Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Sinking Houses Delay GPA Request

Located near Big Wash
The Oro Valley Town Council voted unanimously to continue a type-2 general plan amendment (GPA) request to build 51 medium density single-family homes off the Moore Loop Road. The property is located on the edge of Big Wash.

Concerns of sinking homes
Several council members expressed concern about the soil’s suitability for housing in this area, given the subsidence of two homes, the (sewage system) lift station and a street in the nearby Valley Vista development. 

Caused by moisture reactive soil
The subsidence is attributed to a layer of soil that is reactive to moisture. One home has been jacked up 18 inches. The town has not yet determined the source of the moisture, whether it’s groundwater, gray water, or another factor – it remains uncertain.  You can watch Town Engineer and Director of Public Works Paul Keelser explain the current situation at Valley Vista.

Keesler: Special conditions needed
As a result of this situation, Keesler recommended special conditions of approval for the proposed 51 home project. This included a provision that "Additional soils testing during construction may be required in locations and to specifications as determined by the Town Engineer;" and "All homes will need gutter systems directing roof drainage to the adjacent street."

Council wants more soil testing
Despite these provisions, the council wants to proceed with utmost caution. Council Member Jones-Ivey expressed concern about whether the applicant and the town had conducted sufficiently thorough ground testing to ensure the prevention of subsidence, especially given that certain soil in the area is known to absorb moisture. Also the soil in Big Wash, which is adjacent to the project, does absorb water. Others voiced similar concerns. Thus, the council voted to continue the hearing to a future, unspecified date.

Uncertain as to when the proposed amendment will be back
The applicant, seeking clarification, asked for specific metrics beyond “more ground testing needs to be done.” Council provided no guidance. 
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