Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Will Council Swallow Hiremath Poison Pill Tonight?

UPDATE: Project rejected
After lengthy discussion, the town council rejected the application by a 6-1 vote, with Council Member Solomon the sole vote in favor. Reasons for rejection include:

  • The proposed development was of density greater than the abutting residential development;
  • The town should preserve the scarce land that it has for commercial office park; and
  • There is seven years of residential development in line at present. Thus, this additional residential development is not needed.
Of concern to all was the interest of the abutting residents on the impact of the height of any commercial property that could be built. There is a concern because the prior council designated this property for "fast track" ("EEZ") approval. Under "EEZ", public input is not required as part of the project approval process.

The "Poison Pill"
On his way out the door, Oro Valley Mayor Hiremath left a poison pill for incoming Mayor Joe Winfield and new council members Barrett, Joyce-Ivey, and Nicolson. The pill is in the form of a follow up to a general plan amendment.

The amendment was passed by a 5-2 vote at the September 19 council meeting. The amendment changed the land designation of what we refer to as the "Ford Property" from "commercial/office park" (COP) to medium density residential (MDR). The property is located on the northwest corner of Rancho Vistoso Blvd and Vistoso Commerce Loop.

Here's the poison: The property is zoned as COP. Thus, it must be rezoned to MDR in order for it to be in conformance with the amended general plan.

Ford Property
72 home potential
The proposal is to rezone the property to medium density residential. The applicant is WLB Group.

WLB wants 72 detached homes built on the property. WLB has proposed and received approval for previous zoning change requests in Oro Valley.  Paul Oland, their senior project manager, has been their representative on this and many of the other requests. He seems to be a WLB "rainmaker" when it comes to getting things changed in Oro Valley.

Planning and Zoning Commission said yes to rezoning... staff said no
"This rezoning request was considered by the Planning and Zoning Commission at a special session on November 8, 2018. At this public hearing, the Commission voted 4-3 to recommend approval of this application, while staff recommended denial." (source)

According to staff, when compared to other communities, Oro Valley is already on the "low end" of available commercial land (Vella, 9-19-18 council meeting, 22:09 meeting video). For example, Oro Valley's 400 available acres are less than 4% of neighboring Marana. According to JJ Johnston, Oro Valley Director of Development, the town actually has only 200 acres of buildable land.(Source)
"The proposal would significantly reduce an already limited supply of Commerce / Office Park land in Oro Valley. This type of land is needed to attract employers, businesses, and residents to Oro Valley and help maintain the community's long-term economic viability...On balance, it is staff's professional opinion that this proposal is not in conformance with the policies of the Your Voice, Our Future General Plan." (source)
Under the prior council, a rezoning request of this nature was a "slam dunk." It would have been approved by a 7-0 vote.

Tonight, our new Oro Valley Town Council will decide if it wants to do this or if it wants to take a different tack. We wonder: Can it take a different tack or will it have to "swallow the poison?"

No comments: