Wednesday, February 1, 2023

General Plan 2026: Starts With Community Engagement

"General Plan 2026" is underway.. community engagement is the initial focus.
Planning for the 2026 General Plan has begun. A once every ten year effort, the activity itself gives the town and its residents the chance to reflect on what is Oro Valley and where we want it to be. 

The effort started several weeks ago when the town posted a survey to which we alerted you.  That survey window closed last week. The survey asked about your involvement in the last general plan; and how you would like to be engaged in or informed of the creation of the 2026 plan.

Two weeks ago, a select group met to discuss the activities that will be undertaken over the next three years to make that plan a reality. Last week, the discussion continued with this group and there will be at least two more meetings upcoming.

History shows that community engagement is essential...
This will be the third General Plan on which LOVE has reported. The 2005 General Plan was wrought with issues regarding proposed zoning changes. That plan, first offered to voters in 2003, contained a host of major land use designation changes. The voters did not like that. 60% of voters rejected the plan. The town invested two subsequent years to revise that plan and build consensus. It was finally approved in 2005.

The 2015 General Plan became the 2016 "Your Voice Our Future" plan. It took a year longer to develop than the originally planned timetable because of extensive community involvement. 70% of voters approved that plan. 

However, that plan was not good enough for the incumbent town council that was led by then Mayor Satish Hiremath. That council amended that plan within six weeks  of it being voter approved.  That council chose to amend it a number of times more, including one amendment that occurred in the last days in office. Their attitude was that the General Plan was merely a guideline; something that can be ignored when it was convenient to do so. And they did.

In both instances, the 2005 and the 2016 plan, community involvement was key. The lack of community involvement caused problem in 2003, when the plan was initially proposed to voters. The extensive involvement created overwhelming support in 2016.

It is no wonder that staff is so focussed on building a community involvement model that will get the plan right the first time.

Oro Valley keeps changing
There is a need to prepare a General Plan every ten years as required by state law; because the Town of Oro Valley changes a lot in ten years. Oro Valley was about to embark on a major growth phase in 2003 so land use was the focus. Oro Valley was focussed on building a larger base of rooftops in 2016.

Things are different than they were just a few years ago
  • Oro Valley residents are older.  The median age of Oro Valley residents was 54 in 2020. It was 49 in 2010 and 45 in 2000. The median age of all Arizona residents is 39. Our residents are much older than those of Marana and Sahuarita and that gap continues to widen
  • Less than 20% of Oro Valley households have children under 18. This is down from about 24% in 2010.  In fact, in 2020, there are almost 300 fewer households with children under 18 than there were in 2010
  • Quality Oro Valley land for homes has dwindled. More and more projects are being proposed on land that is simply not suited for homes. For example, homes build on the edge of Big Wash. There are more projects for apartment living, like La Posada and, what might be one day, apartments in Oro Valley Village (aka Marketplace)
  • Water is a huge issue and there's not a lot of room for more conservation.
  • The town will have built its parks system by 2026. Focus will turn to maintenance.
What is not different is that Oro Valley has failed to attract younger residents with children. It has failed to attract significant non service businesses.
A plan that was right for 2005 or 2016 will not be right for 2026
Once again, it is our job to figure out what is right.

LOVE plans to cover the 2026 General Plan from start to finish.  
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