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 consider investing millions in the Oro Valley Village Center
In the near future, the Oro Valley Town Council will meet to discuss 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 would be 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. Council will discuss it in an Executive Session. Residents will only know about it once it is a done deal.  We do know that town staff and outside counsel have 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 would occur before the Oro Valley Village Center is built
We believe that the agreement calls for the town to build and maintain the center's entertainment center. 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 would 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 does not have to approve the EDA
Any economic development agreement would put the Town of Oro Valley at risk regarding the Oro Valley Village Center project. The town would 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 is not under any obligation to approve an EDA.

Will this EDA be like "The Outrageous Giveaway"… sinking money into a rathole?
The town went down the EDA 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.