Mayoral Candidate, Joe Winfield, recently sat down with LOVE for an interview. This is our final installment of the 3-part article. Parts 1 and 2 were published on Tuesday and Wednesday. You can find them by scrolling down beneath this article.
What is your vision for the remaining 15% of Oro Valley's undeveloped land?
WINFIELD: When the question of vision comes up, I immediately turn to the General Plan, Your Voice, Our Future, because it lays out the vision for our community and it’s a reflection of all that community input. I feel that I would have a responsibility as mayor to be an advocate for that vision and to protect that vision, to make sure that the decisions that are made are taking us towards that vision, rather than away from it.
If it were suggested that there should be a change, then what would be important to me is that the community would support that change. I would reach out to the community to understand what it is that they wanted to happen for any particular parcel.
What is your impression of the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance? Do you believe it’s what the citizens envisioned and intended?
WINFIELD: The genesis of ESLO goes back, I think over 20 years. It’s a little hard to say if it’s lived up to what people envisioned. At the time, there was a lot more undeveloped land and pristine desert and the hope of many residents at the time was to preserve as much open space as possible. I would probably say that, now 20 years later, I doubt that it’s accomplished what they were envisioning.
What makes it difficult to answer that is that you would almost have to go back to 1996-1998 and look at an aerial photograph of our community and map those areas considered to be environmentally sensitive lands…what were those lands that we were trying to protect? I think what we essentially have now, 20 years later, are lands to a certain extent that would have been preserved without the ordinance, and for the most part, that’s undevelopable lands…the washes. I would like to think that some open space has been protected, but with the recent development approval in Big Wash, a major wildlife corridor between the Catalina and Tortolita Mountains...if we can’t protect that, than what can we protect? So I suspect that for the folks who were very much invested in the ESLO, I think they would be disappointed in the results we see today.
What was your feeling about the Community Center purchase when it was first discussed in December of 2014 and what is your impression of it now, after 3 years of operations?
WINFIELD: I was on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board when the mayor and council made the purchase of the golf course and clubhouse and I opposed it, and as a result of that, I resigned from the Parks and Rec Advisory Board. I felt it was a betrayal. When we were given a tour of the clubhouse, I was even more astonished that this was being portrayed as a community center because to me it was completely unsuitable as a community center, both from an accessibility standpoint and architecturally it was too compartmentalized and dated. Clearly, to me, the mayor and council didn’t have the community’s interest at heart.
Three years later, I don’t feel any differently. Personally, I think any money invested in that facility is a waste of taxpayer money. I think it will always be unsuitable. Does that mean that it can’t be adapted for use for some other Town purpose? Absolutely. But as a community center? I think we should stop wasting our money and time.
As Oro Valley’s population continues to grow, the demand for water also increases. What will you do to ensure that residential growth does not negatively impact our water supply or increase our costs to obtain CAP water?
WINFIELD: Our ground water tables have been dropping for years and they’re going to continue to drop because of increased development and population. I think this is a serious matter. The golf course is a perfect example of poor water use. That’s the first place we should start as a community. Admittedly, this is a an area that requires some science in hydrology.
We need to take a more serious look at what is sustainable. I think, to a certain extent, we don’t exercise enough humility when it comes to the environment and where we live. I mean, for goodness sake, we live in the Sonoran desert. We’ve been in a drought for a decade or more. There’s nothing we can do to change that other than to change our attitude about water use. It’s more than turning off the water when you’re brushing your teeth. It really has a lot to do with over-development and the golf courses. That’s a good place to start.
Do you support the Main Streets project?
WINFIELD: I don’t support the Main Streets project. I think it’s folly. What I do support is a more walkable community, making things more pedestrian, making our streetscapes as pedestrian friendly as possible. I said this when we were doing the General Plan…that this idea of a Town Center, the water has gone under the bridge with that. Our town is what it is. I think it’s a lovely town. We don’t have a Town Center and that’s OK, many communities don’t. But many towns that do have a Town Center, the shops are boarded up. So Main Street is a planner’s folly.