Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Guest View: Diane Peters ~ The Best Laid Plans?

During January 6th Public Hearing for the First and Tangerine General Plan Amendment (GPA) to allow multi-family residential zoning on a vacant commercial parcel, one resident (we’ll call him Mr. Double Standard) gave the following reasons for why the town council should approve the GPA. He said:

"I want to point out the fiscal benefits of this development. This is a fiscal no-brainer for the Town of Oro Valley: The construction sales tax, the residents supporting the water utility, the long-term sales tax benefits, the state-shared revenue.

I have said to many people that one of the reasons that Oro Valley Marketplace looks the way it does today...is the way this land looks right now. It's vacant. The land to the west of the marketplace is vacant. The land to the north of the marketplace is vacant. The land to the east of the marketplace is vacant. All of these have a very negative impact on Oro Valley Marketplace.

And as we look for that area of develop, this will be a great benefit. We've seen Big Lots close...Cost Plus...Dick's Sporting Goods. And you can relate that to the fact that the residential density close to the Oro Valley Marketplace is very low."

Let’s review his arguments.

Vacant land has a negative impact on business
Mr. Double Standard claims that the vacant land to the west, north, and east of Oro Valley Marketplace is the reason that The Marketplace never did well and is the reason that Big Lots, Cost Plus (World Market), and Dick’s Sporting Goods closed. Then why is the Wal-Mart at Oro Valley Marketplace still open when they have the same amount of nearby residents? Why did Sears at Tucson Mall close? They didn’t have enough nearby residents?

Vestar, the original developer and owner of Oro Valley Marketplace, had population and demographic studies done prior to pitching their Anywhere USA mall. They had the stats for how many people lived within X number of miles from that location and they projected that it would all work out beautifully – but now we are told that The Marketplace failed because they didn't have enough homes in that location.

Is Mr. Double Standard saying that Vestar's projections and population and demographic studies were wrong? Were they fabricated or slanted to show what Vestar needed them to show in order to get the town to sign on to the deal? If so, this might be a lesson not to trust the projections and population and demographic studies of other developers when they’re pitching their grandiose plans to the town.

Arguing with himself
When Vestar was pitching their mall, Mr. Double Standard was strongly in favor of it. He never spoke in opposition to it or claimed that it would fail because the land to the west, north, and east was vacant.

The pro-development crowd simply alters their arguments to suit their whims of the day. His current arguments are all just excuses to keep the Hiremath pro-growth agenda going.

Taxes and Water Utility Arguments
• The construction sales tax is not a recurring tax, it is a one-time tax.

• Stating that more residents will support the Oro Valley Water Utility overlooks the fact that Arizona is in an extreme drought, but yes, let’s keep bringing in more people to use more water.

In fact, according to the applicant’s (Paul Oland, Paradigm Land Design) GPA submittal narrative: “With a maximum of 167 housing units proposed, the maximum number of new residents expected to live onsite would be 392” and would “typically demand approximately 50,100 gallons of potable water per day.” Oland also admitted that keeping the existing C-1 zoning “would equate to a typical water demand of approximately 17,600 gallons per day.”

Mr. Double Standard said that approving the GPA was “a fiscal no-brainer.” One could argue that choosing to use 17,000 gallons of water a day vs. 50,000 gallons a day during a drought is an “environmental no-brainer.”

• Long-term sales tax benefits? That’s the same sales pitch we heard from Vestar when they were selling the town on the benefits of Oro Valley Marketplace, and yet half of the storefronts at OVM remained empty for the entire ten years that Vestar owned that mall (2008-2018).

What’s the perfect ratio?
So when does the growth end? What is the perfect ratio of businesses to population? Does anyone really know? Because no matter how many of each we have, I keep hearing that we need more people to support our businesses and we need more businesses to bring in sales tax dollars.

You know what else we need? We need open space (green space), healthy air, less traffic congestion, peace and quiet, and we need to protect the Sonoran desert and the wildlife who call it home.

Business saturation
I don’t recall any empty storefronts when I moved here in 2003. Our population has increased by approximately 15,000 since then, yet we now have an abundance of empty storefronts. This begs the question: Is increasing the population really the answer? Or do we have too many duplicate businesses? As an example, a quick internet search revealed approximately 20 nail salons in Oro Valley. How about three identical mattress stores at one intersection!  (One has since closed.  Gee, I wonder why).

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Diane Peters has lived in Oro Valley since 2003, moving here to escape the humidity of the East Coast. She’s been involved in OV politics and development issues since 2006. In 2014, she organized a citizens group, who over a 9-month period, successfully negotiated a controversial 200-acre development project. In her past life, she worked in medical research at various University Hospitals in New England. Her interests include reading, writing, nature photography, travel, art galleries, museums, and politics.