The Oro Valley Town Council has taken action on three amendments to its General Plan that could mean an increase in the number of high-density residential units available in the town.
In December, the council voted to change land-use designations for two projects — one for apartments and the other for single family homes — but did not approve a proposed amendment to change the land-use designation for a 15-acre parcel to a high-density residential designation.
One of the approved amendments to the General Plan changed the land-use designation from neighborhood commercial office to high-density residential for 13 acres near the northeast corner of Oracle Road and Linda Vista Blvd. The applicant, the Planning Center, plans to build approximately 215 apartment units, town houses or condominiums on the site.
The site, owned by Ross Rulney and others, first must be rezoned and then complete a design review before building can begin. Rulney and the Planning Center have not applied for the site to be rezoned.
The second General Plan amendment approved by the council was to change the land-use designation from neighborhood commercial office to medium density residential for Rancho de Plata — 13 acres on the west side of La Cholla Blvd. and south of Tangerine Road. The applicant, Ron Asta, plans to build a 50-lot subdivision on the site.
Recently, the council approved the Rancho de Plata rezoning, changing it from an R-1-144 designation requiring a minimum of 144,000 square feet per lot to an R-1-7, which has a 7,000 square foot minimum lot size, according to Misti Nowak, the town’s communications administrator.
A proposed amendment to change the land-use designation from commerce office park to high density residential did not win approval last month, however. The requested change was for 15 acres at the northeast corner of Vistoso Commerce Loop and Rancho Vistoso Blvd., so Beztak Land Company could develop luxury apartments there.
Area residents complained that apartments would change the character of their neighborhood, and the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission and Development Infrastructure Services staff had recommended the application’s denial. The town council voted 6 to 1 to deny the application.
David Williams, planning division manager in the town’s Development and Infrastructure Services Department, said the entire Tucson region, and Oro Valley in particular, is under-represented compared to other Arizona municipalities in multiple family housing choices.
“We haven’t seen apartments built in 20 years, so the multi-family housing stock is aging and outdated,” Williams said. “There’s a market demand for multi-family housing — apartments, condos and town houses — so developers are rushing to get those kinds of housing to market.”
Williams cited another instance of a rezoning case before the town that was withdrawn before it could get a hearing. The rezoning would have amended the Rancho Vistoso Planned Area Development (PAD) in neighborhood 7, parcel I to allow apartments.
“The parcel is zoned C-1 in the Rancho Vistoso PAD, which is neighborhood commercial,” Williams said. “The owner, Venture West, wanted to keep part of the parcel on Rancho Vistoso Blvd. and Tangerine Road as commercial and change the western part of the property to allow multi-family development.”
Williams said he didn’t know why Venture West withdrew the rezoning application, but suspected it may have been because of concerns raised by neighbors. The Venture West property abuts a residential area only on its northern boundary.
Efforts to reach a Venture West spokesperson were unsuccessful.
Williams believes there’s a general lack of knowledge in people’s understanding of what’s planned around them on vacant land.
“People might not get that information when they purchase homes and they are shocked and emotionally upset when they find out there are plans for apartments or commercial development next to their homes,” he said.
In an effort to better educate Oro Valley’s citizens about the town’s General Plan and efficient use of land, Williams has started hosting Resident Outreach Forums.
The first was held on Jan. 31 by invitation and was limited to 20 people.
Williams and his staff gave presentations about the General Plan, the rezoning process and land use categories, as well as soliciting comments from those attending.
“We’ll want to hear about apartments and mixed use developments, so we can learn from them, too,” he said. “Part of the class will be about effective public participation because we want folks to be able to make their argument as effectively as possible. We will keep doing these meetings for as long as there’s interest.”
Williams pointed out that because Oro Valley doesn’t have a property tax, it is “particularly pinched to maintain services and infrastructure. So we need our commercial and industrial properties to build out and bring jobs into town.”