Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Town Has No Legal Authority To Plan Future of Vistoso Golf Course

No legal authority to plan Vistoso Course use
Last week's community outreach on the conceptual master plan of Oro Valley's Parks opened with a "bang". With many Rancho Vistoso residents tuned in, Oro Valley Parks and Recreation Director Kristy Diaz-Trahan tried to diffuse the "Vistoso Golf" time bomb.  (Time stamp 0:03:18).

Diaz-Trahan stated that the town is not in a legal position to opine on the future of the former Vistoso Golf Course property: "The town does not have the legal authority to add someone else's private property within this master."  This is because the hoped for transaction between The Conservation Fund and Romspen LLC, the property owner, has not occurred. That transaction would have resulted in the eventual transfer of the land to the town.

Town still focused on property
This does not mean that the town has no interest in the situation. In fact, our town leaders are very much up-to-date on the situation and under some pressure to do something. They commissioned a study on what it would cost for the town to maintain the land as preserve. We will discuss this in an upcoming article. Last week, they held yet another closed-door executive session to discuss the future of this land.

Diaz-Trahan noted: "...please know, the town has heard the [Rancho Vistoso] community and that we have a commitment that in this final master plan those desires [of the Rancho Vistoso community] will be addressed." That desire is for the 208 acres of Vistoso Golf become a preserve for all to use in the community.

Wants of 40% of residents ignored
Not all agree with Diaz-Trahan.  Speaking at the outreach      meeting (remarks at right), Oro Valley resident Michael Bilodeau pointed out that the assessment did not accurately reflect the needs assessment created last spring. Bilodeau is an advocate of the need for community engagement in the master plan development. He discussed this in a LOVE guest view in March.

At last week's meeting, Bilodeau observed that the assessment as presented does not meet the goals of the study, which is to develop future parks and recreation needs that has an equitable distribution of facilities. As LOVE observed previously, the Parks and Recreation conceptual plan at this point places little town focus on the needs of Rancho Vistoso. 

Bilodeau expressed surprise that some previously town identified low priority items, like a BMX park and more basketball courts, were included in the conceptual plan; while, with two exceptions, trails and related items were not considered. 
"I still don't get the fact that we go from an assessment of the needs of the community, pretty much ignore them all, and we jump directly into a conceptual plan that includes a lot of low priority needs."
He also pointed out that 40% of the town's population lives north of Tangerine where there is only one town facility and not very many amenities. He alleges that the proposed 'fix' that this conceptual plan makes is " make no investment north of Tangerine."

A gut punch: "The plan does not address the needs of Rancho Vistoso residents"
Other concerns voiced by attendees include:
  • Rancho Vistoso residents are not considered to be part of Oro Valley yet they pay taxes twice: Once to the form of HOA fees; and the other in the form of sales taxes (and utility taxes)
  • 50% of Oro Valley's residents are seniors. "We don't need more archery parks."
  • "Look at what people want. Not what you think they should have."
  • The aquatic center and the community centers are not free to residents even though the town paid for and subsidizes them.
  • Residents of Vistoso want open space and this conceptual plan does not address this.
  • Why are there not parks planned for north of Tangerine Road?
  • Why would Romspen turn down a good offer? Why can't the town send a signal to Romspen that the council will not rezone this land?
The plan is conceptual at this point. Much more work needs to be done. Patience on the part of all is needed.