Monday, May 11, 2015

Behind The Story: Oro Valley Town Council Approves Major General Plan Amendment

The Oro Valley Town Council unanimously approved a general plan amendment at last week’s town Council meeting. The amendment changes the land designation for properties located in the approximate intersection of LaCholla Blvd and Naranja Road.

We wrote about this amendment on Monday of last week. Resident Rudy Roszak voiced his thoughts on this amendment in last Wednesday’s guest view. Resident Diane Peters, head of a group that represented residents in the area, spoke to council about this amendment at the meeting. We posted her remarks Thursday.

What is remarkable about this amendment is that six months ago it was dead. This was because the developer and the residents were nowhere close to an accommodation. Recognizing this, and recognizing that the amendment would not achieve a required five vote approval of council, the council continued the hearing from December. Council member Mike Zinkin volunteered to work with the developer, the town, and a citizens to forge an accommodation that would be agreeable to all. He was successful in doing that.

A 7-0 vote on this general plan amendment is a remarkable achievement.  There have been few instances where this Council agrees on anything of true importance. Instead of seeking common ground, this council has voted 4-3 on virtually every significant issue.

The Majority-4 rarely questions the judgment of town staff. Council Member Mary Snider has repeatedly stated that town staff are the experts and that Oro Valley has the very best professional staff. Her praise of town staff is effusive. She and her fellow majority members rarely disagree with staff findings. To do so would be “meddling or getting into the weeds”, as so often stated by Mayor Hiremath.

Council members Zinkin, Garner and Burns also have respect for the professional manner of Oro Valley town staff.  However, they do not share the view that the opinions of town staff should never be questioned.

Zinkin made this clear during the Council meeting last week. Town planning and zoning removed an important agreement that had been forged between the developer and the community. Instead, the staff decided that town staff should make the decision on whether or not a certain traffic agreement was appropriate.

Zinkin addressed town planner Chad Danes at the hearing. "For us to get in the middle of it as a town is just not right…. To just delete [an agreed-upon special areal policy item] is in my opinion an overstepping of the authority of staff..”

We spoke with council member Zinkin about his position. He told us that “it is the town council’s responsibility to make policy. It is not the responsibility of town staff. It is responsibility of town staff to implement policy.”

Essentially, what town staff had done was to unmake an agreement. In doing so, they almost derailed a substantial effort on the part of the residents, the developer, and the Council minority to forge an agreement that would work for our community and for its residents.

Resident Diane Peters spoke of another very concerning position of town staff.  Planner Dane stated during the hearing that anything agreed to at the general plan stage can be undone at the zoning stage. Peters addressed this in the remarks that we posted last Thursday.

Problem is: A zoning approval only requires a four person Council majority.

Peters is worried what this current Council Member might do. Her concerns have grounds given th undue weight that the Majority-4 give to town staff recommendations in relation to the needs of the residents of Oro Valley.

Council member Zinkin believes that the developer of the property has great integrity. He believes that the developer will abide by the agreement that is been made with the residents. We hope that he is right.

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