Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Watchdog Report: July 2017 Community Center Financials

The July 2017 numbers were on the Consent Agenda for the September 20th Council meeting. As usual, this item was not pulled for discussion and made public. According to an email that the mayor sent to a constituent, the reason they do not pull the monthly financials for discussion is because the mayor prefers for the council members to “seek answers to any concerns there may be before the council meeting.”

The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t allow the taxpayers to know if the council is working for them or if they’re doing what’s best for their major campaign donors.

I believe that whether good or bad, the numbers should be discussed publicly, so here they are:

The Good News:

July Revenues
In July 2017, Troon revenues (Golf, Tennis, Food/Beverage, Merchandise) were $17,150 higher than in July 2016. Town revenues (daily drop-ins, fitness member dues, swim lessons, facility rental income, concession sales) were $22,687 higher in July 2017 than in July 2016. Add in the sales tax revenues and the total Community Center Fund revenues were $62,689 higher in July 2017 than in July 2016.

July Losses
The Overlook Restaurant lost $7,395 less in July 2017 than they did in July 2016. (July 2016 losses were $17,970. July 2017 losses were $10,575.)

The Bad News:

July Expenditures
In July 2017, Troon expenditures were $24,135 higher than July 2016. Town expenditures were $11,082 higher than July 2016. In total, the Community Center Fund (CCF) lost $54,597 in July 2017, leaving the CCF balance at a negative $94,456. Remember, this is the fund set up to pay for all the Community Center expenses.

July Losses
Troon lost $6,985 more in July 2017 than they did in July 2016. (July 2016 losses were $235,480. July 2017 losses were $242,465).

Annual Operating Deficit
Troon’s operating deficit for FY 2016/17 was $100,000 higher than the previous year. The Town’s Community Center operating deficit for FY 2016/17 was $112,000 higher than the previous year.

Two Questions for Mayor Hiremath and Councilmember Solomon

The mayor recently stated that the General Fund ended the fiscal year with a $2 million surplus. This was echoed by Councilmember Solomon in a recent letter to the editor. This is indeed a fact, but it raises two questions:

1. Why didn’t the Council spend this money to make the Community Center ADA compliant?

Is it because they don’t want to spend additional General Fund monies to meet the needs of their disabled citizens? Is it because they falsely promised the citizens that the Community Center Fund (funded with the half-cent sales tax increase) would cover all Community Center expenses, including capital improvements?

2. Why didn't the Council spend some of the $2,000,000 surplus to build some ball fields?

Is it because the council would rather request a property tax to meet the desires of the citizens?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Guest View: Jack Stinnett ~ Solving Oro Valley's Little League Field Crisis

The justification for the Town’s proposed $17 million dollar Naranja Park bond is the need to provide more fields for Oro Valley youth sports. (This will be funded with a secondary property tax that, with interest, will cost Oro Valley homeowners $28 million over 20 years).

The issue here is that the Oro Valley Little League (formerly known as Coronado Little League) has played their games and practices since 2003 at the Coronado Middle School fields which they complain are poorly maintained by Amphitheater School District. They want their own fields in Naranja Park to be comparable to the CDO Little League fields in James Kriegh Park.

Let’s look at the sports fields we currently have:
Unlike youth soccer, baseball has long been a part of Tucson and Pima County. A quick count shows that there are over 30 baseball fields within 8 miles of Naranja Park, many lightly used. The two parks located in Oro Valley are described below.

In 1974 upon Oro Valley's founding, Pima County transferred the ownership and cost of operation of J.D. Kreigh and Riverfront Parks to Oro Valley. These parks came with baseball fields which have been used and improved by Oro Valley.

J.D. Kriegh Park is the home of the Canyon del Oro Little League. It has two excellent lighted competition fields and three practice fields used for baseball and softball. The park has restrooms, a snack bar and is well-maintained by Oro Valley Parks and Recreation.

You can view the field layout of J.D. Kreigh Park HERE

Riverfront Park is the center for youth softball and has two lighted and well-maintained fields. Riverfront Park also has two lighted soccer/multi-purpose fields. This park has playgrounds, picnic areas for families, a nice walking path, and draws softball players from NW Pima County.

A visual overview of Riverfront Park can be viewed HERE

Why don't we have ball fields in Naranja Park?
The Town's Naranja Park plan included Little League fields but did not anticipate that the mayor and council would be dumping over $2 million per year in sales tax revenue plus a $350,000 general fund transfer this year into a losing effort to support three golf courses.

The Town could have built all the fields Oro Valley could possibly want with the half-cent "no sunset" sales tax the council approved in 2015 to subsidize the Community Center and Golf Courses. The mayor never proposed a town sales tax for Naranja Park, nor budgeted Little League fields for Naranja Park in 2014, 2015, 2016, or 2017.

Options for supporting Oro Valley youth sports without instituting a property tax

1) Use the ball fields at Arthur Pack Park

Arthur Pack Regional Park (Thornydale at Overton) is a 500+ acre park facility that we already support with our Pima County Property taxes. The Park has a fine, inexpensive 18-hole public golf course, large open natural areas and two baseball areas. The baseball complex has 2 softball fields, 7 baseball fields and a batting cage. The 8th baseball field was converted to a soccer field to meet the growing demand for more soccer fields. The park also has rest rooms, picnic ramadas and is maintained by Pima County. Arthur Pack Park is home to the Thornydale Little League.

2) Make better use of Amphi School District ball fields

Your Pima County property taxes also support the Amphi School District and their facilities. In November of 2016, school district voters approved a $58 million bond which provides increased funds for the maintenance of Amphi school facilities and fields.

Listed below is a summary of Amphi ball fields in and around Oro Valley:

Canyon del Oro High School.......2 competition fields -- 3 practice fields
Ironwood Ridge High School.......2 competition fields -- 2 practice fields
Wilson Middle School..................2 competition fields -- 2 practice fields
Coronado Middle School.............2 competition fields -- 3 practice fields

Many communities cooperatively share the use and support of school facilities, but not Oro Valley and Amphi. During my three years on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB), I pressed two Parks and Recreation Directors to craft an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with Amphi to gain more access to school fields, but with no success.

The Oro Valley Little League currently uses the Coronado Middle School fields off North Oracle Road, but has requested the Town to build Little league fields in Naranja Park. I supported their presentation to PRAB in December 2014 and voted for the inclusion of Little League Baseball fields in the plan for Naranja Park.

This project was deferred in favor of the higher priority golf course purchase. However, while Oro Valley Little League patiently waits for better fields, the Town can insist that Amphi better maintain the Coronado Middle School Little League fields.

3) Continue the "pay as you go" development of Naranja Park

I support the Town building ball fields in Naranja Park, but not through a $17MM bond and $28MM secondary property tax. The ball fields can be funded with the Town's FY 2016/17 surplus of $2MM. Town coffers are overflowing with development fees. The mayor and council just need to support our Little League and give the kids a place to play in Naranja Park.

I am voting NO on the Naranja Park $17MM Bond and $28MM property tax increase. Instead of "crisis" planning by our elected leaders, Oro Valley should fund the youth fields from within it's operating budget. The Town has the resources to build fields in Naranja Park but has chosen to exploit this self-inflicted "field crisis" to put a $28MM property tax on the November ballot.

Jack Stinnett graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served on Minesweepers and Destroyers. After his military service, he was employed as an engineer and plant manager in the Nuclear Power industry, a factory manager in the automotive industry, Vice-President of a worldwide engine components business, and finished his career as President and CEO of Morris Material Handling in Milwaukee. He and his wife, Connie, moved to Oro Valley in 2011. He was a member of PRAB from 2012-2014, serving as Chairman in 2013-2014. He enjoys woodworking, biking, and visiting his grandchildren.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Many signs point to the Town's illegal advocating of the Naranja Park Bond.

Last Thursday, September 14th, Axe the Tax Chair, Jim Horn, sent the following letter to the Town Manager and the Town Attorney regarding what is perceived to be the Town’s illegal advocating for the Naranja Bond via information provided on the Town website.

LOVE readers have also noticed the same advocating in hand-outs, the Open House on September 13th, and in an editorial by Oro Valley Communications Administrator, Misti Nowak published in the Oro Valley Voice this summer.

Legally, the Town is only allowed to provide education and information about the bond. They are not allowed to advocate for it.

It has been one week and there has been no response from the Town.

September 14, 2017

Town Manager, Mary Jacobs
Cc: Town Attorney, Tobin Sidles

Ms. Jacobs,

I understand that the Town cannot advocate for or against the Naranja Park Bond but can only “educate” and provide information.

However, in looking at the Project Fact Sheet on the Town Website, it appears that the Town is subliminally downplaying the cost of the Naranja Bond by using bold print for certain terminology and by omitting some of the facts. This is outlined below.

The Project Sheet begins by giving the basic facts such as what’s in the plan and that it will be paid for with a secondary property tax. However, under the heading, “What’s the cost and how will it impact residents?” it then goes on to sway voters into voting YES by placing the following words in regular print:

$17 million
secondary property tax
$1.4 million per year for 20 years

While placing the following words in bold print:

$4.50 per month to an average homeowner.

In addition, the final cost of the bond with interest is $28 million. This number has been omitted from the website. Instead, it is worded, “$1.4 million per year for 20 years.” When worded this way, the number doesn’t seem so high.

In other words, just because the website does not specifically contain the words, “Vote YES on the Naranja Park Bond” does not mean that the Town is not presenting information in a way that is designed to sway a person in that direction.

Under the heading, “Alignment with Your Voice, Our Future General Plan,” the Project Sheet states that the “Naranja Park Bond Project conforms to the 70% voter-approved 2016 Your Voice, Our Future General Plan…” This is more subliminal messaging and manipulation of the facts designed to sway voters into thinking that this proposal must be popular if it was approved by 70% of the people.

It wasn’t 70% of the town, it was 70% of the voters who cast a ballot.

Let’s look at what “70% voter-approved” really means:

Oro Valley has a population of 43,781 (U.S. Census Bureau)
Oro Valley has 30,321 registered voters. (Town of Oro Valley Website)

23,250 ballots were cast for Prop 439 – Your Voice, Our Future General Plan (11/8/16)
16,424 voted YES (70.64%)
6,826 voted NO (29.36%)

The General Plan was not approved by 70% of the total population of 43,781. It was approved by 70% of the 23,250 ballots cast which equals 16,424 residents or 37.5% of the population of Oro Valley. This is not overwhelming support.

In addition to the bond information on the Town website, if your future newspaper ads and educational meeting(s) also present a manipulation of the facts, all of this equates to free advertising for the “Vote YES on 454” PAC, which they are getting with OUR tax dollars.

The “Informational Pamphlet” that the Town will be mailing to registered Oro Valley voters about a month prior to the election is also paid for with taxpayer funds. Will this publication also be heavy on “$4.50 per month” and “70% voter approved?”

In closing, when both sides aren’t presented equally or one side is not presented at all, this could be interpreted as the Town advocating for one side over the other. If the Town presents only the positives and none of the negatives, isn’t that in effect advocating for the bond?

Yours truly,

James W. Horn
Chair, Axe the Tax PAC

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Guest View: Brian Gagan ~ Oro Valley’s epic fiscal mismanagement from the Town Hall to the OVPD. Part 3.

Part 2 (published yesterday) revealed how over-staffing and poor management of the OVPD have cost taxpayers anywhere between $2.8 million and $4.6 million per year.

The Naranja Park Connection
The latest example of the Town’s disregard for fiscal responsibility is the $17 million Naranja Park Bond/Proposition 454. It appears that nobody at town hall is even slightly skilled at procurement analysis and negotiation skills because the costs for quality work and build-out at Naranja Park are currently overstated by approximately 28% to 33% for the current plan.

Is the Naranja Park build-out really desirable or necessary?
The Naranja Park plan was developed without considering the interests of the very citizens who will be forced to fund it and who are being duped into believing that this facility is wanted or needed by the majority of Oro Valley residents.

According to the National Education Association, the national range of team sports participation in public schools is 19-23%. This is a significant minority of students.

Back-scratch fever?
The overstated cost to construct the sports fields alone is only $5 million of the proposed $17 million dollar bond. With interest paid back over the 20-year life of the bond, this is a $28 million dollar unnecessary expenditure.

It’s hard for me to imagine that there are reasons other than back-scratching, favor-mongering, and/or kickbacks on the part of some or all prospective contractors that account for this egregious state of affairs.

Stop the next fiscal folly
In November, voters will have to decide whether to approve $28,000,000 more in spending while increasing taxes on ALL property owners rather than just on those without mathematical skills and those wishing to play softball, football, and soccer.

Remember, this is the same crew that raised our sales tax by $2 million dollars per year in order to fund three losing golf courses. You can have a say in preventing this town’s continued epic fiscal mismanagement by VOTING NO on The Naranja Bond/Prop 454.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Guest View: Brian Gagan ~ Oro Valley’s epic fiscal mismanagement from the Town Hall to the OVPD. Part 2.

Part 1 was published yesterday.

Below are some indicators that the Chief of Police and the Town Council are unskilled regarding contemporary and effective town staffing and law enforcement practice:

• Operational rejection of the fact that most law enforcement officer capability growth occurs largely from officers handling approximately 80% of case responses alone (there is no need for 2-6 officers on the scene more than approximately 20% of the time).

• Very significant and unnecessary headcount leading to excess expense for payroll, employment taxes, facilities, equipment, vehicles, training, and overhead.

• A command staff that is 50% larger than necessary for Oro Valley’s demographics and low incidence of felony and other serious crimes as revealed in the Uniform Crime Report (UCR).  Excess employees always correlate with excess command staff.

• Living a lie regarding supposed Community Policing in Oro Valley. Community Policing is always evidenced by things like foot beats, bicycle beats, always responding to and learning from citizens, and rejection of petty traffic enforcement activities that skilled officers have little interest in. Dispatching four officers or four officers simply showing up anywhere (except for felonies in progress and active shooter calls) is evidence of rejection of community policing by any agency including the OVPD.

• Almost no dash-cams and body-cams (body-cams are worn only by Oro Valley motorcycle officers). This appears to indicate that the OVPD is not concerned about either serious crime or officer safety. Yes, body-cams are slightly expensive, but the savings from laying off three officers is enough to buy body-cams for all remaining officers.

• No drug unit and a false belief within the OVPD that opioids are of no issue whatsoever in Oro Valley.

• Excess delineation and false specialization of duties, divisions, operational silo's, and responsibilities.  Silo's detract strongly from team and agency efficiency.

(Silo's refer to the multitude of separate operating units such as detectives, motorcycle division, school division, special operations, volunteers, etc. each with their own delineated command structure.  This approach is not taken within municipalities of less than about 75,000 population unless it is within a high or very high felony rate location.)

• A substantially under-capable special operations unit (CAT Squad) that works only 4 days per week…and not individually.  Criminals do not take three days off per week and most skilled investigators accept that working alone about 80% of the time leads to more arrests and a much greater conviction rate.  It is easier for a felon to know when he/she is being surveilled by police novices when four officers are engaged in it.

• A pointless (and bordering on useless) training function. Two examples: No officer has ever been trained to stay on their beat or to handle over 80% of their citizen contacts alone.

The above failings have come at an excess cost of between $2.8 million and $4.6 million per year within the police department alone.

A’s hire A’s and B’s hire C’s
We always share with our clients that, “A’s hire A’s and B’s hire C’s.” This explains all the C’s at the OVPD. It has remained overstaffed in a failed attempt to make up for all the C’s who were hired by all the B’s.

Take-home vehicles and IRS violations
The OVPD at last report had 126 vehicles. It should also be noted that the Town of Oro Valley has provided automobiles and motorcycles for personal and business use (take-home vehicles) to nearly 65 town employees, about 34 of which are taken home by OVPD officers. You should also know that the Town has a massive IRS regulation problem due to the fact that personal and commuting usage is not being logged and taxed (including daily commuting miles to as far away as Sahuarita and Casa Grande.) Nearly all commuting and personal vehicle mileage is taxable in Arizona and in the U.S.

Based upon common and contemporary acceptable practice, a town with Oro Valley’s population size (43,000) requires only 4 take-home vehicles within the police department. These should be assigned to the Chief of Police, the Deputy Chief, the Detective Commander, and the Senior Evidence Technician, all of whom are subject to fairly frequent call-out.

An additional 4-7 Town Hall Staff cars should be assigned to senior executives and those subject to off-duty calls on at least 8 occasions per year. This would include the Mayor, the Public Works Director, and perhaps one or two others, with the remainder of that small fleet being utilized on a pool basis (and never being garaged at homes).

All individuals with take-home cars must be subject to call-out and must be called out with significant regularity. ALL employees with take-home cars must be salaried employees with very few job necessity exceptions such as the Senior Evidence Technician.

In summary, there is no actual data or evidence to suggest that Oro Valley is being led intelligently, ethically, or in compliance with  regulations. It is not my intention to damage or disparage any persons…only to stop the financial idiocy of a town being habitually misled and, thus far, being unwilling to correct itself.

Part 3 will be published tomorrow.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Guest View: Brian Gagan ~ Oro Valley’s epic fiscal mismanagement from the Town Hall to the OVPD. Part 1.

My background
In addition to corporate engagements around the world, I do a great deal of work with municipal, county and state governments on many subjects related to contemporary and ethical governmental practice and human capital efficiency/capability improvement. Our goal is that no taxpayer funds are wasted by incompetent and/or malfeasant governmental leaders.

Additionally, I am a former police officer with two separate agencies and a 100% conviction rate for misdemeanor and felony arrests over almost 7 years. I make it a practice to back up police officers throughout the USA.

I bought a home in Oro Valley exactly 3 years ago after having owned multiple homes in multiple states from Massachusetts to California and from Minnesota to Florida. Each of the 10 municipalities in which I have lived have been run highly competently and ethically except for Oro Valley.

My Oro Valley Experience ~ Group Grope
Since moving to Oro Valley in 2014, it has become directly evidenced that few persons at the elected or high appointed levels in Oro Valley have any capability whatsoever in terms of financial, spending and budget skills…or in terms of learning and citizen connection skills.

Mayor Hiremath rejected my request for a meeting, there have been no responses from Chief Sharp to my repeated emails regarding police department failures and malfeasance, and also no response to a Certified Letter that I sent to our new Town Manager, Mary Jacobs back in June.

That does not mean that they are all bad; only that some of them are poorly intended and that most them are poorly led by the current Mayor, Town Council and many current department heads. In my professional life, this is called “group grope.”

They all hire in their own image
The above trait is a common characterization that we use in our firm to describe organizations in dire trouble. Neither poor leaders nor their poorly led teams are self-correcting. In cases such as these, employees are rewarded by their leaders for learning nothing, correcting nobody, and ensuring that incompetence and/or malfeasance remain undiscovered and/or accepted. This is precisely the circumstance here in Oro Valley.

Seismic Overspending without useful outcomes
Through my interactions with Mayor Hiremath, two council members, two department heads, several dubious highly paid leaders, and through endless fact and evidence tracking (direct and publicly available documented evidence) I have observed that between $4,000,000 and $11,000,000 of taxpayer money is being wasted. We refer to that as “stranded spending;” money spent either ignorantly or criminally without positive effect to those providing the revenue. It is time to cease this financial death spiral at the expense of Oro Valley residents.

As one factual example of seismic overspending without useful outcomes, the Oro Valley Police Department is evidenced as being very significantly overstaffed, monumentally under-led, and as a result, significantly incompetent and expensive.

Oro Valley has a population of 43,000 and a low Uniform Crime Report (UCR) incidence (felony crimes of murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson) and contains almost no industry and no entertainment or tourist districts.

According to population, UCR data, and best practices for similar size municipalities in Arizona (and also within 50 miles of Oro Valley), the OVPD should consist of approximately the following staff:

Total Sworn and AZPOST Certified Officers: 84
Command Staff (Lieutenant through Chief): 6
Sergeant: 9
Investigative: 6
School Resource Officer (SRO): 7 (one officer per school)
Evidence Technician: 2
Patrol/Uniformed, Non-Rank Officers: 54

All Other Staff, Non-Post Certified: 26
Includes dispatch, office services, records, systems, crime analysis, fleet, secretarial, animal control, etc.

Total Necessary OVPD Staff Count: 110

For comparison, OVPD current headcount is 133 full-time equivalents (FTE’s) including 9 Command Staff, 12 Sergeants, 10 SRO’s, and 60 Patrol Officers, with a proposed budget for 2018 of 136 employees. This indicates planned 2018 over-staffing by 26 FTE’s.

The average annualized cost of a Sworn Police Officer (including benefits and liability insurance) is $81,000 to $87,000 per year in most cases. The average annualized cost for Non-Sworn Staff is $54,000 to $59,000.


UCR is all of the crime data in the USA that is collected by the FBI and is required to be submitted monthly by all U.S. law enforcement agencies.

AZPOST: Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board

SRO’s: The number 7 assumes that Oro Valley desires a police officer in each school. (The problem is that the OVPD mistakenly classifies SRO’s as a separate division with a separate Sergeant with all of the additional related expenses).

Part 2 will be published tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Guest View: Robert Peters ~ Oro Valley is Nothing More Than a Profit Center for Developers

My wife and I recently attended an Oro Valley Neighborhood Meeting regarding the proposed annexation of a 321-acre parcel of State Trust Land on the NE corner of Tangerine and Thornydale.

Contrary to what your real estate agent may have told you when you agreed to pay a premium to live next to State Trust Land, this is not public land that will never be developed. It is land governed by the Arizona Constitution that can be sold at auction to the highest bidder for the economic benefit of “Trust Beneficiaries.” In this case, that beneficiary is the schools (K-12).

Oro Valley is proposing annexation of this land to prevent Marana or Pima County from doing the same. Their reasoning is that they would prefer to have control over how this land is eventually developed. For those of you who have been living here for many years, the notion of Oro Valley getting their hands on a large parcel of pristine desert is not a comforting thought.

Councilmember Solomon was more interested in his phone
The Neighborhood Meeting was packed. The following five councilmembers were in attendance: Mary Snider, Lou Waters, Bill Rodman, Rhonda Pina and Steve Solomon. It should be noted that Solomon spent most of the evening looking down while scrolling on his cell phone. This is not the first time we’ve observed him doing this during a Town meeting. This should give you some insight as to how much he cares about listening to his constituents.

Residents speak up
After the Town’s presentation, the Q&A session became quite heated. People were justifiably concerned about their property values, their privacy, and the impact to both flora and fauna. They were well-aware that recent land rezonings in our town have featured mass grading, tiny 7,000 square foot lots, and a mix of one and two story homes separated by the smallest setbacks allowable under building codes, leaving little room for indigenous desert plant species and wildlife.

Comments from the audience included the following [paraphrased]:

• They need to come up with a better plan to fund education other than destroying the desert.

• Why bother building wildlife tunnels when there will be no wildlife left to use them?

• First you sell the land to raise money for schools. Then developers build more homes on that land, thereby increasing the school population, which will then necessitate the selling off of more State Land to raise money for more schools. It’s a never-ending cycle of desert destruction.

• Since money is all this town cares about, we can all protest by not shopping in Oro Valley. Spend your money elsewhere.

• One woman began her speech by connecting the Town Council’s poor financial decision in purchasing the Community Center and Golf Courses as the reason why they don’t have any money for ball fields at Naranja Park which has led to a property tax proposal in order to fund them.  Regarding the annexation, she stated that you can expect them to mass grade this beautiful land in their never-ending quest for money. She ended her speech with, “We need to vote these [expletives] out of office!”

And that will give you some idea of the anger in that room that night.

Oro Valley Standards?
The Town’s Senior Planner, Roosevelt Arellano, explained why Oro Valley wants to annex this land:

“We want to assure a good design that’s compatible with Oro Valley standards; something that we’re used to in our community.”

And therein lies the problem, because for many years, what we have become “used to” with “Oro Valley standards” is wanton destruction of the desert with barren, bladed landscapes free of any living plant or animal with homes packed so closely together that you can look out your kitchen window and watch your neighbor’s television.

A Studied Observation
Having the retrospection of 14 years of experience attending these Neighborhood Meetings and working with town staff, land owners and developers, we have come to realize an all too familiar pattern. Going forward, this is what you can expect:

Step 1: The highest bidder
Unless someone who cares about preserving the land can come up with enough money to outbid them, the land will be sold to a wealthy land developer.

Step 2: Enter the usual suspects
Most or all of the following people/entities will be involved in the development of this parcel: The WLB Group, Greg Wexler, Mike Carlier, Meritage Homes.

Step 3: Neighborhood Meetings
Neighborhood Meetings will be held where the developer will attempt to convince the surrounding neighbors that their proposal is the best use for this land. (NOTE: Similar to how a car dealer does not give you his best price upfront, it has long been rumored that the initial development plan includes much more than what they actually want. This gives them room to negotiate when neighbors form a Citizens’ Group to protest the development).

Step 4: Divide and Conquer
The Town and the developer will then use a divide-and-conquer strategy to covey favor with certain members of the citizens’ group in order to lure them away from the larger and stronger group, thereby weakening the group. They may approach individuals to discuss plans and negotiate terms privately and/or elect Neighborhood Captains of their choosing to help win over support for the proposed development. They will usually single out the owners of the most expensive homes as well as those in the group that they believe will be the easiest to convince and manipulate.

Step 5: Full Speed Ahead
The developer will make a few concessions to the neighbors, most of which were never high on their priority list anyway. Then, despite any remaining protests, the developer (most likely the WLB Group) will convince the Town Council to rezone the land to the highest density possible, after which you can count on Meritage Homes to be “the chosen builder.” The land will be mass-graded to cram in their usual 5-6 homes per acre for a total of over 1,000 homes.

This, as always, will be an uphill battle as the Town’s number one job is to collect revenue and the higher the density, the more revenue they will collect from development impact fees. It will always be a war to protect our lush desert surroundings (or what’s left of it) when there is money to be made.

Robert Peters is an Army veteran who served in Germany and South Korea. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Russian and Eastern European Studies and a Master’s degree in Business Management. He relocated from New England to Arizona in 2003 and was employed by Raytheon Missile Systems for 12 years, retiring in 2016 after 50 years of working. He’s been active in dog rescue organizations for the past 20 years. He’s also an avid reader and history buff who has traveled extensively throughout the U.S., Europe and Russia. A former hippie, he attended the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Upstate New York.