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 First of all, the badly outdated Rancho Vistoso PAD has their name on it and has for a long time.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.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Will Council Swallow Hiremath Poison Pill Tonight?



UPDATE: Project rejected
After lengthy discussion, the town council rejected the application by a 6-1 vote, with Council Member Solomon the sole vote in favor. Reasons for rejection include:

  • The proposed development was of density greater than the abutting residential development;
  • The town should preserve the scarce land that it has for commercial office park; and
  • There is seven years of residential development in line at present. Thus, this additional residential development is not needed.
Of concern to all was the interest of the abutting residents on the impact of the height of any commercial property that could be built. There is a concern because the prior council designated this property for "fast track" ("EEZ") approval. Under "EEZ", public input is not required as part of the project approval process.

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The "Poison Pill"
On his way out the door, Oro Valley Mayor Hiremath left a poison pill for incoming Mayor Joe Winfield and new council members Barrett, Joyce-Ivey, and Nicolson. The pill is in the form of a follow up to a general plan amendment.

The amendment was passed by a 5-2 vote at the September 19 council meeting. The amendment changed the land designation of what we refer to as the "Ford Property" from "commercial/office park" (COP) to medium density residential (MDR). The property is located on the northwest corner of Rancho Vistoso Blvd and Vistoso Commerce Loop.

Here's the poison: The property is zoned as COP. Thus, it must be rezoned to MDR in order for it to be in conformance with the amended general plan.

Ford Property
72 home potential
The proposal is to rezone the property to medium density residential. The applicant is WLB Group.

WLB wants 72 detached homes built on the property. WLB has proposed and received approval for previous zoning change requests in Oro Valley.  Paul Oland, their senior project manager, has been their representative on this and many of the other requests. He seems to be a WLB "rainmaker" when it comes to getting things changed in Oro Valley.

Planning and Zoning Commission said yes to rezoning... staff said no
"This rezoning request was considered by the Planning and Zoning Commission at a special session on November 8, 2018. At this public hearing, the Commission voted 4-3 to recommend approval of this application, while staff recommended denial." (source)

According to staff, when compared to other communities, Oro Valley is already on the "low end" of available commercial land (Vella, 9-19-18 council meeting, 22:09 meeting video). For example, Oro Valley's 400 available acres are less than 4% of neighboring Marana. According to JJ Johnston, Oro Valley Director of Development, the town actually has only 200 acres of buildable land.(Source)
"The proposal would significantly reduce an already limited supply of Commerce / Office Park land in Oro Valley. This type of land is needed to attract employers, businesses, and residents to Oro Valley and help maintain the community's long-term economic viability...On balance, it is staff's professional opinion that this proposal is not in conformance with the policies of the Your Voice, Our Future General Plan." (source)
Under the prior council, a rezoning request of this nature was a "slam dunk." It would have been approved by a 7-0 vote.

Tonight, our new Oro Valley Town Council will decide if it wants to do this or if it wants to take a different tack. We wonder: Can it take a different tack or will it have to "swallow the poison?"
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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Editorial ~ Strategic Plan vs. General Plan

FROM THE TOWN DOCKET: January 11-12. Strategic Leadership Plan update – Town Council Strategic Planning Retreat will identify budget priorities for the next two fiscal years.

The Strategic Plan. This plan is updated every two years via collaboration between the Town Council and senior management staff. The plan is then written by the town staff.

The General Plan. This plan is updated every 10 years with focused community input. It is then sent to the voters for approval. It states their priorities. The current General Plan (Your Voice, Our Future) was approved by the voters in November 2016.

In December, we asked Town Manager Mary Jacobs why she felt it important that the town council and staff engage in this strategic planning exercise. One reason she mentioned was that the 2016 General Plan was out-of-date. We disagree. Creating the General Plan was a massive effort. The Town spent 3 years, thousands of staff hours, and more than $300,000 on this effort. Hundreds of everyday residents were involved.

What we do recognize, however, is that there are certain strategic issues that were not considered during the planning process. LOVE has discussed three of these issues: (1) The closing of brick and mortar stores and the potential impact on sales tax revenues; (2) The strategic implications of CAP water restrictions on Oro Valley’s water plans; and (3) Whether Oro Valley should use its precious water resources to annex more residential, water using, areas. Thus, we do agree that a strategic discussion is appropriate at this time.

What follows is a direct quote from the December 2018 Town Manager’s Executive Report regarding the Strategic Plan sessions.

“Staff will be preparing background information for you to review prior to the session as well. The final plan will provide me and my team with your expected priorities and outcomes to be accomplished over the coming two fiscal years, and will help inform our deliberations as we prepare the FY 19/20 budget in the spring.”

There are two areas of concern:

(1) Staff will be controlling the information since they will be providing the Town Council the information for their review.  The problem with this is that it's in the staff's self-interest to grow Oro Valley in order to create work for themselves and guarantee their long-term job security.

(2) The General Plan is only two years old. It is not out-dated. It is a document that was compiled after 3 years of gathering input from the citizens and it advises the Town Council of the citizens expected priorities and outcomes.

The Town Council needs to guard themselves against allowing this Strategic Plan exercise to get in the way of the General Plan. One of the platforms during the campaigns of Winfield, Barrett, Jones-Ivey, and Nicolson was adherence to the General Plan. If the purpose of the Strategic Plan is to advise the Town staff what the Town Council’s priorities will be for the next two fiscal years…it is imperative that those priorities should not be in conflict with the General Plan.
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What do YOU think the Town Council should focus on for the next two years? What are your priorities? You may email your suggestions to Patrick@gettingbetterallthetime.com in order to have your comments included during the Town Council’s Strategic Planning Meeting on January 11-12. (Patrick Ibarra is a consultant from Glendale who facilitated the December 18th town meeting to gather community input on the Strategic Plan).

Monday, January 7, 2019

Our Hope For Oro Valley As We Begin 2019

Why the heartburn about the Moore/La Canada intersection?
According to an independent study commissioned by the town, this intersection does not warrant a traffic signal until 2026. So, what's the rush to put in a traffic light or a rotary? Three things have changed since the study was done: Tangerine is open and the two new schools are in place. Update the warrant analysis. Find out if and when a traffic control is warranted. Make the decision based on fresh facts. Why not spend the $1 million at Steam Pump Ranch or on Parks instead of getting the Town all inflamed over a subject that is not warranted?
Why the heartburn over the proposed state lands annexation?
Every public meeting indicates that the citizens want no part of this annexation. The Town’s Planning and Zoning Administrator has told us publicly that, in the long run, this annexation will cost Oro Valley. There are concerns about how the proposed land is going to be zoned. There is concern about the loss of the desert and wildlife, the water usage, and the lack of compliance to the General Plan.

Why the heartburn over the town run Overlook restaurant?
This is a business that is in direct competition with private enterprises. This is a business that has continued to lose money. The Town Manager insists on keeping it open to feed the golfers. Do we really need a full service restaurant to feed golfers when a beverage cart will suffice?

Why the heartburn over 45 holes of golf?
The contracted golf study told us that 27 holes was the best plan, the Town Manager insists on 36 holes. Common sense and empirical losses indicate otherwise. This drain, created by our ex-Mayor, and ex-Council people Hornat, Snider, and Waters, with the assistance of current Council members Solomon, Pina, and Rodman must end SOON. Hopefully this answer will come about before the end of 2019.

Why the heartburn over the direction the voters want Oro Valley to take?
Just a few months ago, voters ousted Hiremath, Snider, Waters, and Hornat. They ousted them because residents were tired of the developer driven decisions; because they were tired of the lack of  decision making transparency; because they wanted their views both heard and reflected in council decisions; and because they wanted conformance to the General Plan. The mandate was clear. Now it's time to move forward and get the job done.
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