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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