Friday, May 18, 2018

Meet the Candidates

Mark your Calendars

Meet the Candidates
Oro Valley Library
Wednesday, May 23rd at 5 PM

Come meet Mayoral Candidate, Joe Winfield and Town Council Candidates Melanie Barrett, Joyce Jones-Ivey, and Josh Nicolson at the Oro Valley Library on May 23rd starting at 5 pm. They will be discussing the future of Oro Valley and listening to your concerns.

UPDATE: Josh Nicolson has a prior commitment and will be unable to attend.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Guest View: Tim Bohen ~ The Real 5-Year Plan for the Community Center (Hint: It’s now a 25-Year Plan)

Note: The $6MM Community Center Bond approval is included in the Adoption of the Tentative Budget that the Town Council will be voting on at tonight’s Council meeting.

We have often heard from Town Council that we need to give the Oro Valley Community Center golf investment time to show that its financial viability is trending positively. This was a fair request since the golf purchase was truly a major undertaking. However, three years have now elapsed and time has revealed what the 5-year plan may have been all along.

Another victory for Humberto Lopez (HSL Properties) and golfers
At the end of next the fiscal year, the Town’s obligation to rebate Vestar 45% of the sales taxes collected at Oro Valley Marketplace will end. This information was provided by Town Manager, Mary Jacobs during the Town Council Budget Study Session on May 9th. When Vestar’s tax incentive ends, approximately $800K per year in sales tax revenue from OV Marketplace will now become available to support Town services. This should be great news. I’m sure we can all think of many community-wide uses for this new revenue stream. Perhaps we could use it to actually provide more ball fields or playground equipment for young families since that’s what residents have been requesting.

But wait. Later at the same May 9th budget review, a significant portion of these same revenues ($450-480K per year) was proposed to be effectively passed to HSL and our “Country Club” and fitness members as security for a 20-year bond to improve the Community Center and Golf Courses. And once again, ball fields and playgrounds take a back seat to golf.

The percentage of Oro Valley residents who have $20-$40 monthly fitness memberships is only approximately 3% of our population. And the number of users who visit this facility per day (about 320) is far less than 1% of our town population, as was cheerfully volunteered by Parks and Rec themselves at the same meeting. Do these 9,500 total visits per month in a town of 45,000 include out-of-town visitors from the resort who are coming to enjoy our sales tax subsidized golf?

Lipstick on a Sign
In essence, all the Town did was to cross out the “Country Club” sign in lipstick and write “Community Center” on the sign in the same lipstick and…well, it’s still a Country Club. It’s great that we have a day camp and fitness center members that enjoy the Community Center and make this portion viable. But this benefit clearly goes to relatively few as reported by Parks and Rec themselves. And frankly, this benefit has been, and will long continue to be, dwarfed by the golf losses borne by all.

All that has really changed at El Conquistador since 2014 is the sign out front, a new traffic light, and more importantly, who is now responsible for the long-term upkeep of the combined Community Center and El Conquistador Resort (HSL) golf asset. It’s we taxpayers who will now shoulder an ever increasing load of $3-4 million dollars per year for the next twenty years minimum (0.5% town-wide dedicated Community Center sales tax + 60% of the previously committed OV Marketplace sales tax to Vestar).

Fast Pitch
Our Community Center purchase agreement provides HSL with a 50-year (at $10K per year) Canada golf course improvements option to keep this one course open. Mayor Hiremath has stated that the signer of the purchase agreement, former Town Manager, Greg Caton, always seemed to “hit it out of the park.” It looks like this ball might come down some time around 2040 as far as loan payments, or 2065 as far as our lease with HSL. It’s a tape measure home run for HSL and the golfers either way. As for the vast majority of Oro Valley sales tax payers who don’t use the facility, let’s just say we’ll keep getting hit by the pitch.

Privatized Gains and Socialized Losses
So, upon learning this, how do we as a Town, in good conscience, choose to sink $6M minimum more into a 35-year old building and golf courses over the next three years? Our local economy includes flat golf revenues, rising local construction costs over the short term of this project, and potentially catastrophic decreases in CAP water for southern Arizona over the long term. Losing CAP water may shut all but the most financially healthy Tucson courses.

El Conquistador Country Club memberships are already well below where they need to be. This is maybe the only point everyone in Oro Valley can agree on. So, how exactly will three years of phased construction improve the membership rates? They won’t. Watch your Council brag about the great fiscal position of the Town resulting from their “skillful planning” and fiscal restraint and try to reconcile that with this long term decision. You can’t.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Guest View: Mike Zinkin ~ Speak NOW or forever lose your peace

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING
Wednesday, May 16th, 6:00 PM
Town Council Chambers

CAPELLA REZONING
Approx. 200 acres on the West Side of LaCholla between Lambert and Naranja

FROM: Large lot residential (R1-144 / approx. 60 homes on 3.3 acre lots)
TO: Planned Area Development (Up to 570 cluster homes plus commercial)

The History of Capella
As a former member of the Oro Valley Town Council, I was deeply involved in the compromises that were established prior to the approval of the LaCholla-Capella Major General Plan Amendments (GPA). Negotiations took place over a 9-month period in 2014-2015 between a local citizens group, the land owner, and the project engineer (WLB Group). I also held separate meetings with the WLB Group and the Town staff that resulted in further compromises.

Passing a Major GPA requires 5 votes on Council. The Council make-up at that time (May 2015) included 3 members who did not rubber-stamp development proposals. This required the WLB Group and the land owner to sit down and compromise with nearby residents in order to get the 5 votes they needed.

Current Events
Now, the Capella Rezoning is coming before the new council, a council whose campaigns were all supported by the development community, some of whom are involved in this project.

The Capella plan, on pages 188-190, requests exceptions to the current zoning requirements. These exceptions include, among other things, floor areas of 20,000 square feet per business vs. the allowed 5,000 square foot maximum, plus allowances for taller buildings and reduced setbacks. These exceptions were not part of the agreed upon compromises.

Additionally, what was discussed between the citizens’ group and WLB in 2014-2015 was a Master Planned Community. Some time between May 2015, when the Major General Plan Amendments were passed, and May 2018 when the rezoning portion of this development comes before council, the plan morphed into a Planned Area Development.

Master Planned Community vs. Planned Area Development
A Master Planned Community is a land use definition that combines many different uses. A Planned Area Development is a zoning code definition that allows for varied zoning entitlements such as Medium Density Residential (MDR), Low Density Residential (LDR), Neighborhood Commercial (C-N). A PAD can have different zoning allowances and different signage allowances than what’s in the Town Code, if the Council allows.

For example, in the MDR acreage of Capella, the PAD can have smaller set backs than what the Town Code specifies. If the PAD doesn’t mention any differences, then the Town Code prevails.

The Modus Operandi behind the rezoning request
Why do you think the developers desire reduced setbacks? With reduced setbacks, the builder (most likely Meritage Homes) will be able to add more homes. Capella is allowed only 500 units (or 570 units if two of the commercial parcels revert to residential in the future. They originally wanted 778 units). If they develop it with the OV zoning code setbacks, they might only be able to fit 480 units on that acreage. This reduces the builder’s profit, and therefore, reduces the market price for the land owner. What do you think the Town Council will do? Strictly adhere to the Oro Valley Zoning Code or allow the builder and land owner to make more money?

This appears to be another example of the WLB Group looking for more than what was discussed and agreed upon in 2014-2015. Of course, if the applicant can ask for more at this stage of the plan, so can YOU!

Town Council vs. the Board of Adjustment
The rezoning request requires just 4 council votes to pass. I can assure you that the current council will not read the Council Packet material, and will certainly never read all the way to pages 188-190 where the zoning modifications are outlined and requested. Thus, this rezoning will likely pass by a 7-0 vote. These zoning exceptions should be vetted and eliminated. The zoning code applies to all, and exceptions should only be authorized by the Board of Adjustment.

Let your voice be heard
The Government is responsible to YOU, not the developers. You may speak on this issue at Wednesday’s Town Council meeting by completing a Blue Speaker Card located on the back counter. If you cannot attend the meeting but would like to voice your concerns, you may contact the mayor and councilmembers at Council@orovalleyaz.gov but you must do so before tomorrow’s 6 PM council meeting.

Editor’s Note: The Capella Rezoning is the first item on the regular agenda. You can view the entire agenda HERE

2019 Oro Valley Budget Primer: Budget Growth

Oro Valley Town Manager Mary Jacobs has recommended a record setting town budget of $143.2 million for Fiscal 2019. The fiscal year begins this July 1. The town will hold public hearings on this budget in June.

Last week, we posted the "Budget v Inflation."

This week we present the rate of growth* that has occurred each year for the past 8 years in the Oro Valley budget.  It is 5.6% on average per year. We compare it to the rate of growth in inflation and in medial Oro Valley household income during (roughly) the same period.  These are 2.2% and 1.4% respectively. Please feel free to draw your own conclusion.



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*It is the compound growth rate over the 8 year period.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Town Council to vote on Community Center bond issue at Wednesday’s Council Meeting

At this Wednesday’s Town Council meeting (6 PM in Town Council chambers), Agenda Item #4 pertains to the Adoption of the Tentative Budget for FY 2018/19 (which begins on July 1st).

Part of this budget includes a $6 million dollar bond for Community Center and Golf Course improvements to be utilized as follows:


• $3.8 MM will be used to replace the aging and leaking golf course water lines
• $2.2 MM will be used to remodel the outdated Community Center

More information can be found in the attached article from Sunday’s Arizona Daily Star, including how the Town Manager and Town Finance Director propose that we repay this 20-year bond.

Read the AZ Star article HERE

Guest View: Tim Bohen ~ With the WLB Group, every penny counts. Every word, not so much.

Today’s article pertains to the self-serving WLB proposal for a 200-acre residential and commercial development known as Capella, planned for the west side of LaCholla between Lambert and Naranja. There will be a PUBLIC HEARING on this proposal at this Wednesday’s Town Council meeting which begins at 6 PM.

For those restless Oro Valley residents who are disposed to read public documents such as the Capella PAD (Planned Area Development), there is certainly a lot to learn about how the sausage gets made when it comes to development in today’s Oro Valley. But why should you have to read them? After all, Oro Valley has a capable Town Staff who, in the course of their duties, reviews such documents before they are posted for public view and before they are presented to the Town Council for a vote. I mean of course they do, right?

WLB Group vs. the Oro Valley General Plan
Let’s focus on just one area, but a critical one, of the Capella PAD. This is the Part XV Compliance Analysis. In this Analysis (provided by the applicant, WLB, on their own timeframe), the content of the proposed Capella PAD is evaluated against key criteria in the Oro Valley General Plan. The applicant provides a Y or N as to whether, in their view, their proposal meets this criteria and they explain their rationale in the “Comments” section.

Below are actual WLB responses regarding their inability or their refusal to comply with three criteria that the Oro Valley General Plan emphasizes as desirable approaches to new development.

1. General Plan Criteria
Mass grading techniques are minimized for project development.

WLB Comments
Mass grading reduces urban sprawl and also allows homebuilders to provide a higher level of amenities rather than spending money on less efficient grading techniques.

2. General Plan Criteria
Parking lots with greater than 20 car capacity are screened from adjacent uses and public thoroughfares.

WLB Comments
Meeting this criteria would compromise the viability of retail uses to be developed within the PAD. This criteria should be removed from the list because it is bad for Oro Valley’s struggling retail market.

3. General Plan Criteria
A favorable fiscal impact analysis.

WLB Comments
A fiscal analysis has not been prepared, although such analysis would surely confirm the economic benefits of this proposed PAD.

Are you buying what they’re selling?
• Do you (or does our Town Staff) believe that mass grading is actually the solution to urban sprawl?

• Does a struggling Oro Valley retail market really need more Capella retail?

• Are the economic benefits of the Capella PAD so self-evident that a fiscal impact analysis would simply be a waste of time? Or is it just that WLB doesn’t want to spend the money to have the analysis performed?

Flippant Responses
It’s astonishing that the WLB Group allowed their self-serving rationale for cutting costs to be included in their proposal which would be reviewed by the Town Staff and at least a few dozen Oro Valley residents. What remains in the final PAD brings into question the competence of both WLB and our Town Staff, who ostensibly fully review such submittals before posting them for public view. Why did the Town Staff not reject such flippant responses?

A Questionable Method of Operation?
More importantly, it may reveal the true feelings of both groups about the actual need for Public Hearings and public participation in the first place. Their M.O. seems to be:
“Nobody’s going to read it anyway and we can always talk around it, so why bother to craft a better answer? Better answers might cost WLB a little more money.”
And we all know that costing WLB and its clients more money in an effort to comply with the voter-approved General Plan always appears to be the wrong answer.

In his own words
In Planning Administrator Bayer Vella’s own words…”Staff took a very long time to review this case, more than normally as far as rezoning.” If the Town Staff had truly reviewed the Capella PAD above and beyond the level to which PADs are normally reviewed, would the above WLB responses remain verbatim in the revised version coming up for Town Council review on May 16th?

Listen to the audio for yourself (right panel).
It begins with Commissioner Swope’s question followed by Bayer Vella’s response. They seem to think that adding flexibility for WLB in the commercial zones might help them repeat the previous “success” of San Dorado.

Open mind or Case closed?
Is Staff reviewing the Capella PAD with an open mind or with the presumption of acceptance of the WLB proposal? What we do know for certain is that San Dorado is at a much better commercial location (Oracle and First) than anywhere in Capella and yet San Dorado is still looking for tenants according to the Town itself.

Click HERE and scroll down to Page 2 which shows that there are still four vacant buildings at San Dorado totaling almost 25,000 square feet in available retail space.

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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 was recently appointed to the Oro Valley Historic Preservation Commission 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, May 10, 2018

Take Back Oro Valley has recently updated and improved their website. Similar to LOVE, they are a group of Oro Valley residents who are volunteering their time to inform residents of Oro Valley issues. Articles, short videos, and charts are designed to give Oro Valley residents a better understanding of the key issues facing our town.

Topics include the Community Center Golf Courses, Over-Development, the Main Streets Project, Special Interest Campaign Donations, and Fiscal Responsibility.

You can visit their home page HERE and then navigate to the items that interest you the most. A link to their website can always be found in the right side-bar on LOVE along with links to other websites of local interest.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Oro Valley's Public High Schools Are Poor Academic Performers


There are four high schools located in Oro Valley. Two are public schools. How do they rate?

Basis #3 In Academic Excellence 
Oro Valley's Basis High School is ranked #3 in the nation (Source: US News and World Report), The ranking is based on the publication's assessment of "...schools that best serve all of their students – including historically underserved populations – and assess the degree to which students are prepared for college-level coursework."

The school is built for academic excellence. Their students are prepared for college.  Basis Oro Valley High School students perform at twice the math and reading proficiency as the statewide average.

Basis Oro Valley is a special school for the academically gifted.

Congratulations to Basis Oro Valley. A job well done!

Oro Valley's Other High Schools Unranked and Doing Poorly Academically
The publication has local high schools CDO and Ironwood Ridge as "unranked." If they were to be ranked, however, they would not fare very well.

According to the data gathered by US News, Ironwood Ridge and CDO do not test well.

Ironwood Ridge students test below the statewide average for math and reading. CDO students test results are close to the statewide average for both math and science. 
  • 38% of CDO students and 30% of Ironwood students are at least proficient in math
  • 36% of CDO students and 38% of Ironwood students are at least proficient in reading
CDO and Ironwood Ridge can do better
Compare the test results of CDO and Ironwood Ridge to Catalina Foothills. This high school is ranked #670 nationally. Their student results are far better than CDO and Ironwood Ridge.  74% and 67% of Catalina Foothills students are at least proficient in math and reading respectively. (The "diversity" of the student population in these three high schools is about the same.)

Our guess is that the reason that CDO and Ironwood Ridge are unranked is because they are so far down the list of academic performers that their results don't matter. That is unacceptable.
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Note: The US News study did not include Pusch Ridge Christian Academy in the study.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

2019 Oro Valley Budget Primer: Budget v Inflation

Oro Valley Town Manager Mary Jacobs has recommended a record setting town budget of $143.2 million for Fiscal 2019. The fiscal year begins this July 1. The town will hold public hearings on this budget in June.

Last week, we posted the "Big Picture." This week we focus on the Oro Valley budget and how it has grown over the past 8 years. This time, we compare the year to year change in the budget with the inflation.  Theoretically, the budget that increases by the rate of inflation is said to be "holding its own." One that is increasing at a rate greater than the inflation rate is said to be growing, in real dollar terms. The following compares the two. Is the Oro Valley budget "holding its own" or is it growing faster than the rate of inflation?

Budget v Inflation