Friday, January 28, 2022

Vistoso Community Association Unanimously Approves Variance, Clearing the Way for Closing on Vistoso Golf Course

The following press release from Preserve Vistoso presents more good news regarding the Vistoso Golf Course. Preserve Vistoso and community members raised $1.8 million for The Conservation Fund to purchase the property  
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Vistoso Golf Purchase clears another barrier
"Jan. 28, 2022 - Congratulations!!! The final hurdle for the sale of the Vistoso property was completed last night as the Vistoso Community Association (VCA) Board unanimously approved a variance that was required for the sale of the 6.3 acres near the clubhouse to local Tucson developer Ross Rulney. As most of you know, the sale of the 202 acres of the Vistoso property as a nature preserve required that the entire 208 acres be sold at the same time.
 
Thanks to Mike Ford from The Conservation Fund (TCF) and the Oro Valley Town Council, Town Manager and Town Lawyer for facilitating the Vistoso property agreement on our behalf. And a special thanks to the VCA Board for its quick response to approve this last-minute requirement for the sale to be completed.
 
What’s next? Once the agreement is signed by all parties in the next few weeks, TCF will place a conservation easement on the 202-acre nature preserve to protect it in perpetuity. Mike Ford will update us once the agreement is signed. TCF is expected to eventually donate the property to the Town of Oro Valley.
 
Ross Rulney will own the property near the clubhouse that always has been zoned high-density residential. As with any planned development, the Town of Oro Valley will review the plans in open sessions with the surrounding communities having a voice in the proposed plans.
 
“It’s been a very long 3-1/2 years but the end is really in sight, '' said Gayle Mateer, President of Preserve Vistoso. “ We expect the closing to happen in the next couple of weeks. We are so grateful for the unwavering support from you, our members, to get us to this point.”
We’ll let you know when closing is complete. We’re almost there!
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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Ranching Has A Rich History In Oro Valley

Three Eras of Oro Valley Ranching
Oro Valley was once a ranching community. Ranching in Oro Valley was marked by three distinct eras.

1869-1900: Open Range Ranchers
Early settlers occupied federal land in the late nineteenth century in what would later become Oro Valley. They had no title to the land, but built corrals, wells and simple adobe homes. These settlers branded their cattle and let them roam the area between the Catalina and Tortolita Mountains. Once a year, the ranchers would cooperate in a round-up to gather the cattle and take them to market. They raised Mexican cattle and longhorns. In the 1870s, these settlers still had conflicts with Native Americans. Francisco Romero and his wife, Victoriana, settled in former Hohokam ruins (now Romero Ruins in Catalina State Park). Some of the settlers eventually filed for homesteads.

1900-1940: Homesteaders
After 1900, the land in Oro Valley was surveyed by federal agents and was available for sale. Homesteaders paid between $25 and $35 to claim 160 to 640 acres of land. By law, they were required to live on the land for a period of time and make improvements. Many constructed small homes of adobe or wood frame. Some raised Short Horn and Hereford cattle, but their properties were too small to raise large herds. They fenced the best pasture land and stream bed areas with barbed wire and raised cattle in these confined areas. The homesteaders suffered from frequent droughts and changes in consumer prices for beef. Many were forced to sell their land after they “proved up” and gained legal title to their properties.

1930-1960: Wealthy Eastern Ranchers
Starting in the 1920s, wealthy Eastern businessmen came to winter in the Tucson area. They enjoyed the climate and open spaces. Some of them purchased land in Oro Valley to run cattle ranches. A number of these individuals held from 2,000 to 7,000 acres of land and leased additional federal land. They did not run the day-to-day operations, but had foreman and ranch hands do this work. Starting in 1934, the federal government limited the number of cattle to be grazed on public lands to prevent over-grazing and soil erosion. These ranchers built spacious, modern homes to reside here in the winter months. Starting in the 1950s, they began to sell off land to developers for the construction of suburban housing developments.

This piece (on display at the Pusch House Museum) was researched and coordinated by Jim Williams, local author and historian, by Pat Spoerl, PhD, Archaeologist, by Joyce Rychener, OVHS Heritage Garden and Education Committee Chair and by Sue Chambasian, OVHS Collections Committee Chair.
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The last opportunity to see “Meanwhile Back at the Ranch” will be on Saturday, January 29, from nine to noon at the Pusch House Museum at Steam Pump Ranch (10901 N. Oracle). Beginning Saturday, February 5 (and Saturdays only through February 26 from nine to noon) the Pusch House Museum exhibit will focus on Black History. Consider becoming a member of the Oro Valley Historical Society! We can’t do it without community support. Visit www.ovhistory.org for more information, to join, or to donate.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Jacobs Works "Behind Closed Doors" To Craft Economic Development Agreement On Oro Valley Village Center

"Dark of Night" Negotiating
Town manager Mary Jacobs is working "behind closed doors" without council authorization to craft an Economic Development Agreement  ("EDA") between the owner of the Oro Valley marketplace, Town West, and the town of Oro Valley. 

We believe that this agreement relates to the Entertainment District of the proposed Oro Valley Village Center. The cost of that district, according to Town West representative Keri Silvyn, will be from $11-$12 million. It is possible that the EDA may well be for that amount.

Jacobs has been negotiating this EDA since at least the fall of 2020. She has been doing so at a time when the council has yet to approve the many concessions that town staff wants to make regarding this revisioning of the marketplace. We posted about that yesterday.

Only rezoning is supposed to be on the table.. Not "deals"
Indeed, Council has been told that their job at this point is to only discuss the rezoning that has been as requested. Therefore, any EDA between the Town and Town West is premature because it assumes that the council will approve the project as proposed. The council should not be participating in any discussion regarding an agreement on how the Town is going to help make this project financially viable.

Deja Vu 2006: "The Outrageous Giveaway"
We wish to remind everyone of the 2006 "Outrageous Giveaway" involving Oro Valley Marketplace  It was an EDA from which Vestar, the developer and center operator, was to receive 45% of all sales tax revenues during the first ten years,  up to $23.3 million.

In the end, the venture was a miserable failure. In the ten years, the center earned a total of $16.4 million in sales tax revenue, with Vestar getting $7.4 million.

While the Town had agreed to do so, thousands of residents opposed the  "The Outrageous Giveaway." They fought to get the item put on the ballot. It was ultimately approved by the voters, due in part to Vestar's glitzy marketing campaign. However, it was a straight up deal and everyone knew what they were going to get and what it was going to cost. It was not hidden behind closed doors as this one is. (Indeed. LOVE's first post was about this giveaway)

Bohen Asks: Why the secrecy?
Rothchild Responds: Because we can and I recommend it

At last week's Town Council Study Session, Councilmember Tim Bohen asked Town Council Jonathan Rothschild whether keeping these discussions behind closed doors is required by law. Rothschild replied: “What we don’t want to get [into] is a conversation of how much you expect from us or, you know, [what]we want to do because again those are contractual discussions and negotiations. Those are subject to executive session… and what we need to do is to keep [this a] zoning conversation, which is really what tonight’s about separate from that.” (Source: Oro Valley Town Council Study Session, January 19, 4:47:51)

Bohen, once again, asked if this was mandatory. Rothschild stated that it was his strong recommendation. In other words, there is no legal requirement against having public discourse on this.

Council "in the dark"?
We do not know if any council member has been participating in the discussions with Town West on this economic development agreement. We do know, however, that at least one member council, Tim Bohen, has not. Bohen told LOVE: "The draft agreement was never shared with me except a brief view in a meeting with Mary Jacobs near the beginning of my term. And I don’t know if what I was shown is actually current as of today." Bohen asked Town Manager Jacobs for the current draft agreement. As of today, he has not received it.

If Bohen does not know any of the details of the EDA, it is reasonable to assume that the rest of the council does not know the details since "Council members shall be provided equal access to information, documents and materials." (Source: Oro Valley Parliamentary Rules 13.9 INFORMATION)

A pattern of behavior
Jacobs seems to want to keep everything private. And, unfortunately, Mayor Winfield allows her to do so. With Jacobs, the public only finds out what the deal is after the deal is done. By then, there's nothing the public can do about it.

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Monday, January 24, 2022

Vistoso Golf Purchase Delayed

The following is a press release from the the Town of Oro Valley that was released Friday. The text is the town's. The headings are ours.
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A five party agreement
In December 2021, the Town of Oro Valley agreed to a joint transaction with Romspen Vistoso LLC, The Conservation Fund and developer Ross Rulney that is intended to result in the preservation of 202 acres of the former Vistoso Golf Course as open space and passive recreation in perpetuity. In addition to the 202 acres, the former golf course also includes a 6.3 acre parcel formerly used for clubhouse operations. As a condition of the sale, the agreement requires that both the 202 acre and 6.3 acre parcels be sold simultaneously.

Procedural issues to be resolved
The initial closing date was December 31, 2021 but was extended to January 21, 2022 due to the parties waiting on documentation from the Pima County Assessor that verifies the future use of the 202 acres will not be subject to a tax recapture issue as specified in state law. Pima County officials are actively working on this matter with completion expected in the near future.

Mr. Rulney has agreed to purchase the 6.3 acre parcel for a future multi-family residential development; however, through the due diligence process, an issue has arisen that must be resolved in order for Mr. Rulney to finalize the purchase.

A solution to this issue has been identified, but it requires the Vistoso Community Association (VCA) Board of Directors to consider a variance to a legal classification designation of “Commercial” within the 1996 land tract declarations (related to private CC&R’s) for the 6.3 acre clubhouse parcel to a classification that is consistent with current Town zoning. A variance request has been made by Mr. Rulney to the VCA Board, and the Town supports this request.

Anticipated closing moved to mid February
Due to these outstanding issues, the parties have agreed to an additional extension to February 16, 2022, pending satisfactory outcomes. The terms of the agreement preclude the Town of Oro Valley from providing additional information at this time. The Town and the other parties in this transaction appreciate the patience of our residents as we work cooperatively to bring this purchase to fruition.
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Friday, January 21, 2022

Bits and Pieces

Pusch Ridge Golf "Off to a great start"...But no "lessor" in sight
At Wednesday's Town Council Meeting, Town manager Mary Jacobs' reported activities that have been taking place at the Pusch Ridge golf course. The course opened in November and is "off to a great start." Among other things, she noted that the course has hosted two successful frisbee golf tournaments. 

Tony D'Angelo, President of the "Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf", discussed the remarkable success of the course. 3,958 rounds of golf were played on the course in November and December.  That is equal to total rounds played in 2020, the last year the course was open. "We are confident that we are going to more than exceed the budget."

Neither speaker reported on whether and how the town is taking on the challenge or reducing the enormous amount of drinking water used to irrigate the course.

The town has yet to find someone to lease the course. "Per Town Council’s direction, the Town issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) on November 1, 2021, to competitively solicit proposals for an operating lease at the Pusch Ridge Golf Course. The Town received one proposal from HGM Golf. The proposal was evaluated by Town staff relative to the requirements of the RFP and the specified evaluation criteria. At its conclusion, the proposal was deemed to insufficiently demonstrate that HGM is capable of successfully leasing and operating the Pusch Ridge Golf Course, and as a result, the Town will not proceed with further contract award actions with this firm. The Pusch course continues to perform well and is ahead of revenue projections for the season." (Source: Town Manager January 2022 Executive Report, P1)

Financial Update: "Things continue to look positive"
"Things continue to look positive in all our funds." This was the opening comment of Wendy Gomez, Oro Valley Finance and Budget Administrator, as she covered the town's financial situation through November.  According to Gomez, all general fund revenue sources are trending positive. Expectations are that actual revenues will exceed budget by $4.8 million. That's a 10% increase over budget.  At the same time, expenditures are expected to be $1.1 million under budget. The net result is an almost $6 million over budget result for the General Fund.

Other funds, including the Community Center Fund, are projected to be either on budget or slightly better than budget.

Town undertaking staff compensation study
The town is undertaking a study its compensation to employees. "The Town is finalizing its evaluation of proposals for the planned employee classification and compensation study. The City of Tucson, Town of Sahuarita and Town of Marana have all conducted similar studies recently that have led to some adjustments in their respective employee pay structures, either planned or implemented. The Town will be following the same process. Being the final municipality in the region to do this puts us in an advantageous position regarding salary comparisons. We expect to have the study completed by this summer and I plan to include funding in my FY22/23 Recommended Budget for implementation once finalized and approved by Council. Based on our counterparts’ changes or planned changes to pay structures, we do anticipate our own pay plan adjustments will be necessary to keep pace and remain competitive." (Source: Town Manager January 2022 Executive Report, P1))

The last compensation study that Town did in this area several years ago. It resulted in significant increases in employee compensation.

PSPRS Investment performed at "historic levels" in 2021
The town invested $27 million last year remind insurance in the Public Safety pension fund. Responding to a question of Vice Mayor Barrett at Wednesday's council meeting, Town finance Director and Gephart stated that the investment performed at historic levels in 2021. "The return for the fund was over 27%." 

This result is a tremendous win for the town. Town borrowed the $27 million they invested in the fund at an interest rate of approximately 3%. That investment earned a return far greater than that. 



Thursday, January 20, 2022

Town of Oro Valley Seeks To Fill Board and Commission Vacancies

Oro Valley seeks to fill various board and commission vacancies
ORO VALLEY, Ariz. (Jan. 10, 2022) –– The Town of Oro Valley is accepting applications from residents who are interested in serving on a board, commission or committee. Oro Valley boards and commissions provide an opportunity for residents to be active in Town government.

To serve on any board, commission or committee, members must be residents of Oro Valley, be able to attend the designated meetings and complete the Town’s Community Academy within their term. Those interested in applying can visit the application process on our website.

The following boards, commissions and committees have openings. These positions will remain open until filled.

Budget and Finance Commission
The Budget and Finance Commission (BFC) has one open position. BFC members serve two-year terms. The commission advises Town Council on policy-related issues related to the financial operation of Oro Valley, including review of the Town Manager’s recommended budget and review of the Town’s annual financial audit. A background or experience in accounting, finance, banking, investments or other related business administration is required. The commission meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m.

Historic Preservation Commission The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) 
....has three open positions. HPC members serve three-year terms. The commission was formed to promote the educational, cultural and economic welfare of Oro Valley by ensuring the preservation of historic buildings, districts, landmarks, structures, documents, photographs and other artifacts that represent the historic background and development of the greater Oro Valley area. The commission meets on the first Monday of every month at 5 p.m.

Parks and Recreation Advisory Board The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB)
... has two open positions. PRAB members serve two-year terms. The board acts in an advisory capacity to the Town Council in matters pertaining to parks and recreation, park design, open space and trail use. The board meets at least four times per year at 6 p.m.

Planning and Zoning Commission The Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC)...
has one open position. PZC members serve two-year terms. The commission holds public meetings and makes recommendations to the Town Council on matters relating to the General Plan, zoning code amendments, rezoning’s and other land use requests. The commission meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m.

Water Utility Commission The Water Utility Commission (WUC)
... has one open position. WUC members serve three-year terms. The commission members advise the Town Council on issues related to water policies, water rates, water resources and water conservation. The commission meets on the second Monday of every month at 5 p.m.

Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee Representative The Town of Oro Valley 
...provides a representative to be part of a joint committee that acts as the official advisory body on bicycling matters in Pima County and the City of Tucson. The Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee meets at 6 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month.

PAG Regional Transportation Authority’s Environmental Planning Advisory Committee Representative 
The Town of Oro Valley provides a representative to be part of the Pima Association of Governments Environmental Planning Advisory Committee (EPAC). EPAC provides information and coordinates among jurisdictional and other members, to advise the Management Committee and Executive Director on regional environmental planning issues. EPAC meets four times per year or as needed.
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(Source: Town of Oro Valley Press Release 1-10-22)