Vestar's David Malin, owner and operator of the Town Of Oro Valley subsidized Oro Valley Marketplace, spoke to the Oro Valley Town Council on March 4.
"We are struggling to get new tenants...We need to put the Marketplace on equal footing..." with the shopping center alternatives retailers consider.
How do we fix this problem? By unmaking a nine year agreement between the residents and the Marketplace regarding signage.
"What I would task all of us to do is ask: 'How do we adjust, how do we in 2015 put our best foot forward so that this shopping center can be successful and profitable for all of us, that it isn't bumping along the way it is. And one way, a big way [to help] is to make this small change'" in the master sign code.
The Majority-4 approved this change by a 4-3 vote.
This vote is a significant change because the vote changes a hard-fought agreement that was forged by residents to prevent excessive light from the marketplace. Council Member Hornat recalled at the council meeting that the original marketplace plan had "lined out" the concept of signs on the back of the building.
The reason that back building signage was not allowed was to protect Oro Valley's Scenic Corridor.
In 2006, after extensive meetings had occurred with residents, the town and developer Vestar, an agreement reached regarding signs. It is designated as the Marketplace's master sign program. It is specific and unique to the Marketplace. That agreement states hat there would be no illuminated signs facing the roadways. This was agreed upon to maintain the beauty of Oracle Road's scenic corridor designation (Scenic Corridor Ordnance)
Oro Valley resident Bill Adler discussed at the meeting why signs on the back were not allowed. Bill had participated in the initial discussions on the Marketplaces' master sign program in 2006. To Bill, it is all about protecting the character of the Oro Valley Scenic Corridor.
Previously, in an email to council, Adler had observed:
"I doubt there are many residents now who attended the early development review of the Marketplace and signage. I did. It was the Marketplace's position to place the front of the retail outlets facing inward toward the property, rather than outward. This was to respect the homeowners life style at the west. This meant that signage - which according to code is intended for identification and not advertising - faces traffic in the center rather than traffic outside the center.Council Member Burns argued unsuccessfully to keep deny the request. He did not see an essential justification for the change. "This was a hard fought issue years ago." He observed that Vestar had no entitlement to have the agreement changed because it has is on sign code.
The subject of signage on the rear of the buildings toward Tangerine and Oracle came up. It was my position - and still is - that advertising opportunities are significant at the entrances, and that buildings in Rooney Ranch do not have signs on the rear of those buildings even though the buildings can be viewed from First Avenue and Lambert lane. Signs are intrusive and distracting, and are not necessary in providing direction to places of business, which is provided now. The marketplace was allowed to expand sign colors significantly, at their request.
Tangerine and Oracle Roads are scenic corridors. Colorful, illuminated signs advertising toward scenic corridors is contrary to good taste while still retaining a balance of directing customers and respecting views."
Council Member Snider disagreed: "They are entitled to it. I have no problem with allowing this... as long as they abide by.." future sign code illumination standards. Council Member's Waters and Hornat agreed.
Their assumption that the Marketplace was entitled to the change was wrong.
Council Member Garner observed that, because Vestar had agreed to their own master sign code, it is not entitled to anything else authorized by the town."
Town planner Paul Keesler confirmed Council Member Garner's statement. Vestar was not entitled to any change.
Things do change. "We have a sign code in Oro Valley. Our codes have been less restricted in current years," according to town manager Greg Caton.