Thursday, June 1, 2023

Bits and Pieces

New segment of The Loop adds safety, recreation connection in Oro Valley
"Oro Valley has a new half-mile multiuse path segment of The Chuck Huckelberry Loop that provides a quick and safe connection to the regional trail system. In partnership with the Pima County Regional Flood Control District, the new segment, which is north of the Oro Valley Hospital, extends the pathway further north and connects to Rancho Vistoso Boulevard. Previously, users had to cycle or walk along Rancho Vistoso Boulevard and through Big Wash, traveling over dirt sections, to directly connect to The Loop. The new segment is now paved and striped, separating users from the road." (Source: Town of Oro Valley Media Release)

Planning and Zoning Commission considers general plan amendment next week
The Oro Valley Planning and Zoning Commission will consider a general plan amendment and two zoning changes for a parcel in Rancho Vistoso. The hearing is schedule next Tuesday at 6pm in town council chamber.  The parcel is located south of Moore Loop Road. It is on the west bank of Big Wash. The land is designated in the 2016 General Plan for a school. However, the Amphi School District has concluded that one is not necessary. The land is now under the control of Vistoso Partners. The request is to rezone the land for medium density residential, the land designation prior to it being designated for a school. The plan is to build 59 homes on the property. Read more about this request here and here. This is yet another Paul Oland project.

Jacobs received compensation for 2022-23
Interim Town Manager Chris Cornelison, responding to a question at the 2023 Town Manager Recommended Budget session in May, noted that former town manger Mary Jacobs has been receiving compensation from the town for the full year.  Jacobs left her post at the end of September.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Guest View-Tony D'Angelo: Golf Should Be Treated Like Any Other Town Parks Amenity

I think we can agree that it is very difficult to understand the numbers the town posts for a number of things it operates
When it comes to golf, I also agree that when the town first acquired the El Conquistador operations, the amount it cost to operate golf was out of line with what it was contributing to the town. The good news is that Indigo Golf is doing a much better job today.

The challenge now is to decide how to look at municipal golf in comparison to other town provided recreational amenities
I believe we need to separate capital requirements from day to day operations. Municipal golf should not be judged by profit or loss, it is a town amenity similar to our various parks, the community center and the nature preserve. The measurement should be more linked to user fees as a percent of operating expenses. Attached is my best attempt to look at operations of the three entities that report numbers - the town managed community center operations (now including Vistoso Trails), contract managed operations (golf and the Overlook), and Parks and Recreation (aquatics, ball fields, concessions). Fees from golf is now consistently contributing a high percentage to the costs of operations. Fees from the others are now decreasing in their contributions to offsetting costs. This is not necessarily a bad thing if this is what the public wants from the town for the taxes paid.

With regards to capital investments, these will always be required for town amenities
The question is whether the investments assure town amenities can reasonably meet resident expectations over their life expectancy. With regard to the irrigation system upgrades, it is hoped that they will last at least 30 years. The ones they are replacing were over 40 years old. If the new systems last 30 years and golf on the 36 holes continues to average 80,000 rounds a year, the $9,000,000 investment will be allocated at an average of $3.75 per golfer who plays. Again, by comparison, the new playground at JDK Park cost $416,000. This was replacing a 20 year old playground. There is no user fees for maintenance and that’s okay. If we use the same $3.75 per user, we would need to average 15 kids playing each day for the next 20 years. That may be high or low but my point is we should look at all town amenities in a similar light and not single golf out as a profit center or expect a financial ROI.

This season on Pusch Ridge Golf we increased play by 8% over last year. A large number of this growth came from families - kids were free after 2:00 PM with adults. Green fees therefore did not grow as much as rounds did and again, that is okay if it is serving a broader community need.

No one wants to see golf lose money at the expense of other town needs. I think golf is a valuable amenity that contributes to what Oro Valley is as a town. It looks like it is on the right track by breaking even or at least coming close.

Tony D'Angelo
Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf
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Ed note: The primary reason that the community center and municipal golf are separated from other town parks and recreational activities is because both are funded by a designated portion of the sales tax. It is, therefor, a separate fund. It is accounted for as such. Also, a portion of these designated sales tax revenues are pledged for repayment of the $25 million parks bond that the town issued in 2021.
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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Town Council Will Soon Consider a Multi-Million Dollar Agreement with Town West on the Oro Valley Village Center

Oro Valley to invest millions and counting in the Oro Valley Village Center
In the near future, the Oro Valley Town Council will meet to discuss and then likely approve an economic development agreement (EDA) with Town West, the company that wants to reimagine the Oro Valley Marketplace.  The agreement will cost the town tens of millions of dollars. It's a bet on the part of the town that the Oro Valley Village Center will be successful. The cost and details of the town's investment are not known. They will discuss it in an Executive Session. Residents will only know about it once it is a done deal.  We do know that the town has been working on this agreement since at least January of 2022  (as reported in LOVE) and that the cost will be at least $10million, but likely more.

The town's investment will occur before the Oro Valley Village Center is built
We believe that the town will be building the infrastructure to make the center's entertainment center a reality. Oro Valley will get a park to maintain, and yet another splash pad, so that Town West can meet recreation requirements for the apartments and hotels that have been approved to build. The town will likely be making its investment before Town West builds anything.

There is a project similar to the Oro Valley Village Center that is being built nearby
Construction has begun on Uptown, a reimagined center on the site of the former Foothills Mall. The Uptown vision is impressive.  It's a 51-acre development located on the site of the Foothills Mall. It is  being built by the property owner, Bourn Companies. Uptown will have shops, restaurants, apartments, a hotel, an entertainment stage, an event lawn, a splash pad, video screens, and a public market. It is being marketed as a lifestyle experience. It is entirely privately funded. The County and its residents are at no risk.

Council is between a “rock and a hard place”
Unlike the County and the Uptown Project, the Town of Oro Valley is at risk regarding the Oro Valley Village Center project. Rather than letting free market forces play out, the Winfield-Barrett Council agreed in November with Town West that some level of town participation ("funding") is needed. Since then, town staff has been working on this EDA.  Also, since then, Uptown was announced and started.  The council is stuck. They agreed to fund something at some level; but they did so before Uptown was announced and started. The town will be putting money into a venture that may fail or that may never really happen. Uptown will be done long before anything significant happens at the old Marketplace. The council can not back away from an EDA. Or can they?

Will this EDA be like "The Outrageous Giveaway"… sinking money into a rathole?
The town went down this road some  years ago when it comes to that property. The town invested $15million in refunded sales tax dollars in the Oro Valley Marketplace. The town was promised much and got little. As we wrote on our fifth anniversary in 2012:

The "Outrageous Giveaway" is an agreement between the Town and a Developer where the town gave away half of Oro Valley's sales tax revenues to the Developer for 20 years in return for having an upscale shopping center.  The Developer, Vestar, had mailed thousands of glossy, expensive postcards (like Steve Solomon's expensive postcards) which purported benefits that turned out to be lies (like Steve Solomon's expensive postcards).   Voters, giddy with the prospect of a beautiful upscale center and a movie theatre, approved the agreement.  Instead of LaEncantada, however, the voters got the Foothills Mall!"

We fought against this EDA. We took it to court. We took it to the voters. We lost the vote. But, at least, the EDA was fully vetted with the residents.

Residents will have nothing to say about it this EDA...
Unlike then, residents won’t know to what the town commits via the EDA until the council has approved it. Residents will have no input. This is because the Winfield-Barrett Council will discuss this agreement behind closed doors. They are not required by the open meeting law to do so. They are merely allowed by the open meeting law to keep their discussion secret if the matter involves negotiations.

…unless the council holds a hearing to get public input… which they can do if they so wish
The council has the option of holding a discussion of the EDA in public; of seeking, via a hearing, the wise advice of the many who live in the community who have experience in this field. Then, the council can adjourn behind close doors to deliberate or not, as they wish.,
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Note: Though the voters on the Oro Valley Marketplace approved the sales tax dollar giveaway, such deals were later declared unconstitutional by the Arizona State Supreme Court. Under that ruling, however, existing EDAs that gave away sales tax revenues were allowed to continue. 

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Bits and Pieces

Henry Zipf, great-grandson of the Pusch Family has died
"The Oro Valley Historical Society Board members are saddened to announce the passing of our President Henry K. Zipf. Henry was the great-grandson of George and Mathilda (nee Feldman) Pusch, grandson of Gertrude (nee Pusch) and Henry W. Zipf, and son of Henry (Hank) G. and Ann (nee Lourie) Zipf. Henry is survived by sons Nolan and Stephen and his partner, Debra. 

The Pusch/Zipf family has long historical roots in both the Greater Tucson and Oro Valley areas. Henry was an active member and board member of the Society for many years. He dedicated much time and many resources to the organization. He had a great deal of local knowledge of Oro Valley’s early years. Henry was full of entertaining stories that included ranch life and his lifetime in the Tucson area. Henry could “spin a good yarn” and his chuckle was infectious!" (Source: Oro Valley Historical Society email)

Summer "Disc Golf" at Pusch View Course
Town of Oro Valley is offering disc golf on he Pusch Ridge Golf Course from June 6 through September 30. Tee times be begin at 7am and players will be able to play until 7pm.  There will be no conflict with regular golf as there will be time sufficient to overseed prep the course for its November 1 opening. The group Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf would like to see the course offered as a year-round traditional golf course. (Source: Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf Newsletter)

Crimefighter Newsletter focuses on Phone Scams
This month's issue of Crimefighter, a publication of the Oro Valley Police Department, focuses on phone scams. It details four scams. The article links to some fraud prevention tips. Both the newsletter and the tips are worth reading. One scam they did not list is the "pays us with a visa debit card" scam.  This is where the scammer wants to you to send the money through your purchase of a debit card. These cards are not traceable, thus they are ideal for scammers  By the way, there is no reputable organization that would request you to do so... so don't fall for this one.

Don't forget to take the town's housing survey by May 31
The town is conducting a housing survey.  You can complete the survey online. You can do this as many times you wish with as many different answers as you wish.  To date, there have be almost 1,000 responses. The town's Phoenix-Based consultant on this project, WestGroup Research, is using phone calls to conduct a statistically valid survey.  There have been 350 of these to date.  (We wonder how this works given that most people use cell phones as their primary contact and there are no cell phone directories. Also, many phone cell users do not answer calls from anyone they don't know.) There is also a survey of business owners on this matter. 75 have responded so far.

Some consider this to be a  biased  survey of housing needs. 

The result of the survey matters because they will be relied upon in the building of the 2026 General Plan. Also, developers and town staff will use the results to assess economic development requests.

Community Center "silver sneaker" members disadvantaged if they want to be premium members
There are two memberships to the community center: Regular and premium. Members use the senior sneaker program, a program that some health care insurance providers offer, can get a"paid for" regular membership. However, they are not allowed to be a premium member unless they pay the full fee. If they do so, they forego the "silver sneaker" benefit. The town is looking in to this.
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Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Guest View: Mike Zinkin – What Happened to the Founders’ Vision?

The Founders' Vision has been lost over the past 12 years
The reason the people incorporated Oro Valley was because they did not want to be governed by Tucson or Pima County. They wanted to protect the views, avoid traffic and pollution problems, prevent congested development, and preserve the small town feel. However, this has all but become history.

Look at how much has changed regarding allowances for developers and business establishments
We now have a 7-story retirement community under construction, a plot of land (the Marketplace) that will soon have numerous hotels and apartments, we have pre-graded lots that will be “shovel ready,” and a Council majority that doesn’t appear to adequately study the issues and simply follows staff desires, thereby disregarding the people’s wishes.

I was on the Developmental Review Board when we refused to allow In and Out Burger to have their crossed palm trees (the Council supported our decision). We did not allow the Target store to have a red “Target” sign (their trademark target could be red, but the store name had to fit the color palette of the shopping center). The blue wedge in the Best Buy store was reduced in size. There were no flashing signs allowed in store windows. A lighted sign could say ”Open” but it could not flash. A-frame signs were not allowed.

Look at how much has changed within the town council
The Vice-Mayor position used to be a ceremonial role that rotated among the existing council members. Now the Vice-Mayor serves a 4 year term that does nothing in my opinion but fulfill the ego of the individual.

We used to have Council on Your Corner meetings which allowed for two-way communication between the public and the council, instead of the council hiding behind the dais and limiting public speaking time to 3 minutes with no interaction. I remember having these meetings during the budget process to gauge the desires of the people. It now seems that the Council does not put forth any effort on the budget. They simply give staff what they want.

The Council used to care and consider the results of valid surveys. They used to ask questions of staff during budget study sessions, rather than being lectured by staff about their wishes. The Aquatic Center was a result of this belief, not splash pads and BMX tracks, which have very little constituent support.

The current Council liaison to the Amphi School Dist. does not fulfill the responsibilities put forth in Town Policy 9. When I brought this to the attention of the Councilmember, the response was, “I have not nor plan to ignore my responsibilities as Amphi Liaison. Covid has redefined this responsibility and relationship. I am requesting that the policy reflect those changes. I continue to receive and review the monthly agenda for both the Executive and General Meeting and attend as needed.” However, there has been no change to the current policy.

The Vice-Mayor voted no on an allocation of funds to support the State mandated General Fund. She said she was a “protector of the People’s money” yet insisted on a Splash Pad at Naranja Park.

Town leaders don’t seem to care about the Town’s waste of water
The Mayor refuses to realize there is a water problem in Oro Valley, as well as the Nation. Not one penny in the FY 2023/24 recommended budget is allocated to reducing the Town’s wasteful use of potable water on it properties (such as James Kriegh and Riverfront parks and the Pusch Ridge golf course.)

Major agreements with developers are not disclosed to the public
Some of you may criticize me regarding the El Con golf courses purchase in 2014, however, remember that it was a 4-3 vote. Now we have mostly 7-0 votes. The re-elected majority usually votes as a block. They allowed the former Town Manager to spend money without Council authority, as well as enter into agreements without Council oversight. There is an Economic Development Agreement with Town West that has never been made public and there is a lack of transparency. Agreements made with the developer of the high-density development in the Vistoso Preserve were also never disclosed to the public.

We’re heading in the wrong direction
Oro Valley government used to care about views, traffic, the environment, and appropriate use of monies. Now we are no different than Tucson and Marana.

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.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

This and That From The TMRB Study Sessions

No change in what we previously reported on the TMRB
The Oro Valley Town Council held 8 hours of a study session on the 2023-24 Town Manager’s Recommended Budget (TMRB). Nothing new regarding the TMRB emerged. What we previously reported stands.  However, there were a few things that we did learn from the sessions that are worth sharing.

Town considers "Winfield Special" fifth tier for water billing
The town’s water department is studying adding a fifth tier to the water billing structure. That tier would be for users, like the Winfield family, of less than 3,000 gallons of .water.  The town’s current structure, in which users are penalized for water use, will continue. Staff did not announce a timetable for this new tier.  Interestingly, the brain child of this tier was offered up some months ago by Mayor Winfield on the guise of encouraging less water use. Could it be that he just wants he wants to lower his water bill? One could reasonably question how a family of six can survive on 3,000 gallons of water a month.

Homeowner insurance may cover scams
We hope that you are never scammed. Some of the latest scams are discussed on the Oro Valley Police web site.  If you are, we learned at the special session that Homeowners insurance may cover the damage. Check your policy or ask your agent to see if you are covered.

Whether municipal golf makes a profit is a matter of accounting
There is no agreement among councilmembers or among town staff on how to determine if municipal golf is making a profit. Staff says it is but one has no idea if that interpretation includes sales tax support.  And there are differences in understanding what revenues and what costs should be charged to golf operations. For example, when town staff says that municipal golf is profitable that are not including the millions that are being spent on replacing the irrigation system, enlarging the community center parking, or making the area more challenged accessible.

Grants and outside funds play a huge role in public works funding
The town seeks federal, state or local funds for just about every road project they do.  The La Canada Bridge needs repairs so staff is seeking federal funding. Naranja Drive needs a multi-user path. Staff is seeking PAG and RTA funds for this. Much of the remaining roads program is funded by state highway funds.

Councilmembers want to measure the results of economic development efforts but…
Every council member asked how the Economic Development Department measures its results. None of them got an answer. That’s because, try as he may, Mr. Melcher, the department head, has very little to show in his three years in on the job. Much of this is because the town's target businesses, high tech and medical tech, are hard to find. So, Melcher is focusing on bringing events to town. This will bring outsiders in to use the town's retail and hotel services. Melcher will report to council on the result of one such event, the Tucson Bicycle Classic, at this Wednesday's meeting. Read our April analysis of why economic development efforts have produced limited results.

The town is getting software to help them identify those who do not register their short term rentals
The software scans the various short term rental website. The program gathers information on rentals offered in Oro Valley, summarizes the results, and develops a report of activity by the owner.  Staff will then compare that list to the list of those who have registered to determine those who have not.  Staff claims that this will be "evidence" sufficient to press forward. Here's one example of the kind of software that can do this.

Fee Payers should pay credit card fee
The town budgets a $57,000 credit card fee cost incurred when people pay fees using their credit cards. Why doesn't the town add this fee to the cost when the person is paying? This is a common practice when paying bills online to public entities.

Councilmembers "fall over backwards" to complement staff on the job staff is doing
It was difficult to listen to eight hours of a study session. Much of the session is consumed by councilmembers telling staff what a great job the town staff person is doing; and if they are addressing a supervisor, telling them what a great job their staff is doing. "Thank you for your services and the great work you do" is heard over and over again.  There's nothing wrong with that. But when you do to every one every time, the compliment becomes gratuitous. One suggestion: Mayor Winfield should thank staff for their great work at the start of every meeting. That way, the same praise does not have to be repeated ad nauseam. 
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Thursday, May 18, 2023

Bits and Pieces

Battle of the Bands Tomorrow Night
This free concert  runs from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Riverfront Park amphitheater (551 W. Lambert Lane). It features four local high school bands comprised of students from Canyon Del Oro High School, Ironwood High School, Tucson High School and Sahuaro High School. The bands will bring their musical talents to a live audience with a three-song setlist. The winning band will be selected by a panel of judges and will receive a recording session with Luna Recording Studio. Second and third place prizes will also be awarded. Admission to the concert is free, and food trucks will be on site with items available for purchase. (Source: Town of Oro Valley Media Release)

New rooftop solar permitting process cuts wait time to 24 hours 
"The Town of Oro Valley is pleased to announce a more efficient permitting process for Oro Valley homeowners looking to install rooftop solar. The Community and Economic Development (CED) Department recently implemented SolarAPP+, a web-based app that automates the permitting process. Previously, customers had to wait up to 10 business days for staff to complete the permit review and issuance process. With SolarAPP+, permits can now be issued within 24 hours because it automatically performs a compliance check based on inputs supplied by the contractor to ensure the proposed system is safe and code compliant." Learn more about the program here. (Source: Town of Oro Valley Media Release) 

Town starts "The OV Edge" newsletter for businesses
The "OV Edge newsletter is intended to keep busy business owners up to date with important developments in the Town of Oro Valley. The Town of Oro Valley Community and Economic Development team understands that a healthy economy is driven by a healthy business community. Learn about some of our programs and incentives designed to help your business thrive." Read more here. (Source: Town of Oro Valley OV Edge May 2023 Issue)

Northbound Lane closures on Oracle Road start May 22 as Town performs median maintenance
 "The Town of Oro Valley Street Operations will perform bi-annual median maintenance on Oracle Road (State Route 77) from Ina Road to milepost 84 (just north of Big Wash Overlook Place) starting May 22 through May 26. This will be what is considered a moving operation, which means that various sections of the northbound left lane starting at Ina Road will be closed everyday between 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. as crews work north to milepost 84. Construction signs, arrows, message board and traffic control will be in place during work hours. Drivers are asked to pay attention and use caution while driving in the work zone. Outside of construction hours, all northbound lanes of Oracle Road will be open. (Source: Town of Oro Valley Media Release)