Monday, April 27, 2015

Recall Petitions Filed Today as Town Of Oro Valley Announces Purchase of El Conquistador Country Club

Oro Valley Citizens For Open Government ("OVCOG") announced Friday "...that it has amassed sufficient petition signatures for (a recall election of) Council members Hornat, Waters, and Snider." OVCOG will submit the petitions to town clerk Bower today.

Also Friday, the Town Of Oro Valley announced that it has entered into an agreement to purchase the El Conquistador Country Club. "On April 23, 2015, [Town Of Oro Valley and HSL Properties] signed the tentative contract for the purchase, which is currently at the title company for finalization. The Town anticipates a transfer of ownership to take place by May 1, 2015." (Town Of Oro Valley Press Release)

A recall election is far from a sure thing
In order for the recall election to occur, Oro Valley Town Clerk Bower must review the submitted petitions. She will determine if they are in substantial compliance with legal requirements. Any error of any magnitude will result in the rejection of the petitions. If the petitions past her inspection, the petitions will go to the county. They will seek out invalid signatures. These processes will take at least 5 weeks.

The right of recall is in the Arizona state constitution. The legislature has written requirements for petitions that are so stringent as to prevent the right of recall. Even the most insignificant mistake will result in rejecting the petitions. For example, in January Oro Valley Town Clerk Bower rejected the petitions that would have allowed a vote on the town's purchase of El Conquistador Country Club. She rejected the petitions because the petitions did not include the correct filing number on each page of each petition. The rejection was upheld in both the lower court and the appellate court. The Supreme Court has been asked to hear the case on constitutional grounds. The court will not decide until late May if it will consider the case. 

If, after the scrutinization of both the town and county clerk, the petitions are approved and if there are sufficient valid Oro Valley registered voter signatures, then a recall election will occur. This would be on November 3. This is at the same day voters will be asked to approve property taxes to pay for a massive $800million Pima County Bond Issue.

OVCOG contines to seek signatures for Hiremath recall
"Signature gathering continues for Mayor Hiremath - accounting for the required higher threshold [in the number of Oro Valley registered voter signatures] for the mayor's position and the desire for a sufficient cushion to ensure a successful recall process." The group did not release a date on which they plan to turn in these signatures.

Oro Valley purchases El Conquistador Country Club
While all this has taken place, the Town Of Oro Valley has moved forward with its purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club from HSL properties. HSL is known in Pima County for is unusual dealings with the City of Tucson regarding its "begging" for help with a downtown hotel. They are know in Oro Valley because they built the large apartment complex, La Encantada at Steam Pump on Oracle Road. This required rezoning that was approved by the council majority.  HSL was a significant contributors to the 2014 election campaigns of Mayor Hiremath and council members Hornat, Snider and Waters.

The transfer of ownership of the El Conquistador Country Club will occur on May 1.

The purchase may have "strings" that benefit HSL and preclude future property sale
We have previously reported that the sale of the property to Oro Valley by HSL may have conditions that guarantee great benefits of golf course and club use to the Hilton El Conquistador, which HSL owns, over many years. At one point, we understand that HSL was requesting the right to approve any Oro Valley sale of the property. This kind of condition would diminish the market value of the property and make it more difficult for a third party to purchase it. As we reported, there is a bone fide offer by Oro Valley resident Rick Chandler to purchase the property.

LOVE will provide a detailed analysis of the purchase agreement once it becomes available.

Mayor Hiremath: "An exciting time for our community"
"This is a very exciting time for our community," said Mayor Satish I. Hiremath. "Since the 1990s, our residents have expressed a desire for a community center-for a central gathering place. We now have the amenities to meet that need as well as provide increased parks and recreation programming for all ages." (Oro Valley press release)

Many do not share the mayor's enthusiasm. 
This is because the purchase is far more than for a community center.  "The purchase includes 324 acres of land, a 31,475 square-foot building, restaurant, 31 tennis courts, 45 holes of golf and two swimming pools." (Oro Valley Press Release)

To many, this is a massive, costly, and risky undertaking for Oro Valley
The purchase is a massive undertaking by Oro Valley. The $1million purchase price is small in comparison to the amount of investment required to rebuild the property. Oro Valley Town Manager Caton has recommended 2015-16 funding for the facility at almost $8.2million. $6.3million of this is to pay for a management contract with Troon Golf. The town's investment, according to information provided to us by the town, is well over $8million over 5 years. There are others, however, who believe that the investment will be more than $13million.

The council majority increased the sales tax one half percent to pay for some of the cost of operating this facility.

The purchase is also significant risk. The sport of golf is in decline. Green fees are dropping as competition for fewer golf rounds heatsup. In addition, the town is using public money to compete with the private enterprise golf clubs in our community. Every one of these courses is struggling to survive.

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