This 22-acre property at the NW corner of La Cholla and Tangerine is currently owned by Episcopal Church of the Apostles. Neighborhood meetings revealed that the church is having financial difficulties which has led to their decision to sell the land surrounding the church. The presenter, Brian Underwood of The Planning Center, stated, “We started this project because the Episcopal Church of the Apostles was in the hole.”
The General Plan Amendment is to change the land use from Public/Semi-Public to Medium Density Residential. The Rezoning request is to rezone from R1-144 (144,000 square foot lots) to R1-7 (7,000 sf lots).
The third Neighborhood Meeting for Cresta Morado was held on February 7th. There were approximately 40 attendees. I did not see any council members in attendance. However, Councilmember Rodman attended the first two neighborhood meetings in January and October 2018 and Vice-Mayor Barrett attended the first neighborhood meeting in January 2018 while a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Town documents reveal the following concerns of adjacent neighbors:
• the request is not consistent with the vision, goals, and policies of the General Plan
• water issues -- nearby wells are declining
• 2-story homes will obstruct their current views of the Catalina Mountains
• light pollution impacting the existing rural character
• negative impact on wildlife
• they do not support any access via Como Drive
•7,000 sf lot sizes and 2-story homes are not compatible with the rural character of the surrounding area
The tension was palpable
When I walked into the Neighborhood Meeting, I could already feel the tension in the room. This “ambience” would soon deteriorate even further into skepticism and distrust for the presenter who apparently had nothing more in mind than to convince the crowd that this was the best deal that they could expect.
The presentation was given by The Planning Center. (Yes, for once it wasn’t The WLB Group). They, as all other planning groups do, glossed over the impact of this rezoning while patting themselves on the back for moving the recreation area to the west side of the property and reducing the number of lots from 54 to 47.
The discussion grew heated in a short amount of time. Some highlights are below:
• A resident asked why they had to go from the lowest density (R1-144) to the highest density (R1-7). The presenter advised that the builder (Richmond) would probably drop out if the lot sizes were any larger than that.
• A resident complained about the recreation area being moved to the west side of the property. This recreation area would now border the large lot homes on the west side. Surrounding residents want the recreation area located away from their homes.
• Why didn’t the church add this rezoning to the 2016 OV General Plan? The presenter advised that the property wasn't on anyone’s radar prior to 2016 and that the church’s financial problems arose after the 2016 General Plan was ratified.
• A homeowner stated that, “The church’s financial mistakes are not my problem.”
• The presenter advised that they don’t consider the homeowners group as a hostile element, to which one homeowner responded, “You can consider me a hostile element.”
• The discussion finally evolved into a look at zoning for the overall Tangerine/La Cholla area. One homeowner noted that it had been understood when they all purchased property in that area (some residents have lived there since the 1980’s) that the land north of Tangerine would always be zoned low-density and the land south of Tangerine was for medium and high density housing.
The transitional lot sizes and buffer zones are inadequate
This property is surrounded by very large rural lots (rural low density residential) including a 50-acre rural property immediately to the north of the proposed development. The “transitional” lot sizes adjacent to this 50-acre rural parcel are just half-acre lot sizes. This is hardly an adequate transition.
The north side of the property (abutting Limewood Drive) shows a buffer yard of just 10 feet plus a 30 foot conservation easement, for a grand total of 40 feet of buffer between a 50-acre rural lot and this medium density development.
The west side of the property (abutting Como Drive) shows a buffer yard of just 30 feet. Granted, this is double the 15 foot requirement but it’s still not nearly enough of a buffer to separate R1-144 zoning (minimum 3.3 acre lots) from R1-7 zoning (minimum 7,000 sf lots).
For comparison, during the 2015 “Capella” Major General Plan Amendment, neighbors living on large lots along Shannon Road (adjacent to the west side of Capella) negotiated a 200 foot natural desert buffer between their homes and the Capella medium density residential development.
|Conceptual Site Plan|
This rezoning would set a dangerous precedent. We’ve all witnessed that after a rural low density area gets rezoned down to 7,000-10,000 sf lots, it sets the stage for all the undeveloped land surrounding that parcel to also be rezoned down to tiny mass graded lots (with 2-story homes and connecting walls). The developer uses the first rezoned parcel to claim that the parcel next to it should also be rezoned down to 7,000 sf lots in order to be “compatible” with the first parcel. And on and on it goes until there are no rural areas left, roads are widened to four lanes, traffic lights are installed, and the wildlife disappears.
It bothers me that one entity – one landowner, can disrupt so many lives with their development plan, especially in an area that was originally zoned for rural low density. The town has frequently given more consideration to one landowner than to all of the surrounding neighbors that these plans will affect. It isn’t right. But it’s done because greed takes precedence over way of life. It also happens because decision makers see Oro Valley as a building project rather than as a community. In this case, the community is rural residential with unspoiled desert surroundings and solitude.
Town Planner Michael Spaeth stated, “It’s the applicant’s job to demonstrate that what they’re proposing improves upon what’s there today.” Does anyone believe that this plan is an improvement?
The neighbors are justifiably upset.
Editor’s Note: This will most likely be the last Neighborhood Meeting. The proposal will be presented to the Planning & Zoning Commission for a vote. If approved by P&Z, it will be sent to the Town Council for the final vote.
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 in the workforce. 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.