Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Preserve Vistoso Thanks Council For Attempting Land Purchase

Yesterday, LOVE reported that the The Town of Oro Valley was going to negotiate to purchase the former Vistoso Golf land from Romspen, the owner, with the intent of converting the the land to a permanent town amenity.

The following is statement from the group, Preserve Vistoso. They have been working tirelessly to bring this amenity to our community. We have titled key areas for reading convenience.
Preserve Vistoso thanks town council for their unanimous action
"Preserve Vistoso is pleased that the Oro Valley Mayor and Town Council listened to our 1,300 members. Although open Town Council meetings have been prohibited due to Covid-19 restrictions, Preserve Vistoso members communicated to Town Council via emails, letters and open Zoom meetings that we want to retain the recreational zoning and save the Vistoso property as a nature preserve and community trail.

At last week’s Town Council meeting Mayor Winfield proposed that the Town initiate communications with Romspen to negotiate the sale of the former Vistoso Golf Course to keep it zoned as open space. The Council voted unanimously to support this motion. We thank the Town Council for approving this action and we look forward to hearing updates on their progress as they engage with Romspen.

Setting the recored straight: "No side deals ever"
During that meeting a few residents made disparaging and inaccurate comments about Preserve Vistoso. We know that volunteer community boards can face criticism, but it is unfortunate that the Preserve Vistoso board was accused of somehow engaging in backroom efforts to pursue a separate deal. Those comments aren’t true and should not detract from the dedicated efforts of our members and our board to let the Town Council know that we want to protect this beautiful desert property.

Here are some facts
  • Preserve Vistoso is a 501c3. We publicly supported The Conservation Fund (TCF) and its efforts to buy the property. Our members pledged more than $1.5 million to help TCF purchase the property. This included more than $200,000 in pledges from our board. We also fully supported TCF offering Fair Market Value for the property.
  • Preserve Vistoso has never pursued or proposed any side deals with Romspen. We are not working on any other offer. Prior to our partnership with TCF, we distributed Romspen’s development plans to secure input from a few members of our community. Based on community comments, the Preserve Vistoso board agreed to oppose Romspen's proposed development plans. Suggesting that reviewing Romspen's plan meant that we were going to propose a side deal with Romspen is totally inaccurate. 
  • As a community driven organization, we send out regular updates to our members and have an email address available for members to ask questions. We have a website that identifies our board members. We participate at Vistoso Community Association (VCA) board meetings, which is open to all Rancho Vistoso members and we provide information for the VCA monthly newsletter. The public is invited to learn more about us at preservevistoso.org
Our commitment is to ensure that the Vistoso property remains open space and is protected by a permanent conservation easement.

Preserve Vistoso "

Monday, November 23, 2020

Town Council Directs Staff To Better Reflect Towns Needs In Parks and Recreation Master Plan

Plan must reflect resident needs
Last Wednesday, The Oro Valley Town Council directed town staff to better reflect resident needs in the Parks and Recreation Conceptual Master plan. That plan is being developed by PROS Consulting.  Council noted that the conceptual plan  does not properly match the priorities of the community. 

The town developed these priorities after five months of community input gathering by PROS Consulting. They gathered information from community meetings, an input survey and a statistically valid online survey. 

High Priority "Trails and Conservation Areas" ignored in plan
Council Members Barrett and Bohen observed that the conceptual plan relied too heavily on comparisons of what Oro Valley has to overall national statistics; and that it did not adequately reflect what residents said they want. In particular, high priority items, such as trails and open space were generally ignored while low priority items such as basketball courts were emphasized.

Even more astounding is that the conceptual plan has no facilities for the town north of Tangerine. Yet, 40% of Oro Valley residents live in there. 

Winfield : The plan must emphasize resident defined top priority items 
Speaking at length, Mayor Winfield expressed disappointment that the community needs were not reflected in the conceptual plan. Referencing the needs assessment: “With that community input we are going to pivot. It’s going to be included. I am confident of that. I agree. The rankings are critical foundational information to the development of the master plan.” Community input "...simply can not be ignored…. We are going to give greater emphasis to those three priority items.” 

Winfield: North of Tangerine needs a community park
Speaking specifically to the residents north of Tangerine, Winfield observed that PROS equity mapping of facilities has clearly shown the need for a community park north of Tangerine… a park of 10 to 75 acres.  "I believe that the master plan should reflect that need.” 

Winfield's approach to Oro Valley Parks Planning is resident, not commerce focussed
Winfield’s comments are one of those times that clearly differentiate the Winfield Council from the Hiremath Council. 

Hiremath’s goal was to use Parks and Recreation facilities for sports tourism and to focus on building facilities for younger families. The emphasis on attracting younger families was part of his failed “rooftops strategy.” 

Winfield, on the other hand, is focussed on the needs of those who live in the community now and who will likely want to live here in the future. A multi use trail will not bring thousands of people into Oro Valley to spend their money; but it will bring happiness to those who live here.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Town To Attempt Fair Market Value Purchase Vistoso Golf Property By April 1

Town to attempt purchase of Vistoso Golf Property 
Wednesday, the Oro Valley Town Council unanimously passed a motion to actively engage in negotiations to purchase the former Vistoso golf course 208 acre plot. The purchase target date is April 1. Mayor Winfield noted that there is potential monetary support from grants such as the State’s “Water and Conservation Fund". Whatever the town pays would be matched dollar for dollar by that fund. 

Purchase for an elusive "Fair Market Value"
The motion stipulates that the town purchase the property at fair market value (FMV). Romspen, the property owner, has already rejected a FMV proposal from The Conservation Fund. That value is based on the land as it is currently zoned.

Romspen has a different view of the FMV of the property, one, we believe, that values the property as it will be if it is rezoned for home lots as Romspen has requested.

We suspect that the difference between these values is in the many millions of dollars range.

Council rejected proposal to join a negotiating group formed by Council Member Solomon
The motion passed after council rejected (5-2) a motion that would have engage the town with a smaller group, led by Council Member Solomon. At the meeting, Solomon said that he has been in contact with a Romspen representative and that he has devised a framework that, he believe, could result in a resolution of this issue in 60 days. He declined to state what the framework entails.

Members of that group would have included Solomon the Vistoso Community Association, Preserve Vistoso, Romspen and the town’s manager. The town’s involvement would have been more as a facilitator and observer and not as a purchaser. I think we have a real breakthrough here,” Council Member Steve Solomon stated in reference to this approach.   

Eminent Domain is a long a costly process
Another alternative discussed at the meeting, one that appears tabled for the moment, is the town’s condemnation of the property. According to town attorney Gary Cohen, condemnation would require several years to occur and the purchase price would be indeterminate until a later date, if it became a matter for a jury to decide.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Town Has No Legal Authority To Plan Future of Vistoso Golf Course

No legal authority to plan Vistoso Course use
Last week's community outreach on the conceptual master plan of Oro Valley's Parks opened with a "bang". With many Rancho Vistoso residents tuned in, Oro Valley Parks and Recreation Director Kristy Diaz-Trahan tried to diffuse the "Vistoso Golf" time bomb.  (Time stamp 0:03:18).

Diaz-Trahan stated that the town is not in a legal position to opine on the future of the former Vistoso Golf Course property: "The town does not have the legal authority to add someone else's private property within this master."  This is because the hoped for transaction between The Conservation Fund and Romspen LLC, the property owner, has not occurred. That transaction would have resulted in the eventual transfer of the land to the town.

Town still focused on property
This does not mean that the town has no interest in the situation. In fact, our town leaders are very much up-to-date on the situation and under some pressure to do something. They commissioned a study on what it would cost for the town to maintain the land as preserve. We will discuss this in an upcoming article. Last week, they held yet another closed-door executive session to discuss the future of this land.

Diaz-Trahan noted: "...please know, the town has heard the [Rancho Vistoso] community and that we have a commitment that in this final master plan those desires [of the Rancho Vistoso community] will be addressed." That desire is for the 208 acres of Vistoso Golf become a preserve for all to use in the community.

Wants of 40% of residents ignored
Not all agree with Diaz-Trahan.  Speaking at the outreach      meeting (remarks at right), Oro Valley resident Michael Bilodeau pointed out that the assessment did not accurately reflect the needs assessment created last spring. Bilodeau is an advocate of the need for community engagement in the master plan development. He discussed this in a LOVE guest view in March.

At last week's meeting, Bilodeau observed that the assessment as presented does not meet the goals of the study, which is to develop future parks and recreation needs that has an equitable distribution of facilities. As LOVE observed previously, the Parks and Recreation conceptual plan at this point places little town focus on the needs of Rancho Vistoso. 

Bilodeau expressed surprise that some previously town identified low priority items, like a BMX park and more basketball courts, were included in the conceptual plan; while, with two exceptions, trails and related items were not considered. 
"I still don't get the fact that we go from an assessment of the needs of the community, pretty much ignore them all, and we jump directly into a conceptual plan that includes a lot of low priority needs."
He also pointed out that 40% of the town's population lives north of Tangerine where there is only one town facility and not very many amenities. He alleges that the proposed 'fix' that this conceptual plan makes is "...to make no investment north of Tangerine."

A gut punch: "The plan does not address the needs of Rancho Vistoso residents"
Other concerns voiced by attendees include:
  • Rancho Vistoso residents are not considered to be part of Oro Valley yet they pay taxes twice: Once to the form of HOA fees; and the other in the form of sales taxes (and utility taxes)
  • 50% of Oro Valley's residents are seniors. "We don't need more archery parks."
  • "Look at what people want. Not what you think they should have."
  • The aquatic center and the community centers are not free to residents even though the town paid for and subsidizes them.
  • Residents of Vistoso want open space and this conceptual plan does not address this.
  • Why are there not parks planned for north of Tangerine Road?
  • Why would Romspen turn down a good offer? Why can't the town send a signal to Romspen that the council will not rezone this land?
The plan is conceptual at this point. Much more work needs to be done. Patience on the part of all is needed.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Guest View: Mike Zinkin ~ Another Study Commissioned by Town Manager, Mary Jacobs


Parks and Recreation Study (2014)
Back in June 2014, the Town did a Parks and Recreation survey to ascertain what amenities and facilities the citizens desired in their Town. This is the survey where golf placed second to last (it placed 33 out of 34 items) only to have the Hiremath people purchase three golf courses (two 18-hole courses and one 9-hole course) just six months later.

Housing Study for Main Streets Project (2016)
When the staff-initiated Main Streets project was still alive, there was a study that told us we needed more single-family housing. That has since gone by the wayside.

Parks and Recreation Study (2020)
In early 2020, when the Vistoso golf property was still in negotiations, Jacobs had a study done to see how the property could be used for Parks and Recreation purposes. The study showed that there was no need for any new parks north of Tangerine as there were plenty of neighborhood parks. This study was a waste of money since the property was not being purchased by the Town, and the Town was not a part of the dealings.

Another Parks and Rec Study (2020)
In June 2020, after many “flash surveys” which did not give Jacobs the results she wanted, she spent more taxpayer money on another Parks and Rec study. (The "Rancho Vistoso Golf Course Feasibility Study").

Town of Oro Valley Apartment Study (Fall 2020)
And now we have another study that tells us that we need more apartments in our Town. You can read that study HERE which includes information on how many apartments we currently have in Oro Valley, how many acres of vacant land are currently zoned for apartments, and concerns voiced by residents during public hearings.

The only valid study
We have a General plan that advises the government what the People desire. Does a “research group” know better than the People? Developers will go with the money and where the banks are lending. Oro Valley belongs to the People, not the developers, the banks, or the wishes of the staff.

Any government can hire a contractor or consultant or research group to give them the results they desire. But there is only one study that is valid because it reflects the desires of the People. It is called the GENERAL PLAN.

The town needs to stop all this government waste and look at the voter-approved General Plan for the answers that they seek.

Mike Zinkin and his wife have lived in Oro Valley since 1998. He served on the Oro Valley Development Review Board from 2005-2009, the Board of Adjustment from 2011-2012, and the Town Council from 2012-2016. He was named a Fellow for the National League of Cities. He was a member of the NLC Steering Committee for Community and Economic Development and a member of the Arizona League of Cities Budget and Economic Development Committee. He was an Air Traffic Controller for 30 years. Mike 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.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Tomorrow Night: Parks and Recreation Master Plan Community Presentation

Get a parks and rec master plan update tonight
"The PROS consulting group will present a comprehensive project update and next steps. Join us on Zoom and have an opportunity to learn more about this exciting project and ask questions."

The meeting is tomorrow night from 6 to 8 pm. It is online.

This is the link to the meeting. 

VCA urges members to attend
The Vistoso Community Association ("VCA") is urging its members to attend this meeting. VCA believes that the plan, as to be presented this evening, does not consider the needs of the Rancho Vistoso community. 

"Members of Preserve Vistoso packed Town Hall in January at the initial meeting for the Parks and Rec study. We said that the needs of Rancho Vistoso should be considered in this study. Apparently we were not heard, even though Rancho Vistoso and Sun City make us 40 percent of the Town’s population." Click here to read more about their concerns.

Check out LOVE's assessment as of two weeks ago
Read LOVE's two-part update on this plan as it currently stands here. VCA is correct. The plan does not include their needs in any meaningful way nor does it include any discussion of the former Vistoso Golf land.