Thursday, April 19, 2018

Guest View: Diane Peters ~ Town Council deems man-made golf course views as more important than natural desert views. Part 1.

During the April 4th Town Council meeting, I spoke during the Public Hearing portion of the Saguaro Viejos rezoning (a rezoning that will destroy the pristine desert views that many residents paid for when we purchased our homes.) Below are past quotes from Town Council members that I used during my speech. These are followed by the mayor’s feeble attempt at a response.

Mayor Hiremath quote from the 12/17/14 Town Council meeting explaining why they needed to purchase the golf courses:
“Lastly, and not least, the overriding factor to me personally, it’s controlling the destiny of 330 acres in the middle of MY TOWN where I have residents who are going to be adversely affected by it.”
He was referring to the fact that if someone else purchased the El Con golf property, they could convert the golf courses into single-family residential homes, thereby destroying the golf course views of residents who paid for those views. The mayor was clear that he wanted to protect the homes along the golf courses from development that would be incompatible in their backyards.

Councilmember Solomon quote from the 7/12/17 Golf Courses Study Session when they were discussing the possibility of closing one or all of the golf courses:
“We have to be very sensitive to what happens to the areas that we no longer use as golf courses, because you’ve got homes backing up to these areas. They bought to be on a golf course. We can’t just go off and put in new residential development or commercial development. I mean that’s just not acceptable…We have an obligation to maintain, at minimum, an open natural desert setting for those homes.”
An obligation?
I then challenged them to explain their rationale. “If you vote to approve this rezoning, you’re going to have to explain how you have an obligation to protect the man-made views of one group of residents, yet you have no obligation to protect the unspoiled natural desert views of another group of residents.”

Mayor Hiremath’s response
“So to respectfully answer one of the speakers who asked me to explain the difference between this property and the acquisition of the 320 acres. We had the opportunity to purchase it and on those acreages there were single family entitlements, so if the Town had not purchased it, a development would occur and the Town of Oro Valley would have no recourse in stopping them because single family entitlements were already entitled.

With THIS particular property, [Saguaros Viejos] the Town does not have the opportunity to buy it. Private development owns it and therein lies the difference. So in one instance we did have the capacity to jump in and were offered the opportunity to buy it to preserve those views and that’s the distinction.”

Part 2, my rebuttal to the mayor, will be published on Friday.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Guest View: Diane Peters ~ Mayor Hiremath makes absurd comments during the April 4th council meeting

During the April 4th Town Council meeting, the council voted 7-0 (no surprise there) to rezone 85 acres of pristine desert on the west side of LaCholla between Glover and Naranja from R1-20 (minimum 20,000 square foot lots with custom grading) to R1-7 (minimum 7,000 sf lots with mass grading) to accommodate 178 single-family homes, including 2-story homes.

For some history, this parcel had already been rezoned from R1-144 to R1-20 in 2007 and a development plan for just 74 one-story homes on lot sizes ranging from 1/3 acre to 1.5 acres was already approved by the Town Council in 2014.

Below, Mayor Hiremath explains his “rationale” for why 7,000 square foot residential lots are better than 20,000 sf lots.

Hiremath: "If you have 20,000 square foot lots, there is no capacity or requirement for the homeowner on those large lots to leave it natural desert. Somebody could landscape it, somebody could wall it."

My Rebuttal: So in order to prevent the highly unlikely possibility that a homeowner would mass grade or wall in his 20,000 sf property (approx. ½ acre) or his 43,560 sf property (1 acre), Mayor Hiremath voted to allow a developer to mass grade 52 acres of an 85 acre property that will be all walled in when the development is completed!

1 acre = 43,560 square feet x 52 acres = 2,265,120 square feet!!!

Read that again…Hiremath prefers that the developer mass grade 2.2 million square feet in order to prevent the unlikely possibility of one person mass grading 20,000 square feet. That’s absurd!

How many homeowner’s in Oro Valley have mass graded their 20,000 square foot lot? How many have mass graded their 1 acre lot, their 1.5 acre lot, or their 3 acre lot? The mayor provided no statistics for his claim. I’ve lived in Oro Valley for 15 years and I haven’t seen this anywhere, so just how common is this practice?

It’s far more likely that people who buy homes on large lots do so because they prefer to be surrounded by lush desert vegetation and wildlife and they don’t want a view of their neighbor’s home. So why would they mass grade their property?

Below, Mayor Hiremath tries to convince everyone that mountain views are not important.

Hiremath: "Does every house in the town of Oro Valley have a mountain view?"

Planning Administrator, Bayer Vella: No, but many do.

Hiremath: "So is any house construction going to block the actual view of the mountain? I mean, do people in Oro Valley buy a house, do [sic] every person in Oro Valley buy a house because of the mountain views or is it because they actually like to live in a community at the base of a mountain and they get to enjoy the mountain on their walks, their bike rides, when they go shopping, when they come out of Fry’s, when they come out of Target?"

This is a leading question. He is clearly telling Bayer what he wants him to say.

Bayer: I think it’s the latter. It’s the package. It’s not just any one box amongst a list of many.

My Rebuttal: Hiremath lives on a 1.7 acre hilltop lot with mountain views. Are we to believe that the hilltop location with panoramic mountain views didn’t factor into his decision to purchase that home?

All one has to do is peruse the Oro Valley real estate listings to see that any house with a mountain view is listed as such in the ad. Why would real estate agents bother mentioning the mountain views if no one is interested in homes with mountain views? Obviously, mountain views are a big selling point!

Follow the money trail
So what’s the real reason that Mayor Hiremath (and the rest of the council) voted to rezone this parcel down to 7,000 square foot lots to accommodate 178 cluster homes? Perhaps it’s because the players in this deal (see below list) have donated more than $20,000 to the election campaigns of all 7 current council members and to Yes on 454 in support of the mayor and council’s 2017 pet project, the Naranja Park Bond. Some of these donations are outlined below:

2014-2017    Greg Wexler (land broker, Wexler & Associates) donated a total of $14,410
2017             Jeff Grobstein, President, Meritage Homes, donated $5,000
2017             William Walker, Owner, WLB Engineering, donated $1,000

But wait! There’s more!
Other council members also offered absurd justifications to defend their votes to rezone that property for cluster homes. Their comments and my rebuttals will be featured in upcoming LOVE articles. Stay tuned.

. . . . . . . . . .

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, Citizen Advocates of the Oro Valley General Plan, 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.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Golf Members (The Royalty) are spreading lies

Members of the Golf Association, otherwise known as "The Royalty" have been spreading lies by telling people that golf is breaking even as a result of their membership dues and trail fees. According to a Town financial document, this is TOTALLY FALSE.

Fiscal year 2016/2017 is the last complete year that we have to work with. The Community Center Fund (CCF) is divided into two entities: Contracted and Town.

The Town’s Portion consists of revenues provided by:

• Fitness member dues
• Daily drop ins
• Recreation programs
• Swim/Tennis Lessons
• Facility rental income
• Concession sales.

The Town's expenses come from: Personnel, Operations and Maintenance.

The Contracted Portion (Troon) consists of revenues provided by:

• Golf revenues
• Member dues (golf)
• Tennis revenues
• Food and Beverage
• Merchandise and Other.

The Contracted expenses come from: Personnel, Operations and Maintenance, and Equipment leases. There are additional revenues coming to the CCF that are derived from Sales Tax Revenues, General Fund Transfers ($350,000 in FY 2016/17), Real Property Rental income, Sale of Assets, and Miscellaneous.

During FY 2016/17, the Contracted revenues were $2,975,096. This number includes $725,611 that was provided by member dues. The Contracted expenses were $5,488,034...resulting in a LOSS OF $2,512,938.

Since when is 37% and 24% considered as “breaking even?”
The proposed FY 2016/17 budget forecasted $1,153,655 in member dues. At only $725,611, the member DUES fell short of this mark by 37%. Total CONTRACTED REVENUES are $2,975,096 of which members provided $725,611 or just 24%.

To be fair, the Town is operating 45 holes of golf. A member course would only utilize 18 holes. The five Tucson 18-hole courses average about $1.3 million each to operate. Tucson spends less in water and in management fees then Oro Valley. However, if the members desire their own 18-hole course, they need to provide at least $1.3 million, NOT just $725,611.

Town admits that golf membership is declining
The current fiscal year budget forecasts member dues to be $959,000. (That’s $194,464 less than last year's forecast; an admission by the Town that golf membership is declining). Even with the reduced forecast, as of January 2018 (58% through the fiscal year), the members have provided only $465,500 which is 48.5% of the expected dues.

Bottom Line
The members are NOT providing the income required to support their own course. We need to only keep 18 holes of golf, eliminate the members, and become a strictly municipal course. If that doesn’t work, then stop golf all together. We know the current model is not working as we have been doing this for three years with no positive results. In fact, there are less members now than when the Community Center opened in May 2015.



Monday, April 9, 2018

The Duplicitous Ones: Mary Snider and Lou Waters

Following is an email that Oro Valley resident Diane Peters sent to Councilmembers Snider and Waters regarding their April 4th vote to approve more small lot cluster homes and mass grading for a residential development known as Saguaros Viejos on the west side of LaCholla between Glover and Naranja.
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From: Diane Peters 
Date: Friday, April 6, 2018 at 12:27 PM

Subject: Your Saguaro Viejos Vote

Regarding your vote to rezone Saguaro Viejos from R1-20 to R1-7,
Here’s what you said at the 2014 Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum:


Snider

"UofA study following freshmen from 2007. What they’ve learned is:

Buying a home, getting married, and having kids, those were markers of adulthood in MY day. You went to college, you got a job, got married, had kids, bought a home, that was the thing. But not today. 28% of the participants (now between the ages of 23 and 26) said that marriage is not an important life goal. 27% say children is not important. 19% say home ownership is not important. Things are changing."

Waters
"Young people are not looking for the American Dream of home ownership. They’re looking for apartments because they can’t get the…the…the money they need from the banks. Plus, they move...they move on. These high-end jobs that we’re going after for Innovation Park, which is our target, the economic heart of Oro Valley, is going to require these workers living in these apartments with amenities for their families."

You used results from one study to justify your votes to approve more than 700 apartments on Oracle Road.

Now you vote to approve R1-7 zoning for 178 single-family cluster homes at Saguaro Viejos and you will do the same for 500 homes at Capella in a few weeks. Wait. I thought we needed apartments. Oh well, I guess you were just impressed by the latest "study of the day." It sure doesn't take much for a developer/campaign contributor to convince you of anything.

If they wanted to put an amusement park on LaCholla complete with a Ferris wheel, you would find a way to claim that it was a good idea. "This will generate millions in sales tax revenue!!!" When what you're really thinking is, "This will generate thousands in campaign contributions!!!"

Diane Peters
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Monday, April 2, 2018

Guest View: Rosalie Roszak ~ Variances, Variances!

The La Cholla Major General Plan Amendments that were approved by Town Council in May 2015 have now entered the rezoning phase. The project is now called Capella Planned Area Development.

Phase 1. General Plan Amendments. May 2015.
The Kai/Capella Property at La Cholla between Lambert and Naranja received an approved General Plan Amendment in 2015 which allows up to 500 (and possibly 570) homes, plus commercial uses on the corners. Area residents were never pleased about this plan, since underlying zoning for the property is R1-144, which allows only 1 house per 3.3 acres or about 63 homes for the overall 210 acre property.

My husband and I were members of the original citizens’ group (Citizen Advocates of the Oro Valley General Plan) that fought these General Plan Amendments. Some of the concessions the citizens’ group successfully negotiated at that time were lowering the number of homes from 778 to 500 and removing apartments and senior care facilities from the plan. We also placed numerous restrictions on the type of commercial entities that would be allowed.

Phase 2. Rezoning Requests. April 2018.
Now, in the Rezoning phase, the land owners/developers are asking for variances and allowances to the original agreement.

Residential
The General Plan Designation of R1-7 permits 7,000 square foot residential lots. In 2014-2015, the citizens’ group fought for minimum lot sizes of 10,000 to 15,000 square feet, more in keeping with nearby lot sizes. The applicant is requesting a variance for 6,600 square foot lots in exchange for allowing somewhat larger 10,000 sf lots along Lambert Lane.

Commercial
Commercial areas also require variances. The C-1 zoning on the NW corner of Lambert/La Cholla currently permits maximum building size of 60,000 square feet. The Rezoning requests a variance for up to a 125,000 square foot building…more than double the allowable size. Oh, and a gas station. Of note is that surrounding homes to the west and south are custom homes on one acre plus lots.

The La Cholla/Naranja commercial corners are not spared. C-N zoning indicated for these two parcels currently allows floor areas of 5,000 to 9,000 square feet for individual stores. The applicant is requesting a variance to allow floor areas up to 20,000 square feet, again more than double the allowable size.

These Variances should be denied!
They far exceed the original land uses projected for this area under Oro Valley’s 2005 General Plan, which still showed large lot single-family residential on the acreage.

The rezoning will be heard before the Planning & Zoning Commission tomorrow evening, Tuesday, April 3rd at 6 PM in Town Council chambers. Please plan to attend.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  You can read more about the Capella Planned Area Development below.

...............

Rosalie Roszak is a 25 year resident of Oro Valley. She and her husband moved here in 1992 in search of good air quality. She grew up in Flushing, New York and has resided in Washington, D.C., Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. She has a Master’s Degree in Urban Economics from University of California Santa Barbara, and worked for more than 40 years in the Commercial Real Estate Appraisal and Economic Consulting fields before retiring in 2017.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Important Public Hearing - LaCholla Rezoning

Planning & Zoning Commission
Tuesday, April 3, 2018
6:00 PM

Council Chambers
11,000 N. LaCanada Drive

CAPELLA PLANNED AREA DEVELOPMENT.  Discussion and possible action regarding a proposed rezoning on 207 acres from large lot residential (R1-144)* to Planned Area Development (PAD) for approximately 199 acres located on the west side of LaCholla Blvd. between Lambert Lane and Naranja Drive AND 8.2 acres located on the NW corner of LaCholla Blvd. and Naranja Drive. 

*R1-144 equals 144,000 square foot lots (3.3 acre lots). The rezoning request is for minimum lot sizes of 6600 square feet.

What to expect
If approved, this rezoning will allow the development of 500 residential lots on minimum lot sizes of just 6600 square feet. It will also allow commercial OR the addition of another 70 residential lots at the NW and SW corners of LaCholla/Naranja.

The applicant is Paul Oland of the WLB Group (the development/engineering firm representing the landowner). WLB also represents Jeff Grobstein, President of Meritage Homes, the likely builder.

Who is representing YOU?
Who is representing the residents who live along the LaCholla corridor, Lambert Lane, Naranja Drive, and the Canada Hills subdivision who will be adversely impacted by this development?

In 2014-2015, when this development proposal was being presented as a Major General Plan Amendment, you were being represented by a citizens’ group, Citizen Advocates of the Oro Valley General Plan. They negotiated with The WLB Group for 9 months.  They negotiated the number of homes from 778 down to 500.  They also fought for and were granted the following Special Area Policies.

Click HERE to view the Special Area Policies.

(NOTE: The 6600 square foot minimum lot sizes were agreed to reluctantly as The WLB Group would not budge on this issue. However, in exchange for 6600 square foot lot sizes in one area of the residential parcel, WLB agreed to increase the lot sizes to 10,000 square feet along Lambert Lane).

All of this can still be re-negotiated during the current rezoning process.

Citizen Advocates is no longer active as their goal was to negotiate the Major General Plan Amendments that pertained to this property. This was settled in May 2015.

So the answer is…YOU have to represent YOU!

Entitlements vs. Mandates
The applicant’s bottom line is getting all 500 homes that they are currently entitled to build. In order for them to fit all 500 homes, the lots need to be on the smaller side, thus the rezoning request.

However, although 500 homes is the maximum allowed per the 2016 General Plan, it is not a mandate. They can always go lower on the density without requiring Town Council approval. No one is forcing them to build 500 homes.

Campaigns funded by developers
We currently have a 7-member pro-development town council whose election campaigns were funded (and will likely be funded again this year) by the same people who are looking to develop this property. It stands to reason that the applicant wants to get approval before the upcoming 2018 Town Council election when the makeup of the council could change and may no longer be so developer-friendly.

What can YOU do?

(1) Send your objection letters to Oro Valley Principal Planner, Michael Spaeth (mspaeth@orovalleyaz.gov).  Your letters will be included in the packet for the Planning & Zoning Commissioners. Should they vote to approve this rezoning despite citizen objections, your letters will then be included in the Town Council packet for the next Public Hearing.

(2) You can also plan to speak during the Public Hearing portion of the Planning & Zoning meeting.

You can view the agenda and all of the attachments HERE

View the entire proposal and the rezoning requests HERE (The rezoning requests are on pages 188-190 of the proposal)

If you are concerned about the small residential lot sizes, pay special attention to:

Items #12, #13 and #14. (Medium density residential, west side of LaCholla from Lambert Lane to Naranja).

If you are concerned about the commercial parcels, pay special attention to:

Item #4 (Neighborhood Commercial, NW corner of LaCholla/Naranja)
Item #15 (C-1 Commercial, NW corner Lambert/LaCholla)

Residents need to do more than just complain about the rampant development in town AFTER the bulldozers have arrived. You need to speak up now BEFORE the development is approved so that YOU can have a say in the future of YOUR town and YOUR neighborhood.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Have you heard?

We know that reading financial reports every month can get a little monotonous, so this month we thought we’d preface the Community Center Financials with a humorous version of an old Top 40 song.

Have you heard about the losing golf courses?
Beaten by the statistics every time.
Have you heard about the losing Overlook Restaurant?
It’s a loser but they still keep on trying.

Town Council, sit down, take a look at yourself
Are you a competent elected body?
Someday, somebody's gonna see inside
You’ll have to face up, you can't run and hide.

Get on board!
At least that's what they say
They lost their bet and gambled our Town away
They still keep searching for excuses though there's nothing left
They staked their reputations and lost
Now WE have to pay the cost.

Have you heard about the losing golf courses?

The Watchdog Report: Community Center Fund - January 2018 YTD Financial Status


January marks 58% of the way through the fiscal year.

Troon Golf and Overlook Restaurant still losing money
As of January, Troon's revenues (Golf plus Food and Beverage) were 53.6% of forecasted for the fiscal year. Troon operating expenditures were 60.5% of forecasted.

Revenues

• Budgeted for $3.3 million in revenues. Actual revenues were only $1.8 million.

Expenditures

• Budgeted for $5.2 million in expenditures. Actual expenses $3.1 million.

Troon’s losses for the first 7 months in each fiscal year:

• July 2015 through January 2016:   Troon lost $1.8 million.
• July 2016 through January 2017:   Troon lost $1.6 million.
• July 2017 through January 2018:   Troon lost $1.1 million.

The first 7 months of this fiscal year are looking better than previous, but they’re still losing money. The Council will tell you that this is a good trend and I guess you could look it that way if it wasn’t YOUR money.

The Overlook Restaurant continues its losing tradition. It lost $16,648 in January and has lost $82,430 so far this fiscal year. This averages to over $11,000 per month.

Rounds played
The amount of rounds played in January 2018 was 5,269. This averages to 170 rounds/day on 45 holes of golf. For some comparison, surrounding courses in January averaged over 190 rounds/day on 18 holes of golf.

There were 2,913 rounds played by golf members (the one’s whose golf games the taxpayers are subsidizing). Outside play was only 1,839 rounds (or an average of 59 rounds a day). Also of note is that there were 517 complimentary rounds.

The Royal Treatment
Do YOU like paying for golf members to enjoy reduced membership rates? Do YOU like paying for other people to enjoy FREE GOLF? I challenge anybody to tell me of another Town anywhere in the world whose residents are kind enough to subsidize a private golf club for other residents. Why are certain residents treated like royalty?

Membership has dropped
In January 2016, there were 257 members of the Golf Association. In January 2018, the membership has dropped to 249. Remember when Troon was hoping for 318 members by December 2015? I’ve asked this before and I’ll ask it again… Why do we still cater to the members when their support of the investment is dwindling?

Options for a Community of Excellence
Go strictly municipal with only 18 holes of golf and no memberships. If this doesn’t work, then eliminate golf altogether and create a linear park for everyone to enjoy. Make Oro Valley a Community of Excellence with 340+ acres of linear trails. Trails that can be utilized and enjoyed by ALL residents.

The dedicated sales tax revenues through January 2018 were $1,313,971 and the Town still lost $75,729. Again, if we minimize the golf drain, the sales tax will then cover the expenses.

Seeing red
The Community Center Fund is still $107,255 in the RED despite having only spent 31% of the promised capital outlay. How are they going to make their annual $120,000 loan repayment to the General Fund? (For our new LOVE readers, the Town Council borrowed $1.2 million from the General Fund to start the Community Center Fund in 2015 with a promise to pay back $120,000 per year for 10 years. They have repeatedly failed to make this commitment.)

Town Revenues and Expenditures
The Town’s portion of the Community Center (Fitness Center, Swimming, Recreation Programs) was budgeted for $777,580 in revenues but brought in only $515,665. This included an expectation of $23,000 in daily drop-in fees vs. an actual of $17,520. It also included an expectation of $614,000 in member dues vs. an actual of $422,920.

Operating expenditures were budgeted for $1,030,406 but the actuals were less at $591,394. This is only because they have not spent what they promised on capital improvements and the facility is still not ADA compliant after nearly three years of ownership.