Thursday, February 25, 2021

Keeping Oro Valley History Alive

This is the second in a series of articles written by The Oro Valley Historical Society. Future OVHS articles will appear on LOVE every other Thursday.
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William “Curly” Neal (1849-1936)
Oracle Road, also known as Historic Route 80, was quite the thoroughfare in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Someone that helped connect Tucson to both Oracle and Mammoth was successful businessman, rancher, and entrepreneur, William “Curly” Neal. There’s no doubt Curly would have stopped at Steam Pump Ranch enroute to our neighbors to the north as he carried out his business endeavors.

William was born in the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma to a mother who had walked the Trail of Tears and a father of African-American descent. William became self-sufficient at a young age working at odd jobs. At nineteen he met Buffalo Bill Cody, who enlisted William as a military scout. William left the army in 1878 but remained friends with Cody for the rest of his life.

After the army, Curly (due to his long wavy hair) settled in Tucson and took on a job as a cook in the Maison d’Arcy restaurant. After accumulating some money and other financial support, William started a stage line and freight business. Curly would have likely rubbed elbows with George Pusch in both Tucson and at Steam Pump Ranch. George and Johann Zellweger opened a butcher shop in 1876 which provided meat to the public and restaurants in Tucson. In 1874 Steam Pump Ranch was operating and was a popular stop as it allowed the stage lines a place to water and rest the horses and offered the services of blacksmiths. Note the fare from Tucson to Steam Pump was $1.00!

Curly was awarded the mail contract for the Tucson-Oracle-American Flag route so Oracle Road would have been a routine path for the carriers. Along with the stage line and the freight line that carried supplies from Tucson to Ft. Lowell, Curly carted ore, wood, and water to the mines in Mammoth and Oracle.

As noted in the Mohave County Miner news regarding Wm. Neal Freight:
“One of the largest freighting outfits in the world is used in connection with the mill at the Mammoth property. The distance from the mine to the mill is three miles, all but half a mile downgrade. Three teams move 145 tons of ore a day. Each team consist of 20 animals, and they draw four wagons. The wagons are immense affairs, almost as big as box cars. Wm. Neal is one of the best businessmen in southern Arizona.”

Annie Box Neal (1870-1950)
While in Tucson, William met Annie Box, the daughter of the proprietor of the boarding house where he lived. Annie had similar heritage in that her mother was Cherokee and her father was of English and African descent.

In 1892 they were married and moved to Oracle when Annie’s mother deeded them property. It was there that William and Annie established the Mountain View Hotel. The hotel and health resort attracted a variety of visitors including celebrities (Buffalo Bill), dignitaries, and those seeking the adventure of the “wild west.”

Annie primarily ran the hotel while Curly managed the other businesses and even a ranch in New Mexico. She was known for her lively and independent spirit and as a hostess, Annie made her guests feel welcome and comfortable. Annie sold the hotel in 1939 shortly after a freak accident on the property took Curly’s life at the age of 87.

Curly and Annie’s remarkable and industrious lives make our local history rich and should never be forgotten.

Article references: “Copper Area News” and Annie’s Guests by Barbara Marriott.

Interested in local history?
Stop by Steam Pump Ranch on the second and fourth Saturdays in February, March and April. The Oro Valley Historical Society presents docent-guided tours from 10 a.m. to Noon. No reservations are required for the 50-minute tour that leaves on the hour and every fifteen minutes thereafter. Tours leave from the OVHS tent that is located just south of the Farmer’s Market ramada. The suggested donation supports the cost of our displays, exhibits and ongoing programs. We hope to see you!
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The Oro Valley Historical Society is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit volunteer organization, whose mission is “To promote research, preservation, education, and dissemination of historical information related to the greater Oro Valley area.” We invite you to become a member or volunteer or donate.. Visit us at ovhistory.org and help keep Oro Valley history alive!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Mayor Winfield Proclaims Oro Valley "A Golf Community"...Enthusiastic About Reopening Pusch View Golf Course

Winfield: “We are a golf community.”
Mayor Winfield declared that Oro Valley is a golf community at last week’s council meeting (4h21m 2/17/21 Oro Valley Town Council Meeting) This, he says, is supported by last year’s statistically valid resident survey done as part of the now in-progress Parks and Recreation ten year master plan project. 

This survey was one of several reasons he gave for championing the reopening and three year commitment to operating the Pusch Ridge Course. Other reasons he gave are an uptick in golf usage because of the Pandemic; and his assertion that the town owned golf courses are meeting their subsidy metrics. According to Winfield, the only problem with Pusch View nine hole golf course is that it has been under-promoted.

Winfield "Kicks the Can" down the road
When Winfield and fellow council members Steve Solomon and Mo Greene have their way, the course will operate starting November 1. It will close each year in May.  Three years will be the  horizon for determining what will happen next to the course. By that time, the Mayor will have completed his term. It will be someone else's challenge.

Open space option summarily rejected
The idea of allowing the property to revert to its natural state or turning it into a walking preserve was summarily rejected by Winfield and council at the February 17 council meeting.  They decided that that solution was too expensive. They based that on numbers provided by town staff. No council member challenged these numbers or the basis for them. As LOVE has previously noted, the natural space option is least costly over a five year planning horizon.

Council never considered the Pusch View Course's history of failure
The council did not discuss the operating history of this course during the meeting, a history that includes:
  • The Town purchased three financially failed golf courses in 2014 from HSL Properties. HSL's purchase of the El Conquistador resort was financially feasible only if the Town took over these courses. That is what the Town did. The Town council raised the sales tax a half cent to subsidize the losses. The subside continues to this day.
  • Once it owned the Pusch View Course, the Town observed that the course was underused and worked to market it. There was no success. 
  • In 2016, the Town then tried to turn the course into a family entertainment center, adding things like larger holes on the green and Frisbee Golf. That didn't work to stimulate use either. You can read about the Town's enthusiasm for that here.
  • In 2020, Town Council voted to discontinue the course so that the Town could lease the course back to HSL.
Winfield, Solomon and Greene must believe that the pandemic driven resurgence in course use in Oro Valley is going to continue after the Pandemic passes. They may be right. On the other hand, the fundamental reasons the sport of golf is in decline has not changed. Read about those things here.

Tim Bohen was the only council member to speak against reopening the course
Council Member Tim Bohen stated that the Town has excess golf inventory even in today's hot market.  “I just wanted to let the people know at Pusch Ridge Course: I’ve walked their course a couple of times. I’ve talked them. I have sympathy for their plight." He continued: "I really do believe as a responsible entity, we have inventory that we already have that we don’t consume and that is why I can’t support this.”

Winfield did not want a council resolution.  Jacobs insisted they that there be one.
Mayor Winfield stated at several different points during the February 17 council discussion that Town Manager Jacobs had enough information from listening to the discussion to formulate what town staff was to do next. He did not want a formal vote (“resolution”). Town Manager Jacobs insisted that there be one: "You tell me what. I will give you the how." 

RFP to lease Pusch View Golf included in resolution
Two of the three other council members, Vice Mayor Barrett and Council Member Josh Nicolson, successfully fought to insure that the resolution include directing the Town Manager to formulate  a request for proposal ("RFP") for someone to lease the facility.  That RFP will be issued and analyzed over the next seven months if approved by council.


The Resolution to reopen Pusch View Golf Course
Council passed the following resolution by a 6-1 vote: 

Resolved: “Town council directs staff to return with a plan for operation of the Pusch Ridge Golf course to be evaluated within three years as to its continued feasibility, capital improvement requirements while also looking at alternatives to look at water usage and potential new configurations and a third party lease.” 

Town Manager Jacobs will present the plan at the March 17 Town Council Meeting.
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Monday, February 22, 2021

Oro Valley Town Manager's Inaction Caused Pusch Ridge Golf "Crisis"

Failure to act started last May
The Town of Oro Valley knew in April that HSL Conquistador was not going to take over operation of the Pusch Ridge 9-hole golf course. Yet, it continued to move forward with closing the facility despite knowing that it was never the intent of the the council to leave their neighbors who live on or near the course in jeopardy. 

The intent of the Town Council was never to close the course... It was to lease the course to the El Conquistador
On February 18, 2020 The Oro Valley Town Council unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with HSL El Conquistador and HSL Financial Management for the takeover of the Pusch Ridge Course. HSL was to lease the facility from the town, exercising a “discontinued golf” clause in the original 2015 purchase and sale agreement when the town purchased the Community Center, Golf, and Tennis. That Memorandum of Understanding stated that the town was going to discontinue operating the nine hole Pusch Ridge Course on October 1, 2020. The lease agreement was to come before council in the future.

Town Attorney Cohen assured the Town Council that HSL was going to take over operations. All that was left was the negotiation of a lease.
The MOU was negotiated by Town Attorney, Gary Cohen and Town Manager, Mary Jacobs.
 
According to Cohen “HSL is telling us, right now, that they are going to lease this course and that it will be effective October 1.” (Time stamp: 2:04:14 of 2-28-20 Oro Valley Town Council Meeting).

In late April, HSL told Town Manager Jacobs that they were not likely to lease the course
Town Manager Jacobs explained at the February 17 meeting that HSL indicated that they did not have the financial resources to do so.

Jacobs noted that “They were aware that operating the golf course would require a subsidy.”  In other words, HSL did a workup of the financial prospects and decided not to do lease the property, just as they had decided to get rid of it when they sold it to the town in 2015. 

It may even be possible that HSL has bigger plans in mind for that property (Please do use your imagination).

HSL has no pressing need for the course itself. The El Conquistador Resort no longer needs a golf course in order to be rated "five star." It now has a spa that qualifies them for this rating.

The town neglected the golf course, closed it, despite knowing that HSL was not going to take it over
The Town closed the course in April due to Covid. Then, the Town eliminated over-seeding and watering the course. The fairways were brown. Residents who live along the course were "up in arms." They launched an effort to get the grass green again and succeeded Wednesday night. As we reported last Thursday, the Town will consider a detailed plan to operate the course starting in November.

Town Manager Jacobs did not act early... created the crisis... dumped it on Council 
Town Manager Jacobs did not act to immediately include this property in the Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment that she commissioned. She should have done this in May when she knew HSL was not really interested in assuming operation of the golf course. But even if they were interested, the land should have been included in the Needs Assessment and Master Plan. Then, if HSL failed to lease the land, its use could be considered in the larger context of the town - not a one-off decision as is now the case.

It is likely that the council did not know of HSL's lack of interest until September 23. This is when they extended the agreement with HSL for 120 days.  The Town Council, like the rest of us, were "in the dark."

Jacobs' inaction disappointing. She is a strategic thinker.  Is it possible that she did not know that HSL was simply "playing the Town" because HSL is always "playing the Town?" 

All the signs were there. 

They even told her they weren't interested.

The town is where it is today on this because of her inaction. 
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Friday, February 19, 2021

Bits and Pieces

KOLD gives wrong year on start of revitalization
Last week, KOLD TV reported that construction was beginning this winter on the revitalization of the Oro Valley Marketplace (see panel below). This is not true, per our inquiry to the town. 

The potential revitalization project has undergone one community meeting. The town's planning department is waiting for a second submission on the project from the applicant. 

Nothing can happen unless the town council approves it. This revitalization project requires rezoning. That has not happened. It will not happen until next summer or beyond. Perhaps construction will begin in the winter of 2022. The TV station report was off by a year.

Church of Nazarene project in limbo
The Church of Nazarene, located on Concordia, west of CDO High School, has proposed a project for an indoor athletic field, a new multi-use building and a new amphitheater on 18.4 acres adjacent to it. (See panel right) They want to create their own planned area development zoning code, because the existing zoning codes is mixed among the four properties involved. 

The property of most concern to residents in the are is on the northern portion of the land. That portion is zoned for residential use, with one home for 144,000 square feet. That is the zoning for the rest of the area. Needless to say, those who live in the area don’t want the project

Take a ride around the area and you will understand why.  This area is one of the most unique in Oro Valley. The homes are set far back from the roads and many owners have horses and other animals. 

The town is waiting for the project to be resubmitted in response to comments made by the public at the November public hearing.  Read more about this project here.

Charred Pie is open for business with menu additions
Charred Pie restaurant is located next to the AMC Theatre in the Oro Valley Marketplace. Recent menu additions have added to their offerings. The feature wood fired pizza. Read more about that here. This is a locally owned restaurant. Give them a call.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Pusch Ridge Golf Course To Reopen In November

November target date for golf course reopening
”We’re going to pursue restoring, reopening the [Pusch Ridge} course and the the town manager is going to provide framework about how to do that.” Council Member Steve Solomon summarized last night’s council decision regarding the Pusch Ridge Course.

The course will operate for approximate six months but will be maintained for an entire year. It is Solomon's hope that the town will commit to operate the course for the next three years and then make a determination of what to do at that time.

The town manager will come back to council with a plan in two weeks for the reopening of the facility.
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Oro Valley Podcast: Pusch Ridge Golf Solution Complicated

Pusch Ridge Golf solution is complicated
The Pusch Ridge golf course situation is very complicated and I'm sure the solution, whatever it is, will not please everyone. But solutions, come about through working together and developing a plan. However, some members of the town Council and town staff feel that being disingenuous and not working with the citizens is the best path to follow.

D'Angelo: Town staff hard to work with
I recently had Tony D'Angelo, the advocate for Pusch Ridge golf course, on my podcast. He stated that the most frustrating part of arriving at a solution was working with the town Council and staff. For example, Tony pointed out that Mary Jacobs the town manager told the Pusch Ridge HOA to work out the lease arrangements with HSL. That's a little strange, is it not? Why would someone who doesn't own the property attempt to work out the lease on behalf of the town. The HOA finally balked at that suggestion and said they would not pursue that course to a solution. I always wondered why it was taking so long to arrive at a suitable lease agreement between HSL and the town. The town, through Mary Jacobs, wanted to abdicate its responsibility to work out a proper lease agreement between HSL and the town.

D'Angelo: Not not all on council involved
The Pusch Ridge HOA invited all of the town Council members to the course to show them the current situation and discuss alternative solutions. All council members except for Council Member Nicolson attended a walkthrough of the grounds. Since then many have ignored emails and calls from some of the council members.

Ignoring repeated emails and messages on this is not good thing. It seems to me that if you represent the town regardless of your schedule you have to take responsibility to work out a solution with the Pusch Ridge HOA. Quite frankly, I'm disappointed.

Promise not kept
And finally, to a round of applause, at an HOA meeting in February 2020 Mayor Winfield announces that the golf course will stay open. In April 2020 the town abruptly closes the golf course with no notification to the HOA's.

On the masthead of the Washington Post is a quote;” Democracy dies in darkness”. Apparently in Oro Valley we don't even want to turn on the switch.

You can watch Jim's interview of Tony D'Angelo here.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Watchdog Report: The $750,000 Dollar Question

 

Who remembers the letter to the Council from the Town Manager dated September 4, 2019?
Yes, this is a loaded question because I seriously doubt if any of the council members would remember it since it was communicated almost six months ago. Additionally, neither Council members Greene nor Bohen were on Council when the above communication was written.

However, this is an important document because it offers the Town Manager’s forecast with the important caveat that the Mayor stipulated -- that the 36-hole option would require no more than a $750,000 tax subsidy.

Ms. Jacobs’ report was full of prerequisites that had to be fulfilled before the maximum subsidy of $750,000 could be accomplished. One of the requirements was that “The irrigation replacement and general refurbishment of both 18-hole courses was completed.” This had not even been started and the costs for just the irrigation improvements for the Conquistador course alone are over $1 million. This money is to come from the existing Community Center Fund, when, and if, it becomes available.

The forecasted target dates
In her report Ms. Jacobs states:
“By adding in the sales taxes collected by Troon for golf ($46,500), the utility sales tax for the water ($40,400), and the projected additional revenue from opening up the member course to day-play ($175,000), the subsidy is projected to meet the $750,000 target by FY 22/23. If the HOA contribution discussed below is factored into the pro forma, the subsidy is projected to meet the $750,000 target by FY 21/22.”
Jacobs goes on to say:
“According to the pro formas attached, the $750,000 tax subsidy target is achievable by FY 21/22 and possibly sooner if revenue collections remain strong. The potential action plan and accompanying pro formas included in this memorandum more fully demonstrate the financial viability.”

You can read the entire report HERE.  

Since this communication was written almost six months ago, nothing has been accomplished toward improving the courses because the money is not there. Currently available financials from the first 5 months of FY 2020/21 (July-Nov) reveal that the tax subsidy is already over $1 million.

The current formula is not working
How many communications are going to be written, and forgotten, before the Council understands that the 36-hole formula is not working and will not work?

The Mayor and 3 Council members ran on a platform to do something about the golf financial drain. The meetings and abuse they took from the “Green Shirts” are over.

Although golf is up 30% nationwide due to the pandemic, losses continue for Oro Valley due to the fact that our golfing population cannot support one entity owning 36 holes. The Town could possibly support the losses with just 18 holes.

Mr. Lopez and HSL want nothing to do with golf as witnessed by their refusal to take on the 9-hole Pusch Ridge course. This is further evidence that golf does not make good business sense.

Oro Valley is made up of more neighborhoods than Canada Hills and the Villages. In fact, the vast majority of Oro Valley residents live outside those communities. What it is going to take for the council to represent the entire Town, and not just one faction?

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Mike Zinkin and his wife have lived in Oro Valley since 1998. He served on the Oro Valley Development Review Board from 2005-2009, the Board of Adjustment from 2011-2012, and the Town Council from 2012-2016. He was named a Fellow for the National League of Cities. He was a member of the NLC Steering Committee for Community and Economic Development and a member of the Arizona League of Cities Budget and Economic Development Committee. He was an Air Traffic Controller for 30 years. Mike has a Bachelor’s degree in history and government from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education from California State University, Northridge.