Monday, November 18, 2013

Oro Valley Needs To "Implement" It's General Plan

Oro Valley needs to put effort into implementing all aspects of the town's next general plan.  We reach this conclusion after dialogue with several community leaders.

We got into the discussion because one of the leaders had attended last weeks planning and zoning commission meeting. The person observed that: "...none of the three applicants used specific policy statements from the General Plan to support their position. This is precisely what applicants have as their burden ... to show consistency with the General Plan." The individual also observed that none of the Commissioners did either!

Our zoning code charges the Planning and Zoning Department with the responsibility of "maintaining the General Plan".  They do. They keep track of each of the plan's aspects. They report the result of this analysis periodically. They also initiate minor and major amendments to the plan. They also remind those applying for a plan amendment to demonstrate why a change from the plan is essential.

Is this enough?

We ask because it is clear to us that the words in the plan are ignored and never discussed as part of the amendment process. For example, "One agenda item," notes one of our leaders, " - the Vistoso Highlands property - in Rancho Vistoso was perhaps revealing. The property is currently designated Neighborhood Commercial, and the amendment was to change that designation to Medium Density Residential. [General Plan] policy 1.5.4 that states: 'The Town shall ensure that areas appropriately zoned and planned for neighborhood commercial use are developed.'".

The individual further observed: "As this parcel has been undeveloped for twenty + years, some commissioners preferred to judge the issue on market demand. No market demand = no reason to pursue the designated use."

There are 3 problems with implementing the general plan at only the highest level:
  • There is no mechanism built into the General Plan or the planning process that requires elected officials or town employees to implement the plan. The only area where there is possible enforcement is in “land use.” Otherwise, the rest of the plan is merely visionary. 
  • The process for amending the plan easily allows for amending the plan. Minor plan amendments require a simple majority vote of council.   Major amendments require a super-majority.  From 2010-2012, it was easy to get super-majority approval. 
  • Finally, we suspect that most who serve on council see the general plan as a guide.  As Mayor Hiremath has noted repeatedly, the general plan is merely visionary. It is not “policy.”   A guide can be ignored. Policy can not.
Our informal discussion group concluded that two things need to take place.

One, the citizens of the town of Oro Valley need to elect people who will commit to implementing the letter and the spirit of the general plan.  Then, they need to remind these elected officials that the general plan is something they expect to be implemented,  not merely a statement of direction and generalities.

Two, the general plan itself needs to include specific provisions that relate to the expectation that the plan will be used to create and implement policy. The statement needs to be  more assertive than what is in the Preamble to the 2005 plan:  "We intend that the Plan be followed and consistently applied unless and until conditions in the community have changed to the extent that the plan requires amendment or modification."   Seems that that clause is interpreted to mean "anytime after the plan has been approved by the voters."  Perhaps there should be a statement that no amendments will be permitted for 10 years!

Yes. The plan is a vision.  Like any good vision it needs to be converted to policy so that it implemented.

What do you think?


Richard Furash, MBA said...

If the town does not follow the existing plan, why bother with a new one? Just change the dates on the existing plan and save any tax dollars which would be wasted on formulating a new plan.

Richard Furash, MBA said...

It is too easy to amend the General Plan.

Richard Furash, MBA said...

Here is what I think. Thanks for asking.

Where is the language in the General Plan that states that applicants or commissioners need to use specific policy statements to support their position. Don't waste your isn't there. That is simply the opinion of one person and how he believes the world should operate.

The statement, "Our zoning code charges the Planning and Zoning Department with the responsibility of "maintaining the General Plan.", is false.

And I really need go no further in this discussion as it is abundantly clear that the individual(s) responsible for the initial post doesn’t really have a grasp of the subject matter.

Cares says: It's too easy to amend the General Plan. Does he provide any supporting information. He thinks it is easy because he has never attempted to do it or had to invest the time, effort and money to pay the expenses of an attempt. Again, he simply knows little about what he is posting. He simply throws stuff up on the wall and sees if any body will agree with him. He is too busy trying to define a "car"

Richard Furash, MBA said...

More reason to really tighten up the language in the next General Plan....