Monday, April 6, 2020

Romspen Vistoso Golf Plan Substantially Changes Density

This requires a major general plan amendment
Romspen Mortgage Investment Fund ("Romspen") the owner of the shuttered Vistoso Golf Course, and Spectra Properties, based in Memphis have provided a draft request for a general plan amendment for the course. The course is currently zoned  mostly for recreational use. There is a 6 acre area currently designated for high density residential use.

87 Acres at stake
Romspen seeks to amend the YVOF (2016 General Plan) land use designations of approximately 87 acres from ‘Resort/Golf Course’ to ‘Medium Density Residential’ (MDR) and ‘High Density Residential’ (HDR). In the same application, Romspen is asking for the same change to the Rancho Vistoso PAD.

The Romsden Plan
Big money at stake
The area will experience a substantial increase in residential density and the addition of a high density resident senior care facility if the amendment is approved by council.  Romspen will reap substantial profit on their $3 million investment in the course. This is because acreage of residential land in Oro Valley is worth far more in the market than acres of a preserve. There are tens of millions of dollars at stake here.

The Neighborhood meeting requirement presents a barrier to moving this amendment forward
A general plan amendment petition must be submitted to the town by April 30 in order for it to be considered by council by end of this year. State regulations require that a neighborhood meeting occurs before the amendment is submitted (Town Code Section 2.15.F.3.b). "Neighborhood meetings should typically be scheduled on a weekday evening so that working residents may attend, but may be adapted to neighborhood needs, as appropriate."

Every neighborhood meeting that the town has conducted has always been an in person meeting. Such a meeting is not possible because the state, county, and town of Oro Valley require social distancing during the Covid-19 epidemic. It is anticipated that this restriction will remain in place for the month of April. Thus, there can be no in person neighborhood meeting.

Town proposed next step is a electronic information sharing session
According to group Preserve Vistoso, the town plans to post videos on April 10th explaining the rezoning process to residents and asking residents to direct questions and concerns to or by calling 520-229-4711. The Town also will post a video from Romspen and Spectra that will provide an overview of rezoning applications. Subsequent video presentations will address questions and concerns from residents. In theory, this process more easily allows residents from the entire community to participate.

Still, this is not a neighborhood meeting, based on Oro Valley's established practice. It will, however, give the applicant some indication of what the residents the residents are thinking.

The actual neighborhood  meeting, and there must be two of these, will come when social distancing restrictions are no longer in effect.

The question is: Does an electronic information sharing session meet the neighborhood meeting legal requirement such that the amendment can move forward?
That is something that the legal team in Oro Valley needs to determine. Because, if is not such, then the amendment can not move forward. This legal standing  decision also has implications for an anticipated two more general plan amendments for other properties in Oro Valley.