Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Editorial ~ Just Say No

The proposed annexation of the 800+ acres of State land on the west side of Oro Valley has caused a lot of turmoil. Every public/neighborhood meeting is filled with residents and non-residents who are opposed to the planned annexation. Their opposition appears to be primarily focused on the proposed density of the lands. Traffic, water usage, uses not compatible with the surrounding area, and non-compliance to the General Plan sum up the majority of additional objections.

Pre-Annexation Development Agreement (PADA)
The Town has been very vague about the meaning of the Pre-annexation Development Agreement, which is the first vote the Council will take prior to the actual annexation and zoning. If the Council approves the PADA as presented by The WLB Group, is the town then committed to zone the property as per the PADA? We have not received an answer. Instead, the Town provided the attached manual prepared by the Arizona League of Cities and Towns.

[Click to open the document]

As an example of what a PADA can do to modify the Town Code, the Oracle Crossings shopping center at Suffolk and Oracle was initially in the county. Both the county and the town had the property zoned as commercial, so this part was a “no-brainer.” However, there are tall palm trees in front of Kohl’s. These trees are in violation of the Town’s commercial landscape code, but Kohl’s was allowed to keep them due to the PADA.

Let’s assume the Town approves the PADA which includes a lot of land designated as Medium Density Residential (MDR). MDR allows for 2.1 – 5 units per acre. The PADA has it such that the lots are small. Can the Town allow for MDR, but modify the PADA to increase the size of the lots, thereby reducing the density? Does the approval of the PADA commit the Town to developing the property as noted in the PADA? We have not been able to get a straight answer from the Town.

What to do???
The Planning and Zoning Administrator has said publicly that this annexation will cost the Town money. After the initial collection of construction taxes and impact fees, the Town starts to lose money as it will need to maintain the infrastructure (including improving Moore Road), and provide for public safety and other town services.

However, due to the location of the annexed land, many of these new residents will shop and buy their gas in Marana, not Oro Valley. Marana will receive the sales taxes and HURF revenues (Highway User Revenue Fund).

Too many shades of gray
There are a lot of gray issues regarding the PADA and we know that it will cost the town money in the long run. When Nancy Regan was First Lady, she issued a statement regarding drug use. This statement is appropriate for the PADA. “JUST SAY NO”

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Council To Consider Seizure of Pet and Owner Jail Time For "Excessive Noise"

The property is your pet
Tomorrow night, there is one item on the regular agenda. It is a resolution to amend section 18-8-2 and to add add section 18-8-3  to section 18-8 of the Oro Valley town code. That section discusses "excessive noise" on the part of pets.

Pina and Rodman are sponsoring the amendment
"At the request of Councilmembers Piña and Rodman, the Legal Services Department undertook a review of the Town's Animal Control Code, specifically, relating to the article addressing excessive noise caused by animals and birds. A 2017/18 case involving excessively barking dogs highlighted Oro Valley's lack of code provisions that would have allowed for more stringent action to protect the rights of area neighbors in the peaceful enjoyment of their property."(Source)

According to Oro Valley Constituent Services Coordinator, Jessica Hynd: "The 17/18 case that is referred to in the agenda item, is V17071165. A guilty verdict was found. The case involves multiple neighbors who submitted numerous noise complaints against a neighbor who had multiple dogs that excessively barked during all hours of the day and night."

Three strikes and they take the pet
The proposed amendment allows a peace officer or town enforcement agent to remove a pet from premises after a third determination by the police officer or town enforcement agent that the pet is causing "excessive noise." The disturbance has to be such that, in the judgment of the peace officer or town enforcement agent, the disturbance "...interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property by a neighbor or the community."(source exhibit A)

Third strike could mean jail time for the pet owner
An individual cited a third time will not only have their pet seized. They will also be charged with a class one misdemeanor. In Arizona, a class 1 misdemeanor is a serious offense: "A class 1 misdemeanor is the most serious misdemeanor offense and is punishable by up to 6 months in jail, 3 years of probation (5 years maximum probation for DUI offenses) and a $2,500 fine plus surcharges. Some of the most common class 1 misdemeanor offenses include DUI, driving on a suspended license, assault, disorderly conduct, criminal damage, shoplifting and theft." (Source)

In addition, if the pet is seized and if the owner gives up on the pet or does not get it back after appealing to the court system, the pet will have no home, it will wind up in a shelter and likely it will be killed if it is not adopted.

LOVE: This ordinance as proposed is far too vague, far too overreaching, and far too punitive to be adopted in its present form.
It is "overkill." Here's why:
  1. The ordinance does not require "cause".  In other words, there should be a filed, documented resident complaint that the peace officer or town enforcement agent is investigating. The cause, in this case, should be a documented complaint from a resident residing within a reasonable distance (100 feet) from the noise.
  2. The disturbance being made should be from outside the home or kennel. A dog barking inside or a bird in a cage making noise inside one's home should not be considered. The current code does not exclude this. Essentially, you are subject to the consequences of this code section if you have a dog who barks in your home and that noise can be heard outside.
  3. The code should define "excessive noise" and require that it be measured. Do not leave it to judgment.  "Judgment" is far too low a standard. A measurable standard for the violation should be set in the ordinance. For example: A noise is deemed to be excessive when it has been measured to occur on a continuing basis for 20 minutes at a decibel level exceeding 60db+, as measured within 100 feet of the closest property line.
  4. The excessive noise should be occurring without observable cause. For example, it is quite normal for a dog to bark at coyotes who are howling, even in the distance. This should not be an offense.
  5. Time of day matters. Noise at night really does disrupt the peace. Noise during the day generally does not, as people are away. Limit the time when the ordinance is effective in the same manner the town code restricts construction noise or noise from a business establishments, such as Noble Hops (which can blare live music on the patio until 9:30pm).
  6. The peace officer or town enforcement agent should be required to obtain and present a court order for pet removal.  This requires a court to deem that property seizure is legally valid in this case. The proposed ordinance has it backwards. The officer seizes the pet. The owner goes to court to show why the owner should get the pet back. In other words, there is a presumption of guilt. There should be a presumption of innocence.
  7. The third offense is far too harsh. At best, it should remain a civil offense as it is now. There is no reasonable basis for assuming that a barking dog causes the kind of potential damage a DUI driver can cause or that it is a crime as serious as stealing from Target.
LOVE's recommendation
Send this ordinance back for reworking. Use a rifle, and not an "elephant gun" in its redesign. Apply some contemporary thinking, like requiring pet training after the first offense. 

Better yet, rewrite the ordinance. Create something that protects the "property rights" of the owner as well as recognizing the affected residents right to the "quiet enjoyment" of their property.
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Monday, January 21, 2019

The Watchdog Report: What are the Town Manager and Staff doing?

The below screenshot shows that the Town/Troon, under the leadership of Town Manager, Mary Jacobs, not the council, continue to push for Oro Valley taxpayers to subsidize 45 holes of golf. This is not supported by the $50,000 contracted golf study from 2017 which recommended 27 holes and, I am almost certain, is not supported by the newly elected Council majority. [You can read a summary of the 170-page National Golf Foundation study HERE]

It is disingenuous to any potential members and is not in keeping with the Town’s Organizational Chart which places Oro Valley Residents at the top of the chart, above the Town Manager, Troon, and staff. How can staff/Troon make people commit to an annual fee when it’s possible that the golf environment will change within the year?



Why does the Town staff continue to follow the dictates of the ousted mayor?
As of November 2017, there were 226 golf members, 7 of which did not pay dues. How many members will be required to support their “dedicated 18 hole course?” Why is staff doing this now? Are they trying to corner the Town Council into accepting their policy, the policy of ousted former Mayor Hiremath, the policy of HSL? Why doesn’t the Town Manager put an immediate halt to this and let the new Council work with the citizens to see what they desire?

After all, the people are subsidizing the Community Center and Golf Courses with $2 million dollars per year from the dedicated sales tax increase, all because former Mayor Hiremath and his majority council favored passing the costs onto the public without any concern for the majority of people who will never use the golf courses. Every person in Oro Valley is forced to pay this tax to provide golf to a very small portion of the population.

In addition, in November 2017 there were 3,034 rounds of “non-member play” on 45 holes of golf. To put that in perspective, there is a public golf course within 5 miles of the Town’s courses that had 3,788 rounds on only 18 holes.

The Town Council needs to make the decisions, not Mary Jacobs.

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Mike Zinkin has a Bachelor’s degree in history and government from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education from California State University, Northridge. He was a commissioned ensign in the United States Navy Reserve. He was an Air Traffic Controller for 30 years. He and his wife moved to Oro Valley in 1998. Mike served on the Oro Valley Development Review Board from 2005-2009 and the Board of Adjustment from 2011-2012. He served on the Town Council from 2012-2016 during which time he was named a Fellow for the National League of Cities University, he was a member of the National League of Cities Steering Committee for Community and Economic Development, and a member of the Arizona League of Cities Budget and Economic Development Committee.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Guest View: Tim Bohen ~ Is The WLB Group padding their claims? Part 2.

Part 1 was published on Monday.

The process is broken
Our Oro Valley PAD amendment process is broken but it’s hard to see on the surface. For years, we have had a developer-driven process on developer timetables and a lack of healthy cross-examination of developer claims which should expose obvious errors in documents. The Town Council eliminated the Development Review Board some years ago in order to make the supposedly unfriendly Oro Valley easier for developers to navigate.

There is at least one council member liaison present at all P&Z meetings so nothing major should slip by. In addition, Staff researches the issue beforehand for their presentation, so they should catch errors or falsehoods at this point, right? So between P&Z, the town staff, and the Town Council, due diligence has been done, right?

Not always. See editor’s note at the end of the article.

But when developers request new entitlements at Rancho Vistoso or seek to enforce entitlements they won previously, who is actually verifying that these entitlements are properly recorded and followed for all to see? In my view, no one has been doing this for over 10 years. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the developers who have had their way for so long to bring this up. Our Town needs to insist upon a complete and verifiable application which clearly delineates the WAS and IS text of the PAD amendment before the public meeting is even scheduled.

Why single out WLB?
They are an engineering and planning firm, not a developer nor a public relations firm. First of all, the badly outdated Rancho Vistoso PAD has their name on it and has for a long time. Check “Prepared by…” on page one and “Revised by WLB July 10, 1996” in Tables H and J. [Click HERE to review the Rancho Vistoso PAD]

Despite the PAD issues mentioned above, we have on many occasions seen WLB advocating for their Rancho Vistoso developer applicants based on their “long experience” in Rancho Vistoso. But after their recent 2017 successes in these requests for General Plan and PAD amendments, have they bothered to follow through to confirm that the amendments they seek are properly recorded and available?

Also, we see WLB quite literally all over Town advocating for the interests of their developer partners, including the Arizona Bureau of Land Management in the current Tangerine Annexation process. But WLB, as mentioned, is an engineering and planning firm, not a legal or PR firm. Just who is minding the WLB store when it comes to ensuring they do their core work of maintaining current engineering and planning documentation for our Town?

Homework Assignment
Vintage documents should not be considered current in dealings between WLB and the Town of Oro Valley. WLB, if you do update the PAD for the Town website as you should, be sure to provide the Town one mylar and five colored exhibits of the entire PAD as required per Section 6A on sheet 41. Don’t forget the five bound copies and one unbound copy for future distribution per Section 6B.

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Editor’s Note: The Saguaro Viejos development (another WLB project) is a perfect example of false information being presented as fact. During their presentation in April 2018, Paul Oland of WLB stated that their rezoning request for 6,500 sf lots was compatible with the existing land use east of the property which he claimed was 7,000 to 10,000 sf lots. The actual lot sizes for that neighborhood are 15,000 to 33,000 square feet. This was pointed out to P&Z and the Town Council by Oro Valley resident and frequent LOVE contributor, Diane Peters, who, like Tim Bohen, actually did some due diligence by reviewing town documents.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Jim Williams: When Homesteaders Came To Oro Valley

From time to time, LOVE is featuring Oro Valley author Jim Williams and his book Claiming the Desert: Settlers, Homesteaders and Ranchers in Oro Valley, Arizona, 1865-1965. This is an excerpt from his book.
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Individuals from Tucson and other locales claimed homesteads in four townships that roughly correspond to the Town of Oro Valley today. These grantees were a group of hardy pioneers who braved many difficulties. 

Everyday life was challenging. Some of them prospered, but not all.

Homesteaders came to this area from a variety of locales. Some came to Tucson via the Southern Pacific Railroad. Train travel was preferred because the highways in Arizona and neighboring states were barely functional for interstate travel before the late 1940s.

Gene Magee, who owned a homestead in what became Oro Valley, remembered traveling three days by rail from Oklahoma to reach Tucson.

Most homesteaders already lived in Tucson for some years before applying for a homestead. After arriving in Tucson, homesteaders traveled by wagon or automobile to their claim. 

Buster Bailey, a resident from 1927 onward, remembered that the Oracle Road “was always rough,” consisting of unpaved highway with some gravel. Robert Wilson visited his father Lawrence Wilson’s homestead near Oracle Road in the Thirties and remembered a rough road of packed dirt. Orange Grove Road and La Cholla Boulevard were established by 1930, both county roads but in worse condition than Oracle Road (then called the Tucson-Florence Highway). Maps of the period 1900-1940 indicate many other unnamed and virtually unimproved roads in the area.

The difficult roads presented significant problems for homesteaders.

When the Jim Reidy homestead dwelling was under construction, he and several laborers finished work on the building for the day and started back to Tucson in his 1928 Chevrolet. A flash flood hit as they crossed the Cañada del Oro, and one worker was swept away. He was later found one-half mile downstream, clinging to a Palo Verde tree. The Chevy was destroyed by the flood. Betty Chester Dreyfuss, who lived in what is now Catalina State Park, recalled that her family was isolated when the Cañada del Oro flooded. For days, food and other supplies had to be brought in via a cable strung between two poles on opposite sides of the wash.
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"Claiming the Desert" is available at the Western National Parks Association and through Amazon.com.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Guest View: Tim Bohen ~ Is The WLB Group padding their claims? Part 1.

Rodger Ford of Anthem Equity
When Rodger Ford of Anthem Equity said, “I was very careful to make sure that I had CPI against CPI privileges” at about the 54:50 mark of the November 8, 2018 Planning and Zoning Special Session, his words have a specific meaning. Campus Park Industrial (CPI) is a land use designation within the Oro Valley Rancho Vistoso PAD. Our Town zoning code does not use this designation. Tech Park (T-P) is the closest match you will find in the Oro Valley Zoning Code.

When Rancho Vistoso parcel 2E owner, Mr. Ford, did his due diligence in 2006, it is clear he researched the Rancho Vistoso PAD to determine what he might be allowed to build on 2E. We know this from the words he chose. As a savvy investor (just ask him), Mr. Ford no doubt clearly intended to fully understand his rights before he decided what a fair offering price would be in 2007.

Planned Area Development (PAD) documents establish landowner entitlements above and beyond the Town Zoning code
These are legal records. Current and accurate legal records are necessary for true public participation in matters such as the current Rancho Vistoso PAD amendment request for parcel 2E. And where might the residents of Oro Valley first go to seek out town records to help them find out what is going on? Yes, the Town website. I reviewed the document on the Town website and this is what I discovered.

The Rancho Vistoso PAD document was last updated in 2008. The Rancho Vistoso PAD was created in 1987 and has been updated periodically ever since. WLB is one of five authors listed on the Title Page. Not all tables contain the date of the last update, but Tables H and J were updated by WLB in July 1996. The last amendment incorporated into the text is from February 2008.

Residential projections of over 20,000 people. This PAD documents landowner entitlements (above and beyond the Zoning Code) for over 7,600 acres (about 12 square miles) and for an area once projected by the PAD authors themselves to house over 20,000 people.

Employment projections of over 31,000 employees. Neighborhoods 2&3 were once projected to have over 31,000 employees. Neighborhood 2 was to provide significant commercial along the west side of Oracle all the way up to Big Wash Overlook.

Development predicted to be completed in 15-20 years (from 1987). Thirty years have passed and based upon the level of Rancho Vistoso PAD amendment activity since the 2016 General Plan was approved, Rancho Vistoso development is clearly not done by any means.

So again, considering the importance of the document and all of the recent activity, why is a more current PAD not posted for the public?

That’s the way they like it
Can we believe at this point that anyone at the Town or in the developer community have even noticed? I maintain that the pace at which the Town Planning Staff has been asked to work since 2010 to meet applicant timetables does not allow for proper review of new applications and their supporting data. And this is just the way applicants and their advocates, such as The WLB Group, seem to like it.

A document of this scope needs to be periodically reviewed to keep it current. PAD’s are a privilege granted to developers and I find it insulting that this document is currently so far behind.

You can view the Rancho Vistoso PAD documents HERE

Part 2 will be published on Wednesday

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Tim Bohen grew up in Southern California and moved to Oro Valley in 2015. He has a Bachelors degree in Physics from UCI and an MBA from Loyola Marymount. He is employed as a Systems Engineer. He graduated from the Community Academy in 2016 and the Citizens Academy in 2017. He has been a member of the Oro Valley Historic Preservation Commission since January 2018 and is a volunteer mediator with the Arizona Attorney General’s office. His interests include aviation and history, with his greatest interest currently being frontier life and how the West was settled.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Town Council Brings Citizen Finance Commission Back To Oro Valley

Citizen-Centric spending oversight returns to Oro Valley
Last night, Oro Valley Town Council voted 7-0 to create a five-person citizen manned Finance Commission. The commission was approved with the proviso that it "sunset" in 2 years.

The "sunset" was added as a compromise because Council Members Solomon and Rodman were concerned that there was not sufficient definition of the role of the committee.

Council Member Solomon was concerned that the commission not be one that interferes with the work of town staff; that it not be within the commission's purview to be involved in the details of the budget's creation. All Council Member's agreed that town staff does a fine job and that such detail commission involvement would not be appropriate.

Hiremath in 2010: Board members just aren't experienced enough
On August 31, 2010, the 5-person commission was abolished by newly elected Mayor Satish Hiremath and his then town council. (You can read LOVE's report on this here. You can read the minutes on this discussion and watch the video here.)

According to the information packet included with last night's agenda: "This Committee was dissolved by the Town Council in 2010 with the consideration that in lieu of a standing committee, a separate ad hoc, citizen-based task force(s) could be formed as needed in the future to evaluate budget and finance-related topics and provide recommendations to the Town Council."(Source)

According the Hiremath speaking at the time: "The bottom line is this... We have no systems that are repeatable to assure success." This was his conclusion after being in office for all of three months. His corollary to this: Our boards lack sufficient experience to be proper advisers. Let's not train them. Eliminate them.

The decision eliminated citizen input. This elimination gave Hiremath absolute power over Oro Valley's spending.  The result has been an unprecedented growth in spending.

As we have previously posted, in just the past 8 years in which there was no finance commission, the town has experienced a rise in Oro Valley spending of almost 53%, $50 million from 2012 to 2019. Oro Valley's growth in spending far outpaced Oro Valley population growth. Thus, spending per capita rose from $2,214 to  $3.176. (source)

Winfield is no Hiremath
Major Joe Winfield has a different attitude that Hiremath. Winfield and Oro Valley's new council members spent thousands of hours canvassing neighborhoods, seeking and getting resident input. They know what residents want. Control of Oro Valley spending is one of these desires. Greater citizen input into town government is another.

Harmonizing town employee goals with those of the residents
One of the things that a Finance Commission may do is to reduce the ability of Oro Valley government to grow itself with no control other than the amount of funds they can garner. This is called the "Agency Problem", of which we wrote recently.

By reviewing town budgets, the finance commission can advise council on ways to harmonize town employee goals with those of the residents. Town spending can be focused toward resident priorities. Make work projects, like "Main Streets", will be identified. The question of whether a project is something residents want will be heard.

Promises made. Promises kept.
Mayor Winfield, Vice Mayor Barrett and Council Members Joyce-Ivey and Nicolson said during their campaign that they would take a hard look at Oro Valley's spending; and that they would instill citizen input into Oro Valley's governance. Establishing this finance commission is a strong first step in keeping both of these promises.