Friday, September 18, 2020

Bits and Pieces

Oro Valley Police "Safe Return Program" 
In April, The Oro Valley Police Department implemented the "Safe Return" program. Jim Horne in his Oro Valley Podcast featured the program. The program is designed to help those in our community who are most vulnerable. 

Officer Sara Leiner, a member of the department's Community Resource Unit,  created the program to help those who "work, live, go to school, or receive treatment within the Town of Oro Valley".  This would include individuals who have special needs or special situations where they may wander or get lost. They may have conditions including Autism, Down Syndrome, Dementia, or Alzheimer’s. 

Oro's "Primary Employer Incentive Program"
In July, the Oro Valley Town Council unanimously approved a program to encourage new "primary" employers to locate in Oro Valley. The definition of a primary employer is any business that does one of the following
  • Produce more goods and services than can be consumed by the local economy.
  • Export goods and services. 
  • Import net new revenues. 
  • Infuse new income into the local economy 
  • Increase employment opportunities and new disposable income
Companies are eligible to receive up to 100% credit of construction sales tax; up to 100% reduction of fees; allowance for employee relocation and impact fee reductions.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Oro Valley Weathers The Financial Storm.... So Far

Council discusses 2020 year end results tonight
Tonight, town council will hear the unaudited financial results of three of the towns funds for the year ended 2020: The General Fund, the community center fund and the Highway Fund. Results have been uncertain because of the unknown financial impact of the pandemic.  It appears the town has weathered the storm.

General Fund Balance Increased to $21.4 million
The general fund pays for all of the town's administrative functions and the police department. It is the fund that would be most impacted by the pandemic since sales tax collections are about half of total general fund revenues.  Year end balance is expected to increase by $1.8 million from the beginning of the year to $21.4 million.

(Click image to enlarge)
General Fund revenues 6% over budget
The town took measures early in March to slow spending and freeze hiring. The objective was to 
"hunker down" and be prepared for the worst. That game plan worked through the end of the year. The total estimated year end was 6% over budget, totaling $41.7 million.  Local sales tax revenues and interest income exceeded budget by $2.5 million. Inter-government funds and charges for services were $800,000 under budget.

General Fund spending 5% under budget
Total General Fund spending was $39.9 million. This was $2.1 (5%) million under budget. Spending in all departments except for legal were under budget. The Police and the Parks and Recreation Departments spent $1.2 million less than budget.

Community Center essentially on budget
Community Center revenue was $175,000 less than budget. Spending was $285,000 less than plan. The center received sales tax subsidy of $2.9 million. This amount is far more than the $750,000 sales tax subsidy target that was set by the town council last November. That subsidy level is to be achieved by 2023.  Golf revenues and membership fees were 9% over budget. Most other revenue sources were under budget because the Community Center has been closed since March.

Highway Fund slightly over budget
"In the Highway Fund, total actual revenues for the year came in over budget by approximately $272,000 or 7.2%. Expenditures for the year were under budget by roughly $12,000 or 0.3%. Overall, the Highway Fund ended the year with a decrease in fund balance of $53,343 (note that the planned budgeted decrease in fund balance was $337,241) (source)

Monday, September 14, 2020

Westward Look Resort Considers Joining Oro Valley

The "give and take" of annexation
The Town of Oro Valley and Westward Look Resort are considering "marriage." In this case, the marriage is the annexation of Westward Look with the proviso that the resort gets to do something with some of the now vacant land it owns that abuts Ina Road. That something will require an Oro Valley General Plan Amendment and a property rezoning.

Bed tax and sales tax revenues in exchange for GPA
The town will get bed tax and sales tax revenues to support the added services it will provide the resort. Hopefully, these will be substantial once the pandemic is simply a "bad memory." In addition, the town will receive fees during the construction of this project.

A first class resort with a rich history

If annexation occurs, Oro Valley will have the prestige of another four star resort.  It is a Wyndham resort. The resort was acquired in 2012 by Westward Look Resorts LLC for $32 million. This is a Florida based company.

If Westward Look is annexed, Oro Valley will be the home of the oldest resort in the Tucson area, a resort with a rich  history. The resort was founded in 1912.  "By the 1940s, it became a thriving dude ranch, and by the 1960s, it was well on its way to becoming the 244-room property it is today." (source)  Learn more about this legendary resort here.

Three project concepts floated
Westward Look is floating three project concepts, all of which would be built along Ina Road. This is the south side of the property.  (See blue oval on map panel above)

  • Luxury Apartment complex with boutique retail and restaurant 
  • Mixed use office, mixed use commercial, restaurant, hospitality and office plaza retail 
  • Luxury apartments, hotel and residential buildings 

  • General plan land use and zoning would have to be changed to accommodate these. However, there is no obligation that any of these will be built eventually. Generally, market conditions at the time of construction dictate what is built.

    Get engaged now... participate on September 15
    There are many questions residents should be asking. This is, after all, a huge move for Oro Valley. The Town is asking residents to get involved. Best way to start is to visit this link to become familiar with the project. Then, participate in a September 15 Zoom meeting. Meeting time is 6 PM.

    Wednesday, September 9, 2020

    TCF Negotiations To Purchase Vistoso Golf Contunue

    The Vistoso Community Association provided the  following update on the pending purchase of the Vistoso Golf property by The Conservation Fund (source)
    "In June, we reported that The Conservation Fund (TCF) was negotiating with Romspen to purchase the Rancho Vistoso property. To have one of the most successful and highly regarded American conservation organizations interested in preserving the property as a nature preserve and community trail is a great opportunity for our community. The support from TCF is extremely important.

    As a reminder, TCF is in escrow to purchase the Vistoso property subject to an executed formal contract with the seller, Romspen. The Town of Oro Valley also has publicly approved Romspen’s request to postpone the neighborhood meeting process that is associated with the property’s proposed General Plan Amendment and Rezoning applications. This will provide a reasonable time frame for the conclusion of open space purchase negotiations with TCF.

    Preserve Vistoso is confident that our community will continue to give and support TCF’s effort to purchase the property and create a conservation easement to preserve the property as public open space in perpetuity. We need to provide funds that will replenish TCF’s Revolving Fund which will be deployed to acquire the property.

    Many residents in the Rancho Vistoso community already have made pledges in support of TCF's goal to create this valuable community amenity. Preserve Vistoso asks the entire community to make financial pledges that are strictly directed to the acquisition. Please join your neighbors in helping to meet our goal. Information on how to make a pledge is shown below.

    For general inquiries or information on ways to give towards the preservation of the Vistoso Property, please contact Kirstie Kowalsky, Arizona Field Representative for TCF at More information on TCF and how to donate is available on the TCF Partnership page at"

    Tuesday, September 8, 2020

    Oro Valley Considers a "Ready-To-Build" Future For EEZ

    "Ready-To-Build Oro Valley"
    The Oro Valley Town Council continues to consider a "ready-to-build" ordinance for Oro Valley's economic expansion zones ("EEZ") properties. The zone by far is Innovation Park (see panel below), which is owned by Venture West.  At issue is whether to allow grading of an EEZ site before site use is known (pre-graded). Once graded, the site is designated a "ready-to-build" site.

    Johnston argues: "Oro Valley not in the game"
    Oro Valley Economic Development Director JJ Johnston is the advocate for  the creation of ready-to-build sites in Oro Valley's economic expansion zones. Speaking passionately at last week's council meeting, Director Johnston stated that pre-graded lots are a requisite before a company will even consider Oro Valley as a location. Site selectors won't consider a site that is not ready-to-build. Thus, according to Johnston, Oro Valley loses 2-5 leads each month due to lack of ready-to-build sites, particularly sites that are 5 acres or more.

    Currently, sites can not be pre-graded. Johnston estimates that a construction project takes sixteen months to complete. The proposed process will cut six months off this time frame. The six month time reduction will save companies an estimated $50 million, according to Johnston.

    Founding principles of public input at issue
    "Ready-to-build" sites are common in other communities. However, Oro Valley was founded on the basis that it is not simply just another community. "Oro Valley did not like the code standards set forth by Tucson or Pima County," according to Oro Valley resident and former council member Mike Zinkin. "Oro Valley desired more restrictive codes and to allow for more Citizen input to the elected officials on proposed developments."

    Johnston, not EEZ Landowners, push for the change
    We find it curious that EEZ landowners, and Venture West in particular, are not advocating for this change. Indeed, none have directly participated in the public hearings. We would think that they would be extolling the importance of this measure if they felt it was important to them. Yet, the are silent. Rather, it is the town, and Johnston in particular, who are advocated for the change. Johnston did mention that Venture West might grade a 25 acre site.

    Blading with a twist for Oro Valley
    Council deadlocked 3-3 in July on this measure. Subsequently, Johnston met with Mayor Winfield and Council Member  Jones-Ivey to visit various sites impacted by the ordinance. As a result, Johnston added three features to the recommended ordinance:
    • Pre-grading must be approved by the town's Planning Director on a case-by-case basis. That approval would require a review of view impacts and the ability for that site to be developed within five years;
    • The graded lot will have a decomposed granite ("rock") cover "to enhance landscape and buffer yards around the site". We believe that the granite only covers the perimeter of the lot.
    • The owner would be required to revegetate the land if it has not been used within 10 years.
    To be continued
    The council voted to continue discussion of this until September 16 as Vice Mayor Barrett was not in attendance.