020, the Town hired Indigo Golf to manage golf course operations.  Losses decreased within a year to such a level that they were below $750,000. Indeed for the last two fiscal years municipal golf earned an operating profit.

Recent Years' Spending Driven by replacing irrigation 
The operating losses were so significant in the early years that the Hiremath Council could not meet its commitment to invest substantial money to replace golf course irrigation. Seeing an opening of cheap interest rates, Winfield and his council elected to spend that money once they saw the operating losses abated. They have poured $10million into the courses in the past few years.  This was a huge investment.

Was it worth it?  You be the judge 
Was it worth $22.3 million? Was it worth incurring a 1/2%sales tax, enacted by the Hiremath Council, to pay for this? Plus money from a 2022 $25 million Parks and Recreation Bond?

It really doesn’t matter. “In for penny.. in for a pound.” 

There’s no turning back. But, hopefully, the future will see this eight year drain on Oro Valley financial resources on a stable footing.
- - -

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Bits and Pieces

Build-To-Rent Units are included in the determination of Oro Valley's 100 year assured water supply
This is a correction to the post that was here originally which stated that apartments are not included in Oro Valley's determination of assured water supply. That was incorrect. That "loophole" to which we refer only applies to developments in communities that do not have a state approved "Designation of Assured Water Supply." (DAWS) 

According to Oro Valley's Water Utility Director: "The Town of Oro Valley has a DAWS and therefore any developments that fall within the Water Utility’s service area fall under the requirements of the assured water supply rules. This is a good thing. It ensures that all water production and use is accounted for. No loopholes. Every year the Water Utility submits an Annual Report to the ADWR. This report documents all of the water received or produced by the Utility as well as all of the water delivered by the Utility. All water movement is accounted for and all committed demands from all user classifications counts towards our DAWS. No loopholes." (Source: email from Director Abraham.)

This is a list Arizona jurisdictions that have a DAWS. Oro Valley is listed on it.

Naranja Park entrance pedestrian safety improvements on hold
The Town has put on hold the interim pedestrian safety improvements at the Naranja Drive entrance to Naranja Park. According to Town Public Works Director Paul Keesler, this delay is a result of three lawsuits that have been filed against the town, collectively seeking damages of $89.5 million. The improvements are on hold until the attorney's "finish their work".  

It's understandable that the town is proceeding cautiously in this matter. The plaintiffs are using the recently installed north-side entrance safety path, implemented by the town earlier this summer, as evidence to support their claim that the town acknowledges some responsibility for the accident in that area.  The plaintiff may use further improvements as yet more evidence of such.

Register to participate in the 2026 General Plan Process
You should register at to participate in the 2026 General Plan process. This will give you the opportunity to participate in online discussions about important topics in the community. Also, while you are there, view the video about the plan. "The General Plan is our ‘true north’ because it is informed and shaped by the citizens,” Mayor Winfield said. “We will leverage the momentum of our success with the 2016 plan to propel us into our next decade.” (Source: Town of Oro Valley Media Release) 

Pretty rocks at Riverfront Park
An individual is painting river rocks with the names of dogs that walk at Riverfront Park. The stack is growing. You can see the fine work at left. We've been told, but have yet to confirm, that Elizabeth is the first name of the person who has created this lovely artwork.

Visit Tucson has not appeared before the Town Council since 2022
The Town of Oro Valley pays $415,000 to Visit Tucson, the group that promotes regional tourism, since February of 2022. Mayor Winfield tells us that they will appear before council "early next year."

Some key Oro Valley senior staff don't even live in Oro Valley 
We find it curious that the town's Planning Director Bayer Vella, the town's Director of Public Works Paul Keesler, the town's Water Director Peter Abraham, and the town's Director of Economic Development Paul Melcher don't live in Oro Valley. Yet, collectively, they have tremendous power over life in our town. We should think that Oro Valley residency be mandatory for anyone who holds the senior position in our town. That way they'll have some skin in the game.

Town fills three positions
The town has filled three key positions: 
  • Scott Zufelt is now the Innovation & Technology (I&T) Director
  • Jeffery Hidalgo is the now the Public Information Officer (PIO)
  • Rosalyn Epting is the Parks and Recreation Director
(Source: Town of Oro Valley Town Manager Executive Report to Council, November 2023)

Welcome all to Oro Valley!
- - -