Monday, September 16, 2019

Cresta Morado General Plan Amendment and Rezoning both failed!

Last Monday, LOVE posted an article asking our readers to attend the Planning and Zoning meeting the following evening and to please speak against the Cresta Morado General Plan Amendment and Rezoning during the Public Hearing.

We are happy to report that council chambers were three-quarters full that evening and twelve people spoke during the Public Hearing. Nine spoke in opposition. Only three spoke in favor and those three people are connected to the Episcopal Church of the Apostles. The church is the applicant who was requesting the GPA and Rezoning in order to sell off 22 acres of their land for development as a way to raise money to cover financial problems that they are having.

The proposal called for 41 lots of just 7,000 square feet and six “transitional” half-acre sized lots on the north side of the property.

Excerpts from The Planning Center’s presentation
Despite holding multiple Neighborhood Meetings, a spokesman for The Planning Center stated that the applicant and the neighbors were too far apart on the lot sizes to reach an agreement and that the church could not meet their financial goals with the large lot sizes that the neighbors were demanding. (Adjacent neighbors live on lot sizes of 3.3 acres and up with some living on lots sizes of 40 acres or more).

Excerpts from the Town Staff presentation
Even though the Town Staff was recommending approval, they admitted that the proposal was only “Generally consistent with the General Plan” and that the half-acre “transitional” lots represented “the minimum” of a transitional lot and that “larger lots would serve as a more effective transition.”

Speakers in Favor
One representative of the church stated that the church goes out of their way to be wonderful neighbors and that later this month they will be adding church services for those with autism and other special needs.

The church Vicar said they have gone out of their way to be a center for music and arts and that they are committed to being a good neighbor. The third person who spoke in favor was a member of the church but not an Oro Valley resident.

Note that none of the above speakers said anything about the proposal meeting the General Plan criteria or how this proposal would make Oro Valley a better place. They claimed that the new residents moving into this new development would become members of their church and this would help them to raise more funds for the church, a statement that they later could not prove when questioned by a P&Z Commissioner.

Speakers in Opposition
Topics discussed during their speeches included the proposal not being in accordance with the General Plan, destroying nearby property values, current residents paid a premium for large lots in a rural setting and their way of life needs to be respected, well-water issues, increased traffic in their rural area, setting a precedent for all the remaining undeveloped land north of Tangerine to also be rezoned down to 7,000 sf lot sizes, blading of the desert, loss of more wildlife habitat, and that the proposal would increase the current density by 20 times.

Some of the best one-liners from the evening included:

1. A resident discussed the wants of the citizens as noted in the “Your Voice, Our Future - General Plan,” and he asked:

In the General Plan, whose voice is it? The residents or the staff?

2. Another resident compared the low-density rural residential lot sizes currently surrounding the subject property vs. the proposal for tiny mass-graded 7,000 sq. ft. lots, and she pointed out that:

One of these is not like the other.

3. Another resident noted that since it was a church that was requesting this GPA and Rezoning, that it seemed fitting to close her speech with a biblical reference:

Thou shalt not approve!

Some of the Questions asked by P&Z Commissioners prior to the vote

Commissioner Gambill

• If this fails to pass, is the church likely to foreclose? No.

• How many members of the congregation are Oro Valley citizens?

They didn’t have an exact count but said that their members come from Oro Valley, Marana, and Saddlebrook. (This was proof that people don’t choose a church because it’s located next door to them, rather, they drive long distances to attend the church of their choice. This is where their argument fell flat that building new homes next door to the church would increase their attendance.)

Commissioner Bergsma

• Is selling this parcel to Richmond American homes contingent on this rezoning? Yes.

The Vote
During the discussion, Commissioner Gambill stated that the neighbors comments bear a lot of weight with her and she didn’t see this proposal as benefitting Oro Valley as it did not preserve the scenic beauty or the unique community identity as a special place. Other commissioners stated that they were disappointed in the small lot sizes, and that the half-acre transitional lots were not a large enough transition next to rural low density residential.

The General Plan Amendment was denied by a 5-1 vote. Commissioner Hong was the lone vote to approve it.

The Rezoning was denied 6-0. (Once the GPA was denied, the rezoning had to be denied as well). 

We all know that this would have been a very different outcome if it had been heard by the Planning and Zoning Commission that was in place during the Hiremath years.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Twenty-Two compelling questions regarding the Town-owned golf courses

The following letter was recently submitted to the mayor, council, and town manager by three Oro Valley residents who believe that these questions should be explored prior to the council making a decision on whether or not to continue operating the golf courses.
To: Mayor and Council
Copy: Town Manager

The three undersigned individuals are all residents of Oro Valley. We each have an idea on how the golf course dilemma should be resolved. One is an ex-Councilman who voted against the purchase of the property, the other is the current President of the Men’s Golf Association, and the third is an extremely interested and involved officer in a local HOA. We have set aside our biases in order to provide this communication to you.

We understand that you are the decision makers of Oro Valley. We believe that you cannot make a responsible decision until the following questions have been thoroughly investigated and answered without political bias or agenda.

Please consider the following questions:

1. What is the vision for the future of the golf courses?

2. What objective(s) are you attempting to achieve with the subject decision? For example: Minimize the tax subsidy? Protect property values? Maximize public access?

3. What quantitative and qualitative metrics (payroll, utility/water costs, maintenance, green space acreage, space and time allocated for public use, etc.) are going to be evaluated and who are the subject matter experts that will quantify the metrics?

4. Explicitly describe the “community outreach process” you believe necessary to be implemented prior to making a decision regarding the future of the golf courses.

5. What is the amount of acreage that will be repurposed as part of each of the golf configurations described in the Town Manager’s May 24, 2019, Memorandum to the Mayor and Council? (Attached) Please add an additional option that was not mentioned in the attached Memorandum, that being to convert to the original 18-hole configuration.

6. What would be the cost per acre for the repurposing acreage of the golf configurations described in question 5 above, and what authority was used to determine such cost?

7. Would any of the repurposed acreage in each of the above configurations (to include the original 18 configuration) be repurposed to green space and, if so, how much acreage would be involved and at what level as described in page 9 of the attached Memorandum?

8. How long would completion of the repurposing process take for any acreage involved in the above configurations, and how was that timeline determined, and by what authority?

9. What level of tax support would be required for each of the above configurations, including the costs for repurposing acreage, and the five-year costs for maintenance for the repurposed acreage associated with those configurations that include repurposing?

10. What is the revenue reduction to the Water Utility for reclaimed water currently paid by the golf operation that would result from each of the subject reconfigurations? OR – What is the true cost of providing reclaimed water to the golf courses under the current configuration, and how is this cost modified by each of the proposed configurations?

11. How was the estimated revenue reduction in the Water Utility that is described above determined?

12. In what manner would any revenue reduction described above be addressed by the Water Utility if a golf configuration resulting in such a revenue reduction were adapted?

13. If a golf configuration is adopted that requires the repurposing of acreage in a manner that would impact existing, or establish new washes, what would the provisions of the Federal Clean Water Act have on such work, and what steps are in place to address such impacts, if they exist?

14. What discussions have taken place, or are currently taking place, to involve HSL and the Pusch Ridge HOA in the potential of those entities taking on the responsibility of the 9-hole Pusch Ridge course?

15. What, if any, actions have taken place by Town officials to investigate the possibility of leasing the Town owned golf courses?

16. What, if any, consideration have Town officials given to the possibility of entering into a Private/Public partnership regarding the operation of the Town’s golf courses?

17. Has the Town prepared itself for the numerous lawsuits that will likely be filed if property values are adversely affected by any decision made with respect to the golf courses?

18. What specific actions has the Town considered to grow revenue (raise member dues, green fees, HOA assessment) and reduce payroll and irrigation (turf reduction) costs?

19. Will the Community Center Fund, with its sales tax revenues, be able to cover any additional debt service which might be needed?

20. Does the Town of Oro Valley have a fiduciary responsibility to the property owners on or near the golf courses?

21. Does the town know the assessed impact of lost business and tax revenue from visitors if the golf courses were to be shut down or change significantly?

22. Have Town Officials that may have personal interest in the outcome other than official business recused themselves from any deliberations or decisions?

We sincerely hope that you will seriously address each of the issues presented so that the decision that you ultimately make is truly in the best interest of the entire Oro Valley community.

Rob Wanczyk
Michael Schoeppach
Mike Zinkin

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Guest View-George Lindsay: Golf Is A Good Investment for the Town

The following is a letter that Mr. Lindsay sent to the Oro Valley Town Council and town manager in July. He also submitted it to LOVE as a Guest View.  While we do not agree with all of Mr. Lindsay's points, we do agree with some of them, and LOVE welcomes all points of view.
Mayor and Council:

As more information becomes available, it appears the Mayor and Council should come to the conclusion that the purchase of the Community Center and golf courses were a good investment for the Town. As in the private industry, not all acquisitions are perfect but good management improves the operations and makes the adjustments to respond to the market place.

The Community Center provides a wide array of activities for Oro Valley residents, young and old, that would not be available under the prior ownership; the summer activity programs for the area’s youth, the fitness programs, pool and tennis programs, to name a few.

The golf courses are in the best shape in years as noted by numerous players and residents. Contrary to what we hear, play and revenues are up and the Town has budgeted for operational as well as deferred maintenance expenditures through bonds.

We seem to focus on the costs and overlook the benefits to the Town as a whole. The Community Center Fund is trending positive, as predicted, the Town can market itself as a “golf destination” which brings winter visitors and tax revenues, and our residents have access to a wide array of activities to improve their way of life.

Perhaps the Town should consider continuing their negotiations with the resort and the Pusch Ridge HOA’s for transfer of the 9 hole course for a “win-win” situation for everyone. Although the Town already has an abundance of trails (54.5 miles), allowing trail access to one or both courses during certain hours, as is the case in Sun City, can expand public use of the land, while retaining the property values and benefits of “green scape.” The Town can develop an ordinance to allow for enforcement of the land uses which it needs but currently does not have.

Information provided to the mayor and council cites a reduction in treated waste-water with the reduction in holes could result in the loss of operational revenues for the Water Utility, thereby necessitating rate increases for either treated waste water or potable water to keep reclaimed rate increases reasonable. Increasing everyone’s water rates will not go over well with residents.

Once all the costs as well as environmental and financial impacts are addressed, it appears that the true cost differential from status quo to linear parks will not be significant.

It appears that the Canada Hills Master Association including Carmel Pointe, Canada Hills Village 19 and others, Chamber of Commerce, the Tucson Realtors Association all support the Community Center and 36 holes of golf. Can they all be wrong?

Ed Note: Mr. Lindsay owns a home overlooking the 18-hole Conquistador course.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Guest View: Mike Zinkin ~ Golder Ranch Fire District Chief uses public safety scare tactics as a reason to keep all 36 holes of golf

At the July 24th Town Council Special meeting regarding Oro Valley Golf Operations, Golder Ranch Fire District Chief, Randy Karrer, addressed the Town Council. He urged the Council to retain all 36 holes of golf to avoid a decrease in property values which he believed would result in funding cuts to the fire department since Golder Ranch F.D. operates solely on property taxes.

Karrer said that closing the golf courses “would have a cumulative and lasting effect that would most certainly injure the fire district in future years.” He speculated the following chain of events:

• Property values would go down

• Property tax assessments would be reduced as a result

• Lowered property tax assessments would result in less property tax revenue

• Less property tax revenue means less money to Golder Ranch which could result in a “significant reduction in public safety service level which would likely mean a reduction in force or layoffs of firefighters and paramedics.”

• The other option would be to significantly increase property taxes in order to offset the loss from the lowered property valuations.

Remember, this supposed reduction in property values is speculation.

Where was Chief Karrer in December 2014?
Not a bad scare tactic, but where was Chief Karrer in December 2014? On December 17, 2014, the Hiremath Council was to vote on the purchase of the HSL properties. According to the Power Point presentation that evening, the properties included, a 31,475 sq. ft. building located on La Canada, a 5,600 sq. ft. building located at the Pusch Ridge course, 324 acres of land assessed at over $30,000,000, plus 31 tennis courts and 2 heated swimming pools.

The Property Tax assessment that the El Conquistador Hotel was paying for all of this was around $40,000/year.

Since municipalities do not pay property taxes, the second the Town closed escrow on the El Con property -- the County, and therefore The Golder Ranch Fire District, lost that $40,000/year in Property Tax revenue. This was not speculation. It was a definite outcome. Why was he silent at that time?

Chief Karrer, where were you in December 2014?
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.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Cresta Morado General Plan Amendment: A Major Turning Point. Important Public Hearing Tomorrow Evening

Planning and Zoning
Tuesday, September 10th
6:00 PM
Town Council Chambers

General Plan Amendment and Rezoning
47-lot residential subdivision (Cresta Morado)
22 acres on the NW corner of Tangerine and La Cholla

This General Plan Amendment is to change the existing development rights FROM Public/Semi-Public TO Medium Density Residential AND Rezoning FROM R1-144 (large lot residential) TO R1-7 (small lot residential).

Why is this important?
(1) The land north of Tangerine was supposed to remain low density rural residential with minimum lot sizes of 3.3 acres (144,000 square feet). Approval of this GPA and Rezoning will set a precedent for all the remaining land on the north side of Tangerine to also be rezoned down to tiny 7,000 sq.ft. mass-graded lots with 2-story homes and connecting walls.

The homes surrounding this 22-acre property are on large lots of 3.3 acres and up. For example, the homeowner living directly north of this parcel lives on approximately 50 acres. Homeowners to the west of the parcel, also on large lots, will lose their views of the Catalina Mountains due to the 2-story homes that are planned.

(2) The request is being made because the landowner, The Episcopal Church of the Apostles, is having financial problems and is operating in the hole. This led to their decision to sell off the 22 acres surrounding the church.

One of our sources has revealed that the church’s deficits were intentional as they were trying to boost their music program by hiring a Music Director and purchasing a $76,000 dollar pipe organ in 2018 (two things they could not afford). Despite announcing a projected deficit of $40,000 in 2018, they told their parishioners not to worry about the deficit because they were going to get approval to sell off the land. They then raised $76,000 in 7 weeks to purchase the pipe organ. (Note: the actual deficit turned out to be $30,000).

In other words, they were deliberately running deficits while crying poverty during the Neighborhood Meetings.

This isn’t the first time that The Episcopal Church of the Apostles has been “unfriendly” to the neighbors. Back in 1998, when the church purchased the property, they allowed their Title Company to sue the adjacent neighbors over deed restrictions.

From “Tucson Weekly, The Skinny, Shill Zone, 4/30/98”
“…[Chuck] Cowles is a leader of the Church of the Apostles and wants the church's proposed new site at the corner of Tangerine Road and La Cholla Boulevard to be in Oro Valley. Why? Because the title company missed the deed restrictions on the new church site and neighboring property when the church made the purchase. To cover its butt, the title company then sued all of the neighbors affected by those deed restrictions to get them declared illegal. The judge ruled in the title company's favor. While the church wasn't directly responsible for the lawsuit, the neighbors hardly looked upon it as an act of Christian charity…” [Source]
As usual, the town staff is recommending approval. Therefore, residents must speak up. We urge you to attend the meeting tomorrow evening and speak during the Public Hearing.

You can find more information about this project HERE

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Publisher Editorial: Oro Valley Has Golf Derangement Syndrome

It's "Golf Derangement Syndrome"
The high level of anxiety on the part of those who live in and around Oro Valley's town owned golf courses in way overboard. Their angst is being driven by a pending November decision on what the town may do with Oro Valley's 45 hole of golf. Their anxiety amounts to "Golf Derangement Syndrome".

No decision has been made
First, let's set the record straight. Town Council has not made a decision on what to do. At best, it has discussed some alternatives. No decision has been made.

About the only thing clear is that there is a discrepancy in financial numbers. There isn't even consensus among those in power who are to make the decision on what the real financial numbers are.  Are the financial results as money losing as our colleague Mike Zinkin has reported for well over four years in LOVE? Or are the financial results as profitable as alleged by the membership of the golf club?

Spare us the dramatics
But there has been a huge "todo" on the part of some of those who live in and around the courses. If you listen to them, their life is literally going to end if any change is made. They allege that their property values will go down. They allege, the town is liable for this. They threaten law suits. Perhaps, they even threaten a recall election.

For goodness sakes: "Stop the madness"
We're not the only ones who think that the focus on golf and what may happen is out of control. Posting on, Oro Valley resident Jim McDonald writes:
"Doesn’t anyone move into a neighborhood anymore to LIVE THERE? This manufactured disaster is destructive. The weather here is going to be the same, the schools are the same, the streets, the utilities, the neighbors, the shopping, the restaurants, the safe environment, the culture, the quality of life and so on and so on. Is everyone suddenly planning on selling? Why allow a few realtors and politicians upset our peaceful little town?? LIGHTEN UP! The sky’s not falling! Mark Twain said it best. “My life’s been full of many tragedies, none of which ever occurred."
Let's see what happens before we leap to conclusions. In the meantime, "Have a good day!"

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Guest View-Mike Zinkin: New Council Majority Has Kept Its Promises

Tonight, the Oro Valley Town Council will meet. The Council has been in the usual August recess. For at least the last 8 years, there have been no Council meetings scheduled in August. This might be a good time to look back and reflect on how this new Council majority is doing.

The last election had two major areas of concern: First, the golf dilemma; and second, the disregard for the General Plan and the rampant approval of development. This new majority was elected, I believe, because the majority of voters felt that these new council members could bring a change to what was happening.

So, how is the new council majority doing? 
Since taking their seats on council last November, only one development application has come forward. That was the development of the Town Centre at Oracle and Pusch View Lane. This application initially came forward during the past regime. The new majority sent the applicant back to amend their request and reduce the density and grading requirements of the property. Although they might have gotten a better deal, the applicant came back with an amended request. This would not have happened if the new majority had not been elected.

All Major General Plan Amendments must, by State law, be submitted prior to April 30 of the calendar year, and heard by the Council before the end of the year. This year there were NO General Plan Amendments submitted. It appears that the development community has gotten the message that this new majority will adhere to the wishes of the voter approved General Plan.

Developers have plenty of entitlements that were issued by the last majority. There is approximately an 8 – 10 year supply of homes that already have entitlements from the past majority.

Another big concern was the annexation of the State land on the west side of town. The Citizens did not want the State plan for small lots and 3,000 homes. The Town has received word that the State has closed its Tucson office and will pursue the annexation at another time. Do you think that the State would withdraw or delay its plans if the new majority had not been elected?

So how about golf? 
The majority is being criticized for questioning the numbers that they are getting from staff. After all, the prior majority NEVER questioned staff. However, there is not one member of the staff that has any experience in municipal golf. They are receiving their numbers from Troon. Do you think Troon might have a dog in this fight?

This majority is not going to make a rash decision, a decision that has not been vetted and thoroughly researched. This is, without question, the most important decision that the Council will make. There are millions of your dollars at stake. Taking time to ensure that all the facets of the decision are completely studied is why you elected them. Let them do their job.

I can pretty much assure you that no matter what decision they make on golf there will be a group of residents who will disagree and probably initiate a recall. This is the atmosphere that these 4 newly elected public servants live under. They need your continued support.