Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Town Council Candidates collecting signatures at Oro Valley Library this week

Mayoral candidate Joe Winfield and Town Council candidates Melanie Barrett, Joyce Jones-Ivey, and Josh Nicolson will be collecting signatures this week at the Oro Valley Public Library during the Library Book Sale. They need to collect at least 345 signatures in order to be placed on the ballot for the Town Council primary election in August.

Please stop by to meet them and sign the petitions. NOTE: Petitions for all four candidates will be available to sign during the hours listed even if a candidate is not present that day.

Wednesday, April 25th

Joe Winfield   9 - 11 AM
Melanie Barrett   9 - 11 AM
Josh Nicolson   9 - 11 AM
Joyce Jones-Ivey   9 AM to Noon

Thursday, April 26th

Joe Winfield   9 - 11 AM
Joyce Jones-Ivey   3 - 5 PM

Friday, April 27th

Joe Winfield   9 - 11 AM
Joyce Jones-Ivey   9 - 11 AM

Saturday, April 28th

Melanie Barrett   9 - 10:30 AM
Joyce Jones-Ivey   9 - 11 AM
Joe Winfield   9 AM until (to be determined)

Monday, April 23, 2018

Guest View: Love Contributor ~ When saving face takes precedence over a solvent golf strategy

Today's article compares Oro Valley's financial golf strategy to USGA recommendations.

In an effort to offset the decrease in Municipal Golf participation throughout the country, the United States Golf Association (USGA) has determined two major causes for this decline and they are promoting solutions to save this sport.

(1) Time Constraints
The major factor is simply TIME. With today's busy family dynamics, young children have many sports to chose from, families have multiple daily activities, working hours have increased, single parenting creates transportation issues, and seniors must balance cost and energy against available time. A four or five hour activity becomes extremely difficult for almost every age group.

USGA Solution: Encourage 9-hole golf
As such, the USGA began a nationwide promotion of PLAY NINE. In addition to national advertising, local and state chapters are asking all Municipal Courses to encourage their golfers to play only nine holes. This, along with encouraging "Play Forward,” has increased the number of rounds played significantly in the past few years. In addition, 9-hole golf creates more rounds played with an increase in revenue and opens the potential golfer base significantly.

(2) Local Government is inept at managing golf
The second factor is that Municipal Golf, (when local government owns the golf course property), involves local government being involved with management. Since many such bodies do not have the skills nor staff to operate a golf business, they often hire specialized golf management companies to actively run the business. (In the case of Oro Valley, Troon was hired to manage golf.) Where this concept falls apart, is when the Town Staff or Town Council continues to dictate policies to satisfy special interest groups, certain voting blocs, or campaign contributors, rather than allowing the management company to use their resources and talents to meet the needs of the local golfers and the financial goals of the Town.

USGA Solution: Performance-based Compensation
According to golf course data studies, municipal golf courses have now reached a low of some 1350 locations within the United States, (Arizona now has less than 25). The USGA recommends that management company compensation be based on performance, not on fixed fees which eliminate the incentive to balance revenue with expenses.

How does Oro Valley Municipal Golf relate to USGA recommendations?

The Town is not encouraging 9-hole golf. Both of the two existing 18-hole courses are based on an obsolete and inefficient design whereby a golfer must play the entire 18-hole course before returning to the clubhouse. This eliminates any 9-hole play, eliminates that additional revenue, and closes the door to the USGA Nine Hole promotions.

The Oro Valley Town Council continues to pour money into these antiquated courses, instead of modifying the course to satisfy the needs of the golfing community. As an aside, at a time when the Council will do anything to promote more (and smaller) housing units to increase the sales tax base, they turn their backs on the 9-hole golfers, some of whom will move into those homes. Is this good management?

The Town is not employing Performance-Based Compensation. We are all aware that the Town Council employs Troon to manage the golf and food service business and that Troon is a nationally recognized golf course authority. The Town Council pays Troon $12,000 per month, regardless of whether they create a profit or lose millions, as is the history.

What Would Troon Do?
Regarding outside management, considering the Troon reputation, experience and staff, does anyone doubt their ability to operate a golf course to at least break even financially?

• Would Troon maintain 45 holes of golf knowing that the past usage barely supports only an 18-hole course?

• Would Troon allow a monthly fee that provides unlimited golf that isn’t covering their costs?

• Would Troon not immediately modify the course design to double the potential golfing base and use the efficiency of a 9-hole course to increase revenue?

• Would Troon continue to provide a free driving range, knowing that this is the single most profitable revenue course in a municipal golf facility?

Is there any doubt that Troon could resolve these financial issues within a matter of months, if they were given the charter to make the changes necessary to make El Conquistador Golf a true Municipal Golf Course?

The problem lies with the current mayor and council
It should be apparent to all taxpayers that the mismanagement of Oro Valley Golf lies with the Town Council and the Town Staff, not Troon. For some unknown reason, our Council and Staff can not understand the concept of municipal golf. Nor do they consider who actually pays the price for their errors including single parents trying to make ends meet and seniors living on fixed incomes. Most of these people will never even see the golf course, let alone play golf.

The practice of using money forcibly taken from the public is unforgivable. Not one penny of our sales tax should ever be used to hide the losses of the golf courses, just to protect the lifestyle of those who can well-afford the cost.

How do we stop this madness?
The solution is obvious and that is to vote for people who will represent the needs of the entire community, not just the chosen few. Let us all keep this in mind when selecting a new mayor and council in August.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Guest View: Diane Peters ~ Town Council deems man-made golf course views as more important than natural desert views. Part 2.

Below is my rebuttal to comments made by Mayor Hiremath at the April 4th Town Council meeting when discussing the rezoning of Saguaros Viejos. Scroll down below this article to read Part 1 (including the mayor’s comments) that LOVE published on Thursday.

My rebuttal
Mr. Mayor, I’m well aware that you had the opportunity to purchase the golf course property but not the Saguaro Viejos property and you knew that I was well-aware of that, so your answer appears to be nothing more than an attempt at creating a diversion to avoid answering the actual question.

The question was why does the Town Council believe that they have “an obligation” to preserve man-made golf course views to protect the views and property values for one group of residents but no obligation to preserve natural desert views to protect the views and property values of another group of residents? Why the concern for one person’s views and property value but not another’s?

In your response, you admitted that there were already entitlements on the golf courses for single family homes and that you wanted to prevent a developer from building those homes which would destroy the golf course views of hundreds of residents. But when it comes to those of us with desert views, you (and Councilmember Solomon) are always quick to say that the landowner has a right to develop homes on his land because the entitlements are already there and there’s nothing you can do.

Well, in the case of Saguaro Viejos, there was something you could do. You could have denied the rezoning for 7,000 sf lots. The current entitlements on that parcel were for minimum lot sizes of 20,000 square feet with custom grading (no mass grading). The Town Council (your council) already approved a development plan for that parcel in 2014 for one-story semi-custom homes on lot sizes ranging from 1/3 acre to 1.5 acres and no mass grading. You could have stuck to that plan.

Mr. Mayor, if you and Councilmember Solomon care so much about preserving the views that people paid for when they bought their homes, why didn’t you paraphrase Councilmember Solomon's comment from the July 2017 Golf Study Session about preserving golf course views and tell the applicant:
“We have to be very sensitive to what happens to that parcel because you’ve got homes backing up to this land. They bought to have desert views. We can’t just go off and put in 7,000 square foot lots with 2-story homes and mass grading. I mean that’s just not acceptable…We have an obligation to maintain, at minimum, the current 20,000 square foot minimum lot size and the conceptual site plan that those neighbors agreed to and the Town Council approved in 2014.”
The quotes from Mayor Hiremath and Councilmember Solomon regarding protecting residents’ views [published in yesterday’s article below] clearly show that they are implementing land use/rezoning policies that favor one group of residents over another. This is yet another example of the low moral and ethical standards of this Town Council.

Four of them are up for re-election in August. We need to vote them out and elect people who will treat all citizens equally and with respect and who will place citizens’ desires above the requests of the wealthy developers who repeatedly fund their election campaigns.

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.

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:


"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."

"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