Thursday, April 18, 2019

Smell The Roses, Oro Valley



Smelling the roses...
There is beauty all around us in Oro Valley, especially this spring. We just need to take the time to look.

These are "bottlebrush tree" buds.
The long brushes we see in the end, start here, with these amazingly beautiful spiral buds.

Each bottlebrush starts with a cluster of 6-8 buds. Each bud is a spiral of brush filaments. The spirals open. The filaments extend. Together, they become one full-blown bottle bush brush.  The size of a each bud is less than a pinky finger nail.

Take a look at the buds before the filaments extend. Artistically beautiful...


Monday, April 15, 2019

The "Golf Course War" Begins

The "golf course wars" are upon us
The Canada Hills Community Association Board of Directors is opposed to any change in the structure of the operations of the town owned country club. They sent a letter to their members dated April 8 stating their position. They stress a possible reduction in property values for their homes if there is any change. They also make a veiled threat of a law suit opposing any change.

This is not the first time we've heard these assertions, as they have been presented to council in hearings.

We think it is important to understand their position. They are our neighbors and they will be directly impacted by any decision regarding the courses. Thus, we are reprinting the contents of their letter in its entirety without further comment in this posting.
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Canada Hills presents their position: Property value will drop
"This communication is coming to you from the Board of Directors of your master Association, Canada Hills Community Association ("Canada Hills"). It is in regard to your property at 11520 N Scioto Ave Oro Valley, AZ 85737-7207, Account Number: 15-061.

As many of you are aware the Oro Valley Town Council ("Town Council") is currently deliberating on potentially closing or repurposing all or a portion of the golf courses associated witb_the_Orq__yalley Community Center.

A portion of this golf course is intertwined with Canada Hills. We, as the Canada Hills Board of Directors, are very concerned regarding the impact to Canada Hills and Oro Valley if the Town Council were to decide to close or re purpose any portion this portion of the golf course. In general, closure of golf courses devalues view lots by up to 20 per cent and nearby homes by 5 per cent. Studies of similar communities with a golf course closure suggest that a $300,000 home would lose between $15,000 to $60,000 in value.

This letter is to update you on our involvement and actions on this issue on behalf of the community. It is also intended to inspire you to communicate with your council members, whether you share the Board's view or not. This is a time to be sure your opinion is heard by your elected officials.

We presented our concerns at the February 2019 Town Council meeting. In our statement, included in this communication for your reference, we focused on the potential property devaluation in Canada Hills.

At the Canada Hills Annual Meeting held on March 13, 2019 many homeowners expressed their apprehension regarding this issue. The message from these homeowners was clear -they are very concerned regarding potential devaluation of their homes in Canada Hills.

We sought legal counsel to understand what actions we are authorized to perform by the Canada Hills Governing Documents. Based on this legal advice, we have decided that it is within our rights and duty to act to protect the Canada Hills property values within the limits specified in the Governing Documents.

Our first step is to share our perceptions with the members of Canada Hills in this letter. We are also working to retain an expert appraiser to estimate the likely decrease in home values and present the results and our demands to the Town Council. We, as representatives from the Canada Hills Board and Oro Valley homeowners, continue to attend Town Council meeting, are working to meet with the Town Council, and are restating our concerns on a regular basis.

While the impact to Canada Hills is potentially significant, it is our opinion that the Town Council has not fully addressed the impact this decision could have on all of Oro Valley. Things that could impact Oro Valleys financial future include:

  • Loss of property tax revenue that is returned to the town's roads, schools, fire departments, libraries, etc. due to the significant devaluation of property on or near the golf courses. 
  • The cost to Oro Valley of repurposing the land and its long-term maintenance, which could be significant. 
  • Loss of Oro Valley Water Utility revenue if the golf courses does not purchase effluent (recycled) water. 
  • The loss of Oro Valley tourism and tournaments that draw people to Oro Valley. This will result in a loss of revenue for Oro Valley in bed taxes and a reduction of city tax collected. 
  • Potential monetary liability to Oro Valley from lawsuits resulting from this decision . 
  • The opportunity of increasing t he net profit of the golf course by restoring golf fees to their previous levels and decreasing expenses by implementing delayed infrastructure and maintenance projects. i.e. Irrigation replacement.

To date we have not heard the Town Council address these basic financial issues.

It's also obvious that the look & feel of Oro Valley will be significantly different if the green space provided by the golf course is eliminated. Homeowners in Oro Valley should also anticipate t he reduction of amenities that we take for granted in Oro Valley, such as hotels and fine dining, that have a dependence on tourism.

There are thirteen hundred homes and two large apartment complexes in Canada Hills. Our residents make up approximately six percent of t he population of Oro Valley. Communicating your position to the Town Council can make a difference and will assure that Canada Hills is represented in this discussion. In order to make your work easier we have attached a copy of the contact information for your council members and town manager. These, and other resources, are available at http://www.canadahillscommunity.com/.

Regardless of whether you agree with our position or oppose it, please act today. We recommend communicating your opinions directly with your council members and attending the Town Council meetings to express your opinion immediately. The Town Council could choose to decide on this matter at any time.

We love living in Oro Valley. We are proud of Canada Hills and want to do everything within our power to influence the Town Council to do a t horough analysis of this topic and make an intelligent and informed decision. This issue will be on the agenda for Canada Hills Board Meetings for the foreseeable future. The time and location of Canada Hills Board Meetings are posted on http://www.canadahillscommunity.com/.

We encourage you to act today and let your voice be heard!"
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Source: Letter to resident of Canada Hills from the Canada Hills Community Association Board of Directors, April 8, 2019

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Watchdog Report: The January Financials – Suspicions Confirmed

January 2019 was a good month. However, I discovered something questionable and my suspicions were confirmed by the Town. (This is discussed under “Clever Bookkeeping” below).

The good news is that the Community Center Fund (CCF) ended January 2019 with a positive balance of $32,682. But before you start celebrating…remember that:

• January is a prime month for golf
• The Town still needs to transfer the $120,000 annual repayment to the General Fund (promised by the Hiremath council in 2015 when they borrowed $1.2 million from the General Fund to start the Community Center Fund with a promise to pay back $120,000 per year.)
• The Community Center is still not ADA compliant
• The town has spent only $2,653 of the promised $50,950 in capital improvements.

As of January 31, 2019, the contracted revenues (Troon) were $1,673,938, while the contracted expenditures were $2,874,342. This means that Troon has lost $1,200,404 since July 1, 2018 (the beginning of the fiscal year).

The Town’s revenues were $511,800 while their expenditures were $475,423 resulting in a profit of $36,377 since July 2018.

In January 2019, there were 3,762 non-member rounds of golf played on 45 holes, while at a public course within 5 miles there were 3,764 rounds played on 18 holes. The golf membership was 233, however, there were 6 members who did not pay dues in January due to medical leave and those over 90 not being required to pay dues.

The Overlook lost $11,224 in January, bringing the total loss for the fiscal year to $77,348.

Clever Bookkeeping
Since the establishment of the CCF in May 2015, Troon has paid $4,905,941 in utility expenses and the Town has paid ZERO. This is odd when you consider that:

• The Town’s portion of the Community Center includes a heated swimming pool, lighted tennis courts, and HVAC requirements for the fitness and recreation center.

• Troon’s portion includes the golf courses, the pro shop, and the Overlook Restaurant. However, all utility costs have been allocated to Troon.

I asked the Town why Troon was responsible for the Town’s portion of the utility expenses. They responded:
“The decision was made upon acquisition to account for all utilities in the Troon budget because the bulk of the utilities costs (water for the golf courses) was a Troon expense, and the building was not equipped with separate meters to clearly measure the Town’s portion of utilities versus Troon’s portion.”
This was a decision made by former Town Manager, Greg Caton and Finance Director, Stacy Lemos upon the purchase of the property.

Granted, water is a large expense for golf, but there is also water utilized in the two swimming pools and the shower facilities.

The Town goes on to further justify this unfair allocation:
“Conversely, the Troon budget also does not allocate a portion of golf member dues (collected by Troon) to the Town to recognize the fact that golf members have access to the Town’s fitness facilities as Premium members.”
However, the Town fails to mention that the Premium Fitness and Tennis members also have all the benefits regarding food and beverage and merchandise discounts, but Troon receives no portion of these dollars.


Why did the Town rig the financials this way?
We all know that whatever they do, golf is going to lose money. Was this “clever” bookkeeping done because this might be a way to show that the purchase was not a total loss if they can show that the Community Center/Fitness/Tennis portion is making money?

Although the Town’s expenses vs. revenues are showing a positive trend (with recent financials indicating that the Town has made a $36,377 profit through January 2019) is this a valid number when it does not include utility costs accrued by the Town?

Utilities for this fiscal year show:
Water $917,132
Electric and Gas $301,720
Waste Removal and Cable Service $38,673
TOTAL $1,257,525

Given these numbers, the Town’s true expenditures for the fiscal year would be considerably more than the $475,423 listed above and their “profit” of $36,377 would be non-existent. There would, in fact, be a negative balance.

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Mike Zinkin has a Bachelor’s degree in history and government from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education from California State University, Northridge. He was a commissioned ensign in the United States Navy Reserve. He was an Air Traffic Controller for 30 years. He and his wife moved to Oro Valley in 1998. Mike served on the Oro Valley Development Review Board from 2005-2009 and the Board of Adjustment from 2011-2012. He served on the Town Council from 2012-2016 during which time he was named a Fellow for the National League of Cities University, he was a member of the National League of Cities Steering Committee for Community and Economic Development, and a member of the Arizona League of Cities Budget and Economic Development Committee.

Monday, April 8, 2019

The case of the Plant and the Parrot

Think of any Oro Valley homeowner living in a neighborhood that’s located in an area surrounded by a natural, untouched desert environment. Perhaps you are one of those homeowners. And consider further that someone shows up and announces that they are going to bulldoze that pristine desert surrounding your home. Given this scenario, you have to wonder what’s in it for the person who speaks at a council meeting, telling everyone that this is a good thing for the neighborhood. And that is the perfect lead-in to today’s article.

Today’s article is another installment in our series on the Town Centre PAD zoning amendment which, if approved, would allow 82 mass graded cluster homes on the Oracle Road Scenic Corridor. Today we will focus on the one Oro Valley resident who spoke in favor of the proposal during the March 6th council meeting.

Technically, two Oro Valley residents were in favor but one of those residents was Dave Perry, President of the Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, whose opinions can hardly be considered unbiased.

That leaves just one “ordinary” Oro Valley resident who spoke in favor of the zoning amendment who didn’t have any skin in the game…or did she?

There’s an echo in the room
The speech she gave during the March 6th public hearing is below.  It was hard not to notice how many times she parroted talking points that we’ve heard over and over by Councilmember (and developer) Steve Solomon and Chamber President, Dave Perry.

We’ve highlighted the comments that are known talking points of Solomon and Perry. See if you can match the talking point to the author.

Teri Lamour’s Speech
“I’m a 20-year resident of Oro Valley, living north of the PAD that’s being discussed this evening. I’m here to speak in support of the proposed amendment to the development.

Every home and business was built on open land. Each one of us has impacted this land just by moving and/or building here. Hopefully, the impact has led to a cohesive, welcoming community. Every landowner has a right to develop their property. Modifications to entitlements happen due to ever-changing circumstances in and around our community.

The community I live in, Rams Canyon at La Reserve, was made possible by a modification to the northern end of the La Reserve PAD. There was construction. There was negative impact during it but it didn’t last forever and now we’ve got wonderful residents and neighbors.

Area 4 of the Oro Valley Town Center PAD is zoned residential and the modification being requested would bring the area closer to that of the surrounding residential areas – La Reserve PAD and the El Conquistador homes.

The landowner and applicant have shown great care in addressing neighboring homeowner concerns. Some have voiced concern over loss of open space and views. Each and every one of us are living on what used to be open spaces. None of us thought about that when we moved to this lovely area. All we saw were gorgeous views and a wonderful lifestyle. All of our home constructions have impacted those who came before us. There were many that probably stood in these chamber halls when OUR houses (Rams Canyon) were built. We should be welcoming potential neighbors instead of cutting ourselves off.

I want to remind everyone, Oro Valley was not incorporated as a Town in 1974 so that we could sit stagnant while communities around us grow and expand. We need residents in order to bring business to our town and to develop our economic impact. This will only help our community. It is my understanding that our Town is already at 90% build-out. We need continued smart, strategic growth in order to survive and thrive.

I feel the landowner and the applicant are making great modification requests and our town will be more vital as a result of it and not a win-lose situation.”

Councilmember Steve Solomon waters his “plant”
When Ms. Lamour finished her speech, Mayor Winfield called a 10 minute recess. The council members went out the door to the break room…all except Steve Solomon who walked out into the audience to “water his plant.” He made a beeline for this resident, thanked her profusely for giving her speech, and spoke with her for a few minutes before finally making his way to the break room to join the others.

Schadenfreude
Everyone who fills out a Blue Card at a council meeting has the right to discuss whatever they want within the three minute time frame. That said, you have to admit that Teri Lamour’s speech and the subsequent little tête-à-tête with Solomon looks suspicious. Both of them talking and smiling like they’d just pulled off a grand heist or something of that nature.

Solomon making this grand gesture of congratulating someone who spoke in support of this development was an insult to the homeowners who had justifiably argued against the negative impacts that this plan would have on traffic, scenic views, and property values.

Schadenfreude, extracted from the German language and now part of American vernacular, is defined as “pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune.” We can think of no better way to describe what we witnessed that evening.

UPDATE: At the March 6th council meeting, after the applicant’s presentation and the subsequent council discussion, the council voted to continue the item to the April 3rd meeting. At the April 3rd meeting, the applicant requested a continuance to give them more time to address the concerns that were raised at the March 6th council meeting.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). Oro Valley’s Trojan Horse. Part 2.

On Monday, LOVE published a synopsis of the 19-page CEDS Report. Today we are providing a list of the 90 people whom the Town interviewed for that report.

The Usual Suspects and “Stakeholders”
The report includes “the input of over ninety (90) interviews with key leaders, executives and other officials representing business and industry, education and workforce, government and strategic economic development allies.” The report refers to these people as “stakeholders.” One wonders why no “ordinary” Oro Valley citizen was interviewed. Are the citizens not considered stakeholders in their own town?

The short list of those interviewed includes:

Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association (SAHBA), Meritage Homes, Diamond Ventures, WLB Group, Mattamy Homes, HSL Properties, Venture West, Oro Valley Hospital, Simpleview, Honeywell, Amphi Schools, Tucson Chamber of Commerce, Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, City of Tucson.

The list goes on for 3 pages and there wasn’t one ordinary Oro Valley citizen.

The point is that many of these entities have been wanting to control Oro Valley’s growth for years and now Jacobs and Johnston have opened the door for them to do just that.

Below is the complete list of individuals interviewed (along with their positions in the community). Other than for Mayor Winfield, Vice-Mayor Barrett, and Councilmembers Nicolson and Jones-Ivey, do you see anyone on this list who is interested in citizen input?

CLICK TO ENLARGE

No Comprende
What Ms. Jacobs and Mr. Johnston don’t seem to understand is that the model for retail has changed with the advent of the internet. Other than for Wal-Mart and Costco, people frequently shop online. Citizens still need local drug stores, grocery stores, hair salons, and some automotive, but look at retail in Oro Valley. All the sporting goods stores have closed – Dick’s, Big 5, Sports Authority. We need to fill all that empty retail space before we start bulldozing the desert to build more retail.

Oro Valley should be focusing on employment centers, not commercial centers. Ms. Jacobs and Mr. Johnston need to read the General Plan and listen to Citizens when they speak up. They need to stop going out on their own and pushing their own ideas…Main Streets, 36 holes of golf, and now with this CED Report, an easier way for developers to bypass citizens’ wishes.

CEDS. Clearly Egregious Destructive Scenario
Something sinister is going on here. Oro Valley was incorporated in 1974 because citizens wanted a community that was designed by citizen input…the very thing that has been removed in this document. We can only hope that the new mayor and council see through this smokescreen and keep the Trojan Horse out of Oro Valley.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). Oro Valley’s Trojan Horse. Part 1.

Say Hello to CEDS and Good-bye to Oro Valley’s Uniqueness
The Town of Oro Valley, under the leadership of its Town Manager, Mary Jacobs, and her Community and Economic Development Manager, J.J. Johnston, have published a 19-page document that proposes to eradicate all the uniqueness that is left in Oro Valley.

The cover of the document shows the sunset behind a saguaro and a view of the foothills. After reading the contents of this report, a more fitting cover would be a picture of bladed desert and smiles on the faces of all the builders and developers.

This document is divided into two different strategies. Half of the document develops a strategy for attracting business, attracting primary employers, a market strategy, and attracting talent. This is all commendable and worthwhile, but then comes…

The Trojan Horse
The document then goes into modifying codes and ways to improve planning efficiencies. This part of the CEDS confirms why the people elected a new mayor and council majority in 2018. It appears that Ms. Jacobs and Mr. Johnston have not altered their thinking as a result of the election. They utilize half of this document to combine economic development with land development! It makes one wonder if the ousted Hiremath regime is running a shadow government.

From Page 11 of the CEDS report:
“…the Town does not have a reputation of moving at the ‘speed of business.’”
The report uses the EEZ Town Code (Economic Expansion Zone) as an example of how all commercial and employment center development could be accelerated. The EEZ code was established to make development easier in Innovation Park by reducing the time required to establish a new business or expand an existing business. This streamlined review process allows the developer to bypass the public participation process (no Neighborhood Meetings for neighbors to voice their concerns) and no Planning and Zoning Commission review.

The code originally allowed for a developer to come in and explain their proposal during an Open House. The proposal would then fast-track from Open House to a Town Council vote. However, there were stipulations that included that the developer could not request a change to the existing zoning, AND there could be no houses within 600 feet of the proposal. It was under this code that Securaplane and Tucson Orthopedic were built. The Hiremath regime later amended the code to delete the 600 foot requirement.

The current EEZ Code is only pertinent in dedicated Tech Parks.

The CEDS report suggests that ALL commercial and employment development should follow the example of the EEZ.
“Resident input is important, but it should be noted that most communities apply the same administrative review process to commercially-zoned properties as the Town has introduced in the EEZ zone.”
Can you imagine the establishment of Oro Valley Marketplace without citizen input? Citizens did not want the storefronts facing Oracle and Tangerine. Vestar reversed the layout and placed the storefronts towards the interior. Citizens also fought and won their argument against illuminated signs facing Oracle and Tangerine in order to preserve the beauty of those scenic corridors.  Mr. Johnston and Ms. Jacobs, please take note: Oro Valley is not like most communities and we would like to remain that way.

(Note:  In another slap in the face to citizens, in March 2015, Hiremath, Hornat, Snider, and Waters broke that 9-year long agreement, allowing Vestar to add illuminated signs along Oracle and Tangerine).

The CEDS report praises Tucson’s fast-track building permits:
“The City of Tucson tapped into the Intergovernmental Agreement it had executed with Pima County to utilize the resources of the County’s building plan review team for the recently approved Amazon building. Pima County was able to complete its full review and position the City of Tucson to issue a building permit within one week. That’s the kind of speed of business major prospects expect in a highly competitive environment.”
Our Town officials need to read the General Plan. We are neither Tucson nor Pima County and we should not be lowering our standards to theirs. We do not want to follow their example. It was their poor examples that motivated us to incorporate in the first place.

The CEDS report criticizes Oro Valley’s landscaping requirements:
“Examples of other cost impacts to commercial developments include such things as excessive landscaping requirements, the amount of open space dedication required, architectural design requirements, some public infrastructure requirements, and the 1% public art requirement.”
Oro Valley’s landscape requirements, architectural standards, and open space requirements are what separate us from the “average” community. Public art is a mainstay in Oro Valley and has always been a ground rule for commercial development. Just because SAHBA (Southern Arizona Home Builders Association) and the Pima Metro Alliance would rather pocket the 1% is not a reason to eliminate it. Public art is another reason that Oro Valley is unique.

The CEDS report criticizes our sign codes:
“A number of interviewees also identified restrictions in the Town’s sign code as inhibiting awareness of drive-by traffic for successful retail enterprises, particularly along the 55 mph Oracle Road corridor.”
You can read the entire CEDS Report HERE

Part 2 will be published on Wednesday and includes the list of the 90 business and industry leaders and government officials who were interviewed for the CEDS report.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Bits and Pieces



Harvest Restaurant to open in Oro Valley Marketplace
"Fortunately, our Oro Valley location (LaCanada and Lambert Lane) is thriving and will be around for years to come. .. We are pleased and passionately excited to announce that we have secured a space in the Oro Valley Marketplace and are planning to open an upscale wood fired pizza concept in the coming months. We plan to utilize the best of everything for this concept - people, ingredients, equipment & our passionate commitment to taste and quality, to ensure we serve you pizza unlike any place in town. We'll keep in touch, and will announce our opening date, when we have a better idea when that would be. "(Source: Harvest Restaurant email

Register for "Flash Vote"
The town has implemented "flash voting" as a technique to get more people involved in the community and as a means for learning the thoughts of the "silent majority." You can sign up here.

Once you so so, you will receive an email with a link that directs you to a "flash vote" on a particular question. The vote, of course, is not statistically valid because it is not random. For example, 20% of respondents in a recent poll said they had attended a council or commission meeting in the past year. The real number is probably less that 2% or Oro Valley's 45,000 residents. Nonetheless, we think that it is important to voice your thoughts. So, do register and do "flash vote."

It is springtime in Oro Valley
It is a beautiful time of year.  We especially appreciate it after a rather long, rather cold and a definitely wet winter.

So get out there. Enjoy the beauty that is Oro Valley just like our beautify butterfly friend enjoying the fresh pollen from our lilac tree.
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