Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Jones-Ivey Asks Council to Reconsider Kai-Capri General Plan Amendment... After Rejecting It

Jones-Ivey asks town to reconsider   
Council Members Joyce Jones-Ivey and Mo Greene have asked the town council to reconsider its rejection of the Kai-Capri amendment. The reconsideration will be discussed tonight.

Sponsoring reconsideration does not mean that Jones-Ivey supports that this general plan amendment.  Rather, it may mean that she is offering support to a fellow council member who wants the motioned reheard.  A reconsideration requires one council member who voted against the plan to sponsor reconsideration.

The following are the two reasons Jones-Ivey voted against the amendment at the January 6 meeting.

Voted "No"for two reasons
Council Member Joyce Jones-Ivey voted “no” on the Kai-Capri general plan amendment at the January 6 council meeting. She joined Council Members Barrett, Bohan, and Nicolson in rejecting the amendment. You can read their remarks here. Jones-Ivey did not say why she voted "no" at that time. So we asked her. There were two reasons.

First, the existing land use provides a key alternative commercial site and should remain such
Jones-Ivey has been looking at the property for a long time. She considered its present land use when the council made changes to encourage economic development.  “I was looking a commercial properties and cataloguing in my mind what could be possible.” The Kai-Capri property “...was right on the top of my brain, mainly because of where it was located.” She concluded that is was properly zoned for neighborhood commercial given its easy access to Oracle, via First Avenue; and access on the newly widened Tangerine Road.

“If we are going to attract employers we are going to need some different locations for them to be able to look at.” In addition, Jones-Ivey noted, the property as zoned will be less disturbing to the habitat. “Leaving it as is just made sense.”

Second, the argument that the town needs more rooftops to support retail has not worked out over time
Jones-Ivey never thought that the amendment request, which changed over time, would come back to request housing on the property.

This presented a new challenge. 

“My other issue” became the high density of the land use.” The residential options the amendment sought ranged from single family housing to apartments. (Panel above). “That just seemed to be a repeat of the previous council’s position of ‘rooftops...rooftops...rooftops'. It just didn’t seem to address the issue of bringing in additional revenues.”

During her deliberations, Jones-Ivey spoke with Oro Valley Planning Director Bayer Vella. Vella emphasized that apartments bring in additional revenues. She wondered though: What kind? Reflecting on the result of the “rooftops strategy” she concluded that significant new primary employer jobs did not happen from more rooftops. Rather, Oro Valley got more eateries. “More eateries is nothing substantial in my mind. How many eateries can we have?"

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Naranja Park... Building Over Time... Meeting Resident Needs

Naranja Park: A long time in coming
The Oro Valley Town Council approved a plan to develop Naranja Park on November 6, 2013.  This happened after eleven years of wrangling on the part of six town councils and hundreds of residents and non residents on what to put there.

The goal was always to build a regional park out of the 213 acre site: A former crushed rock, sand, gravel, hot-mix asphalt, and ready-mixed concrete facility owned by CalMat.  The town acquired the land in purchases in 1996 and 2000. (Source: 11-7-2017 Town of Oro Valley press release)

There had been thirteen years of thoroughly vetted and eventually rejected grandiose master plans. The amounts of $154 million and $48.6 million were bandied about to pay for what was proposed.  The voters rejected a $48.6 million bond in 2008. The idea of what to put there lay in wait. The, in 2012,  the town opened the archery range that is visible from Naranja. 

In 2013, the town council agreed to move forward with a "pay as you go" plan of $2.3 million.  The town was to bring utilities to the site and to construct: A dog park(1.1 acres) with separate areas/entrances for small and large dogs with a grass interior with dirt perimeter and a ramada in each area; two multi-sport (300' x 200' each) with turf borders and lighting; and a chip-sealed, striped and lit parking lot.

Groundbreaking was on November 27, 2014.  It was a start. Finally, an industrial eyesore was going to be something beautiful.

Then, in 2017, the town got off track again... asking residents to approve a property tax to pay for a bond of $17 million ($28 million in total cash flow) to fund ball fields at Naranja Park.  70% of the residents rejected it. Read more on that here.

  Naranja Park: Its come a long way
Today, Naranja Park has four multi-purpose (soccer) lighted fields, two dog parks, the archery range and a newly opened kids play area.  The play are features a climbing tower and rope climb (both pictured at left), zip lines, a ramada, picnic tables and seating areas. 

There is also a grass centerpiece which, unfortunately, looks like it needs some work as it is quite lumpy. The town has added paved roads and pave parking lots.  It's a work in progress.

Naranja Park: Building it the right way
Naranja Park is being created over many years, involving today's generations in what will be their park, rather than being built at one time based on the wants of one specific generation.

There's a difference in results. Look at the plans in the panel that follows (click to enlarge) These are what what has been proposed over the years.

Imagine if the town built the Naranja Park that was dreamed in 2001. There would be no soccer fields. Instead, there would be baseball and softball fields, fields that are now nicely provided at Kreigh Park. There would be no dog park. There would be no archery range.  

Imagine if it had built what was imagined in 2007. There would be a community center and tennis courts, both of which were opportunistically purchased by the town when it bought the El Conquistador golf courses in 2015.  

The 2015 plan is different from what the town proposed in Prop 454.

And , if the town had moved in any of these directions, it would have been saddled residents with significant bond debt that would last yet another twenty years from now.  Instead, the town has taken a steadier approach, incurring no debt.

Let's hope that the town stays the course because things are shaping up nicely.
Visit the town site to learn more about Naranja Park.

Monday, January 18, 2021

In Honor Of Martin Luther King

Today, America pauses to celebrate the many accomplishments and the dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King. 
"His leadership was fundamental to that movement’s success in ending the legal segregation of African Americans in the South and other parts of the United States. King rose to national prominence as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which promoted nonviolent tactics, such as the massive March on Washington (1963), to achieve civil rights. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964." (source)

Friday, January 15, 2021

Bits and Pieces

Greene is a “rubber stamp” kind of guy
Council Member Mo Greene said that land use decisions are above his pay grade. He was charged with the task of deciding whether the land use of the Kai-Capri property should changed from commercial to residential at last week’s council meeting. 

Greene said that he has not gone over the land use. He has listened to the presentation of people who are much smarter [than he is] in land use and the needs of Oro Valley so he is going to approve the land use change. 

It’s going to be a long four years with this guy on council. 

Town employees (including cops) gets pay raise
Also at last week’s council meeting, the town council unanimously approved a 3% pay increase for all employees. This is a reinstatement of the annual wage increase the town deferred in June because of financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Town Manager Jacobs told the council that the town can afford it and that, because there are vacant positions, the increase will have no impact on the budget for the year. The increase takes effect this month. It does not include council members. The town manager will recommend another 3% increase starting in July.

Abraham: Reclaimed water rate should provide incentive for use... that is current town policy
The town's reclaimed water rate is based on the cost of providing reclaimed water. However, the cost does not include 79% of the debt service cost incurred in building the reclaimed water system. According to town water Director Peter Abraham, reclaimed water would be more expensive than potable water if the the total debt service were included in the reclaimed water rate. This would provide a disincentive if the were set at this level. Town policy is to set the reclaimed water rate at the cost of service, but not more than the potable rate. Town staff and the towns' water commission are recommending to council that this policy remain.

FYI: Reclaimed water us is about 2,000 acre feet per year. The town buys reclaimed water from the Tucson.,The town is currently using all of its reclaimed water entitlement though "...we lost eight holes of golf".
(Source), 57 minutes)

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Guest View: Diane Peters ~ Wildlife Matters


Despite being involved in Oro Valley development issues for the past 15 years, reading Dr. Amy Eisenberg’s recent Guest View on LOVE about the devastation on the Kai-Silverhawke property was an eye-opener even for me. (Read it HERE)

The Town needs to implement a Wildlife Conservation Ordinance
After reading her Guest View and witnessing what Meritage Homes was allowed to do on the Silverhawke property -- completely leveling the land and all those beautiful rolling hills (wildlife habitat) -- it appears that the Town does not have any protocols in place for protecting wildlife. Therefore, we can expect the same devastation to occur on the remaining Kai property at First and Tangerine if and when it is ever developed.

Since tortoises are very slow moving and cannot outrun a bulldozer, I can surmise from reading Dr. Eisenberg's article that some of them were crushed to death or buried alive during the mass grading of Silverhawke. And apparently the Town does not care because they are not federally protected. Until recently, I had no idea that there were tortoises living on that parcel.

Our Town Council has an opportunity, from this point forward, to establish a preconstruction protocol to analyze, protect, and perhaps relocate indigenous species living in the construction area. In light of what these animals could face, this is the humane, compassionate, and civilized thing to do. What the Town is currently allowing is just plain cruel.

The Town should require a “Wildlife Assessment and Plan” to be submitted with every development proposal and rezoning.

A wildlife biologist should be consulted
If the Town can arrange to have all the saguaro cactus counted on a property and make arrangements for them to either be protected in place or carefully relocated, they can certainly do the same for wildlife...and not just the ones on the Endangered Species List. How do you think they became endangered in the first place? It was due to the thoughtless, selfish, greedy, and reckless behavior of man.

Rather than destroying wildlife habitats and killing the wildlife, then waiting for their numbers to decline so much that they are eventually placed on the Endangered Species list, and then we must wait years (if not decades) for their numbers to increase again, why not be proactive and have protocols that prevent this from happening in the first place? 
Demolished tortoise habitat (Photo from Dr. Eisenberg's Guest View)

Oro Valley - It's in our nature!

Is it? Or is that just a slogan?

The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan
I’ve wrongly assumed all these years that Oro Valley’s wildlife was being catalogued and protected due to The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan that has been in effect since 1998. According to their website, below is one of the components in the plan:
• Working with local jurisdictions such as the City of Tucson, Town of Marana, Town of Oro Valley, and Town of Sahuarita on regional habitat conservation planning and the development of their conservation policies and ordinances. We also continually monitor how these policies and ordinances are applied to specific development projects.

This did not appear to happen on the Silverhawke property. Is the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan just a guide without any actual requirements and enforcement?

A plea to our Mayor and Council
Impacts to wildlife habitat must be considered in all future General Plan amendments and rezonings. I call on our Town Council and Town Staff to immediately begin implementation of a wildlife conservation plan. And not just a guide that can be overlooked or modified when convenient, but an actual Town Code to prevent this travesty from ever happening again. We must stop allowing wildlife to be killed simply because developers deem them to be in the way and disposable. On the contrary, it’s us humans who are in their way!

And do it now because we are not likely to have a more environmentally friendly council than this to do it.
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Diane Peters has lived in Oro Valley since 2003, moving here to escape the humidity of the East Coast. She’s been involved in OV politics and development issues since 2006. In 2014, she organized a citizens group, who over a 9-month period, successfully negotiated a controversial 200-acre development project. In her past life, she worked in medical research at various University Hospitals in New England. Her interests include reading, writing, nature photography, travel, art galleries, museums, and politics.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Barrett, Bohen, Nicolson "Shine" in Championing The General Plan

Clear support for the general plan
Vice Mayor Melanie Barrett, Council Members Tim Bohen and Josh Nicolson provided clear and unwavering support of the "Your Voice, Our Future" General Plan during last week's hearing of the Kai-Capri General Plan Amendment. They voted "No" together with Council Members Jones-Ivey. (Mayor Winfield voted "Yes".)

Barrett did her homework
Vice Mayor Barrett relies on her own analysis and not town staff to made decisions on the part of the residents. As a result, she concluded that the land use of this property should remain neighborhood commercial. She proffered five arguments in support.

There is already much land in the area zoned for residential use, land that has yet to be used
The argument that the town needs more residential property in the area of First and Tangerine to support retail located in the area has been used numerous times to justify converting commercially zoned property to residential. In fact, the prior council approved a number of commercial to retail zoning changes that are reasonably near First Avenue and Tangerine, properties that do not yet have residencies. These include Nakoma Sky (behind Home Depot); property at Rancho Vistoso and Vistoso Highlands Drive, property on the corner of LaCanada and Moore Road; and BigWash. To add yet another property before seeing the impact of these on retail in the area makes no sense. The town needs to first see how these other areas “play out”.

There are long term financial impacts on town spending to be considered
The town needs to move carefully, according to Barrett. There are long term financial impacts on town spending to be considered. She reminded the council of a study they had commissioned that noted that “The cost of municipal services is generally less for non residential development than for residential development.” Commercial haas more of an impact on the town.

Impact of recent land use changes to improve primary employment in area need time to bear fruit
Barrett also wants to see the impact of recent changes approved by this council before making yet another decision to rezone the Kai-Capri property. “We have spent a lot of the past two years... to expand property for primary employment.. Just a few months ago we passed a zoning code that would expand the allowable uses on this property... to allow it to be used for primary employment. Let’s see if this works before we consider rezoning for a different use.”

According to Barrett, the town had only 188 acres available for primary employment land before this change. Oro Valley already has a significant deficit in primary employment land compared to other towns (Marana). A town study said Oro Valley needed 300 acres to meet its ten year primary employee goal. Changing the zoning on the Kai-Capri property reduces primary employment land.

Amendment goes against some key general plan goals
“To me, there are goals in the general plan”.. that matter to her that the change proposed does not enrich. This property as currently zoned enhances some of the key challenges of meeting the general plan including the achieving the goals of improving long term financial and economic sustainability of the community, providing robust job opportunity for quality employment, minimizing traffic and maintaining a small town feel

Property, as zone, provides ideal commercial space
Her conclusion was that the Kai-Capri property as currently zoned provides for ideal commercial space. It is next to other commercial property. It’s close to “shovel ready.” The corner of First and Tangerine is one of the. last spaces in Oro Valley that provide significant commercial use opportunity.

Listen to her remarks in the panel above.

Nicolson presents two reasons he voted "no" 
Council Member Nicolson observed that proponents saying that there is not enough people living in the area of First and Tangerine fail to consider the enormous amount of discretionary spending just north of the area. He reiterated his commitment to supporting what he believes residents want (See panel left)

Bohen, likewise, did his homework
New Council Member Tim Bohen observed that the town has already done much since 2015 to make this area commercially feasible such as approving the Silverhawk development, the expansion of commercial land use to enable primary employment, the widening of Tangerine Road to provide better access to the area and marketing activities on the part of the town to let people know properties such as this are available for construction.

He concluded: “We are only three years into this ten year general plan.” This request “... does not rise to the threshold required for a change to the general plan. I respect the work that was done. I respect following the process.” 
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Monday, January 11, 2021

Winfield "Changed Position" By Voting Yes On The Kai Capri General Plan Amendment

Fails to seize his role to represent the views of the residents
Three Oro Valley Town Council members voted in favor of the Kai-Capri General Plan Amendment ("GPA") last week. One of them was Mayor Winfield.

That amendment would have allowed residential use on a commercial property. Last week, in a LOVE editorial, we discussed why we opposed the amendment. 

Thinks area needs more residents to support local business
Mayor Winfield supported the measure because he sees a need for more residents living in the area to support the businesses there. He concluded this after touring the area with the Director of the Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, Dave Perry.  

Winfield believed that residents wanted this amendment to pass
Winfield "...was surprised by the low level of public participation. There certainly wasn’t any significant opposition to this effort as so I can only interpret that as being that there was community support. I would have liked to have seen for those that are opposing this to join us in this journey earlier in the process,” because town staff and others spent a lot of time on this.  

The Mayor has his facts wrong
Our fact check revealed that opposition was expressed by residents early in the process (source). There were 23 pages of comments as of September 15. All but four speak in opposition to the plan. We also know that there were many emails in opposition that were sent to council after September 15. 

Reneges on an election pledge
At the meeting, Winfield stated that the General Plan as something that can be changed. “Plans are not static. Plans are dynamic. Things change.” He believes that it was the intent of those who created the plan that details, such as land use, be determined by the GPA process.    

Winfield's view of the role of the General Plan is opposite of what he told us when he was running for council in 2018. Then, he said that one of his goals was to "...champion the General Plan." He also told us at that time that he was opposed to never-ending General Plan Amendments, rezoning approvals and the hyper-growth rate the town was experiencing. 

Trusts that staff to uphold the General Plan
As to upholding the will of the people as shown in the General Plan: “There’s no one who upholds the General Plan more than our staff does. And I want to applaud them for making our General Plan a priority.”

You can listen to Winfield's complete remarks in the panel at above right.
Tomorrow, read and listen to the measured remarks of Vice Mayor Barrett as well as the remarks of Council Members Bohen and Nicolson in opposition to this GPA.