Monday, May 4, 2015

Oro Valley Council Considers La Cholla- Naranja Major General Plan Amendment Wednesday

The Oro Valley Town Council will consider a major general plan amendment for a multi-acre property locate on the west side of LaCholla Blvd. The amendment is to accommodate a master planned community that will be called LaCholla Commons.

The property is currently zoned for single family residential homes. It is 196 acres. It extends from a bit north of Naranja to Lambert Lane.

The council heard this request in December. At that conclusion of that public hearing, the council continued the item and directed the applicant to meet with a community group of residents, Citizen Advocates of the Oro Valley General Plan, to address their concerns.

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According to developer Greg Wexler, the project will have a major economic impact on Oro Valley. At the meeting in December, he estimated that the project would have a $350 million build-out value, provide $20 million in construction fees to Oro Valley, and provide $1 million to the Amphi School District over the  8 year life of the project.

At the December council meeting, Mayor Hiremath suggested a continuance to answer the following:
  • A discussion regarding the buffer on the Southside of the southern property;
  • A more in depth traffic analysis;
  • Further clarification of whether the site needs senior living; and
  • Further clarity on what is the intent of the church for the 2 parcels that it own
As previously reported, the Oro Valley Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended in November approval of this plan by a 6-1 vote. You can read our posting on the significance of this amendment, as presented at that meeting here.

Oro Valley resident Bill Adler has often reminded the town that the General Plan defines land use. It is not law. It is policy. It is a directional guide, interpreted literally by some and philosophically by others. A general plan policy only becomes law when it is translated into a zoning code.

Still, a development must comply with the use to which the land is planned in the General Plan. At present, this is the voter approved plan of 2005. Thus, the applicant's request to change the planned use from single family residential to planned community.

According to Adler, any amendment to the general plan should occur only when it serves the "greater good." That means different things to different people.

There are four defined criteria for  determining if a general plan amendment is warranted. These too are subject to a variety of interpretations. In addition, in the past satisfying, in the minds of council, any one of these satisfies the need for approving an amendment. The one that is almost aways given by council for a change is "market demand."

The approval of this amendment Wednesday will not end the development approval process. Next up will be a request to change the zoning of the property to master planned community. Then, once that is approve, there is the required approval by council of the conceptual design. So, those who wish to opine on La Cholla commons will have opportunities to do so over the time.

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