Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Council Approves Regulation Changes for New and Rezoned Private Recreational Spaces

Focus on "private" parks
In May 2021, the Oro Valley Town Council endorsed a plan aimed at enhancing the town's parks and recreational infrastructure. This plan, titled the "Parks and Recreation Master Plan," focused on all park areas, one of these was neighborhood and mini parks, originally constructed by developers and now under the ownership  and maintenance of homeowner associations.

Neighborhood and Mini Parks are critical to the parks system
These parks have become essential due to the prevalence of small lots in many Oro Valley residences. The lots lack lack sizeable backyards. Thus, private parks parks play a crucial role in providing a space for leisure and recreational activities. However, most of these parks are relatively compact in terms of acreage and often they lack the necessary amenities.

Current neighborhood and mini parks are small.. lack amenities
The 2021 study undertaken to support this initiative underscored the inadequacy of the existing neighborhood and mini parks in Oro Valley, revealing their inability to meet the needs of the communities they serve. Consequently, a new mandate has been implemented: All new parks of this category must have a minimum size of 2 acres and must be equipped with amenities that align with the requirements of their respective communities. Similar requirements apply to rezoned properties.

No wiggle room out of new requirements
For areas unable to meet these standards but situated in proximity to town-owned facilities, an "in lieu" fee can be paid to the town. In this context, "close" means being within walking distance. The "In Lieu" fee is determined based on factors such as the appraised value of the land that the developer would have been obligated to allocate for the park, the cost of amenities, and any necessary improvements.

Some controversy
The council approved by a 5-2 vote many detailed changes to the current requirements after some considerable discussion. Council Member Solomon, who voted against the measure, felt that the ordnance was muddled with details best left to the developer. For example, he mentioned a requirement for a toddler lots when the town simply does not have a significant toddler population. Solomon noted that staff was “not looking at the real needs of the community.”

Some confusion
Council Member Nicolson, who voted in favor of the measure despite feeling perplexed, acknowledged that the document presented by the staff spanned 25 pages with numerous lineouts. He expressed that it was challenging to navigate and suggested that some form of visual summary would have greatly aided comprehension.

A step forward
The Oro Valley Town Council's endorsement of the "Parks and Recreation Master Plan" represented a significant step toward establishing a unified parks system in the town. That plan addressed the crucial role that Homeowner Association (HOA)-owned and maintained parks play in a community where larger backyards are in short supply. The code changes approved by the council will increase the size and usability of future (and rezoned) HOA parks. This initiative on the part of council and staff underscores the town's dedication to meeting the evolving recreational needs of its residents and improving the quality of life in Oro Valley.
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