Monday, October 19, 2015

Guest View-Ryan Hartung: Why I Love Oro Valley

When I moved to Oro Valley six years ago I didn’t know the first thing about this area of the country. The only time I had been to the Southwest was in 2005 for a family vacation to Taos and Santa Fe, never crossing foot into Arizona. Coming from New Jersey, I knew I loved the trees, wildlife and East Coast’s beautiful landscape, but the cost of living, insane traffic and harsh winters had made me want to leave. Although I had never lived in the Southwest, my wife had lived in Albuquerque two separate times and was elated when I was granted a transfer from New Jersey to Tucson.

I left Jersey in late February and drove four days with my dog from The Garden State to Tucson. On day 1 I drove through a blizzard, nearly whiteout conditions in the Allegheny Mountains, on the way to my brother’s house in Cleveland and by day 4 I had the air conditioning on full blast in the car, as the February of 2009 was extremely warm with temperatures close to the 90s.

When we moved from River and Oracle to Oro Valley a few months later, I felt as though I’d changed cities completely, not just driven  few miles north. I was immediately struck by the fantastic roads, beautiful scenic views of the Tortolita and Catalina Mountain ranges and obvious attempts to blend the Town’s businesses and houses into the desert landscape. Oro Valley is much different from the mish mash of buildings in Tucson, where decades of adding structures without a well-defined definition of what the city should look like is evident.

Oro Valley needs to preserve, not blight its "scenic corridor"
That was six years ago. Now, I find myself scratching my head from time to time, wondering why more care isn’t currently being taken to blend the new structures into the desert views like the ones before them. Our “scenic corridor” along a section of Oracle Road is a prime example. A few years ago the Town Council voted 6-1 to more than a million dollars out of the contingency fund to bury power lines along Oracle Road to preserve our scenic views. I whole-heartedly agreed with that decision.

However, there was then strong interest from the mayor to allow a housing development at Oracle and Tangerine at the base of the Catalinas, which was thankfully defeated. There are the massive apartments at Oracle and First Avenue, an eyesore that is immediately visible to anyone in the area.

Why weren’t these apartments built in the same manner as La Reserve? When one passes by La Reserve they barely see the apartments peeking over the trees in the distance. The new apartment buildings are so intrusively in your face that the mountain views are completely ruined from that location. Simply lowering their height and either moving the entire smattering of buildings further back or reducing their density would have greatly improved the situation. Even now, planting some mature trees in front of the newly built wall would dramatically ease the visual eyesore of these blockish structures.

My view is not anti-development. It is simply that the  Oro Valley town council should work even closer with developers so that all new projects fit in with the current environment. I want to continue Oro Valley’s development, but in a way that will leave both the citizens and the developers happy with the final product. Remember, the developers also benefit from happy citizens. If the citizenry is happy, the developers will have less pushback on future projects and are seen more as a partner than an enemy.

The needs of Oro Valley's residents should always be first
At the Sun City debate of October 3, the Mayor asked the challenging candidates how we can fix the irreparable harm we have caused by bringing to light the recalled four’s special interest donations. I think I kept a straight face at that comment, but I was thinking to myself: "Did he really just say that?"

The four recalled candidates took in over $70,000 in donations from special interests (business and business owners) during the 2014 election. Not until November will we know how much they accepted this summer and fall. Do not forget, $15,000 of those donations was from HSL, while the purchase of the El Conquistador golf and clubhouse was being negotiated.

I would say just the opposite of the Mayor’s comment. I would ask how will the recalled four, if they are reelected back into office, how are they going to repair the harm they have caused by putting developers above the people they were elected to serve?

I will all interests on the same level
If I am elected to Oro Valley’s Town Council, I will work just as hard with the developers as I will with the Town’s citizenry. With the new General Plan at the 90% ready mark, soon we will have a new guide to use in our decision making progress. Oro Valley’s citizens, developers and business owners can all come out ahead through mutual idea sharing, listening to both sides of the issue and then coming to an informed decision with an impartial Council moderating and then voting on the final plans. If elected, this will be one of my primary goals: Heal the chasm the current Council has created between the average citizen and the developers.

Please, I ask for your vote in this election.

Let’s continue Oro Valley’s growth in a way that is right for everyone, both citizens and developers alike.

Thank you.

No comments: