Monday, August 31, 2015

Oro Valley Considers Rezoning For 5-Story Apartment-type Buildings Near Oracle Road

UPDATE: The Oro Valley Planning and Zoning Commission approved this zoning change by  6-1 vote.
Slated to be a five-story assisted living facility, Nakoma Sky's future is a bit "up in the air." The facility is to be located where Lambert Lane ends at First Avenue. The zoning for the five-stories was approved in January by Mayor Hiremath and council members Hornat, Snider and Waters. Council Member's Burns, Garner and Zinkin did not approve the rezoning. They stated that a five-story building is not appropriate for Oro Valley.

Oro Valley "Arch" is not going to happen
Rocky Berg of Dallas-based three-living architecture was the original project architect. He said that he designed Nakoma Sky after the concepts of Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous Phoenix-based architect. Mayor Hiremath was so enthused over the prospect that he was heard to say: "St. Louis has the arch and we will have this building."

Mayor Hiremath is wrong.  We will not have this building. The only thing remarkable about this project will be the 5 story height of its buildings! The buildings will be visible from Oracle Road.

Nakoma Sky design dramatically changed
"The proposed design is more reflective of a traditional apartment design versus the original resort appearance of the original approval." (Daines staff report, p 2-3)[See panel right].

This new design is the creation of another architect, Talley Associates of Dallas. They replaced Berg as the architect.

In June, the Oro Valley Development and Infrastructure Department filed an administrative decision that the plans submitted by the developer, La Posada, did not "conform to the conditions of the rezoning and associated Tentative Development Plan." The zoning and Tentative Development Plan for the project was for a 77-acre senior care facility.

The applicant had submitted plans that the department could not approve because the changes to the original plan were substantial. For example, the plans made the buildings even bigger than they were before, reduced the size of a small "park", which is actually in an non usable flood plain, and removed some of the more appealing architectural features.

"They moved the assisted living/ memory care building to the main building and replaced that area with a public park. Well, it turns out that the area where the building was originally going to be is within a federally designated drainage area. They could not build there anyway," according to Oro Valley town council candidate Shirl Lamonna.

Lamonna has been following the project closely. "The problem it seems was that the original architect had never designed a retirement facility. His design for multiple buildings would have been too costly. Each, for example, would have required separate kitchens."  The new architect does have  experience in designing healthcare and senior living experience.

In early August, the Oro Valley Development and Infrastructure Department held a neighborhood meeting to present new plans for the property. Tomorrow, the Oro Valley Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the new plans.

These plans include a mediation garden, a water splash park, a vegetable garden and greenhouse, and a dog park.

November 4 timing of council hearing, one day after the recall election, gives political cover to the Majority-4
In what some assert to be a political move, Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters will not have to vote on this rezoning before the election. They will not have to disclose, by council vote, whether they want Oro Valley to have these apartment-type 5-story buildings. This is because the matter will not come before council until November 4.

Generally, after the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, the item appears on the next town subsequent council meeting. That would mean that it would be on the September 16 meeting.

On November 4, the day after the election, the Majority-4 can move to approve or deny the rezoning regardless of the election result because the election result will not be certified at that time. In other words, regardless of the election result the Majority-4 can opine and vote on this rezoning. They just don't have to do so before the election.

The political advantage of this timing for Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters is that they will not have to make their position public before this election. They can justify not doing so on the basis that they do not feel it proper to opine on a future major council agenda item. 

If this vote does take place on that date, it will be before the candidates file their final campaign report so there will  be no way for the public to discern, at that time, if any of those affiliated to the project have made political contributions to Mayor Hiremath and Council Members Hornat, Snider and Waters.

We urge all Oro Valley residents to attend tomorrow night's Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. Voice your opinion. Is this project what you want for Oro Valley?

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