$1M IN COMPLAINTS DEMAND OV'S ATTENTION - Tucson Local Media: Import

$1M IN COMPLAINTS DEMAND OV'S ATTENTION

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Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2002 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:46 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Residents along Calle Concordia, some of whom helped give birth to Oro Valley's emergence as a town, are now viewing the town as its enemy. Some are even talking secession.

Seven residents living near the town's Public Works Department facilities at 680 W. Calle Concordia have filed claims against the town totaling more than $1 million for alleged reductions in the value of their property resulting from public works operations.

Allegations in the claims include taking of property without compensation, creating a public danger without compensation, violation of a residential zone and creating a public nuisance.

Claimants and amounts sought include: J. Sidney and Lena Mae Cotner, $151,000; John and Dina Gouveia, $125,000; Ninette Klinger, $150,000; Paul and Judy Smith, $250,000; Karen Harned, $85,000; Eric and Mary Huntsman, $100,000; and Celta Sheppard, $125,000.

The amounts were based on consultation with attorney Dennis A. Rosen regarding the negative impact the public works operations were having on their ability to sell their homes, Sheppard said.

Residents want the public works maintenance yard moved. Their demands are putting the Town Council in a tough position.

On one side are the Calle Concordia residents who support placing the public works maintenance operations on the 212-acre Naranja Town Site at the north side of Naranja Drive, about one-half mile east of La Canada Drive.

On the other are those who oppose placing any buildings on the Naranja site and want it reserved for purely recreational and cultural uses. This is the recommendation a task force and executive committee has relayed to the Town Council.

In letters to Mayor Paul Loomis and members of the council, residents who have filed claims of property damage against the town refer to promises made by town officials dating back more than 20 years to have the public works maintenance yard operations moved off the five-acre site as soon as a location was chosen for a new town hall.

The town moved into its current Town Hall, named for Mayor E. S. Engle, at 11000 N. La Canada Drive, in March 1991.

Public Works has been on Calle Concordia since 1977, initially as part of leased space until the town bought the site in 1978 for $67,000, according to a history of Oro Valley written by Henry Suozzi, a member of the town's Board of Adjustment.

Today, the town's old Town Hall and smaller buildings remain on the Calle Concordia site where more than 50 people are employed. As many as 100 vehicles, including those of employees and the town, as well as 14 pieces of heavy machinery also occupy the site at various times.

A trailer was placed on the site about a year and a half ago. The trailer is served by a septic tank designed for a single family residence, but the tank is serving a much more intense demand.

Residents said they've been told the trailer would be gone within two years. The pledge is being greeted "with cynicism and little hope."

James Kriegh, one of the town's founders, said years ago, at about the same time the Town Council under former Mayor Cheryl Skalsky was awarding a construction contract for the current Town Hall, an opportunity arose for the town to buy a 30,000 square-foot building on North Oracle near Hanley Boulevard.

Kriegh recalled the cost being about $750,000 and said such a move at the time would have enabled the town to have all its facilities there, including public works, but the council voted down the purchase and the current Town Hall complex was developed at a cost of several million, he said.

In the earlier years of town growth there was little money available to purchase land for buildings, much less build them, Kriegh said, but the intention even back then was to put public works operations on Naranja if the town could buy the land.

Kriegh said he couldn't explain why no recommitment to that objective was made when the Naranja Town Site was purchased two years ago.

Residents have told councilmembers they believe the filing of claims for property damage was necessary to get the council's attention in the wake of a trail of "deceitfulness, dishonesty and an an apparent unwillingness on the part of the town to honor its commitments."

"When you can't communicate, you're forced to litigate," said Celta Sheppard, leader of the group filing claims against the town, adding that residents are extremely reluctant to sue the town.

A lawsuit, however, could result should the town fail to respond to the claims within 60 days.

Sheppard said an offer was made to purchase the public works site for $500,000 and allow public works operations to continue for two years, but that offer has been rejected.

For Sheppard, what triggered her encouragement of other residents to join in the filing of property damage claims was learning that a task force and executive committee had recommended against locating town buildings at Naranja.

"We were sickened by the news that the Naranja Town Site was not to include any town facilities," Sheppard said. "For years we had seen hanging in the old Town Hall a map of how the town had planned to relocate its facilities to that location 24 years ago.

"(Former) Mayor Engle promised me, as well as others, that as soon as the town relocated the property at 680 W. Calle Concordia would be returned to its original zoning and the (residential) integrity of the neighborhood would be restored."

Assumptions of not being able to relocate the public works operations at Naranja, however, may be premature.

The Naranja Town Site Executive Committee has recommended Town Council approval of improvements to the site that would include athletic fields, a performing arts center, community center, amphitheater and other recreational and cultural amenities.

The town wants 15 acres set aside for buildings to serve its Public Works Department, Water Utility, administrative staff and Police Department, but the executive committee has refused to support these buildings.

Now the council must decide whether to pursue placing the buildings on the site or choose an alternative site and let voters decide whether they would be willing to pay extra for that land, if an accommodating location can be found.

It isn't just the prospect of having to endure the public works operations, though, that has residents' dander up.

Plans for road improvements on Calle Concordia and the current controversy over whether to allow one horse per 10,000 square feet on a property owner's land or limit that use to one horse per 30,000 square feet also have residents in a dither.

How closely the issues are intertwined is reflected in Dina Gouveia's support of a filing of claims against the town in exchange for neighbor Celta Sheppard's support for the one to 30,000 square-foot limitation for horse property even though Sheppard said she believed a one horse per 10,000 square-foot allowance would be "the right thing to do."

There are concerns, too, that the town's annexation of the subdivision between La Canada and Calle Loma Linda on the south side of Calle Concordia will lead to a three-lane thoroughfare between Oracle and La Canada.

The Calle Concordia-Oracle Road to Calle Loma Linda safety improvements call for: a two-way left turn from Oracle to Overlook Drive; sidewalks on the north side of Calle Concordia from Oracle to Calle Buena Vista; four-foot shoulders on both sides of Calle Concordia from Oracle to Calle Buena Vista; from Calle Buena Vista to Calle Loma Linda a one-foot shoulder would be added on both sides and the section would be restriped; and Calle Concordia from Calle Buena Vista to Calle Loma Linda would be repaved.

Town officials hope to begin the $500,000 project by the fall of 2003.

In a Sept. 12 memo to Paul Nzomo, Calle Concordia improvements project manager, residents Betty and David Deivert of 441 W. Calle Concordia argued that the roadwork planned for Calle Concordia would only add to safety problems by encouraging speeding, passing and more traffic.

As alternatives, the Deiverts and others have suggested four-way stops at the corners of Calle Buena Vista and Calle Concordia and Calle Loma Linda and Calle Concordia, as well as speed humps between Calle Buena Vista and Oracle Road to slow down trafic, in particular the inexperienced student drivers attending Canyon del Oro High School.

The northern portion of Calle Concordia is solidly at odds with the sleepier, more residential nature of its southern side. On the north, traveling west from Oracle, visitors pass James D Kriegh Park, Canyon del Oro High School, the largest high school in the area with 2,400 students, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Canyon del Oro Seminary, Pusch Ridge Christian Church, the recently expanded Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene, and then the bustling public works yard.

On the south side, it's all residential until a riding stable appears just east of the public works yard. On the interior streets, the neighborhood is marked by high value homes and horse property.

Most residents living north of Calle Concordia support a one per 30,000 square feet limitation; residents south of Calle Concordia prefer the one to 10,000 square foot allowance.

Most of the accidents cited as reasons for the proposed improvements occurred at Oracle and Calle Concordia, not on interior streets, they said.

"The current issues regarding horse rights, the widening of Calle Concordia and the continued use of the Calle Concordia property (as a public works maintenance yard) are the ultimate in deceit," Sheppard wrote to mayor and council in a Sept. 17 memo.

Oro Valley became a town because residents in the neighborhood were assured they would always retain their horse property rights, Sheppard wrote, but that was changed in 1981. "None of us know when or how this change that so affects our property values occurred.

"Next, the town of Oro Valley became a town so that Calle Concordia would never be widened. We are now fighting this issue. In addition, many of us bought and improved our property because Mayor Engle promised that when the Town Hall was relocated, the five acres at 680 Calle Concordia would return to a single residence. Promises which created the town of Oro Valley are being overridden with deceit."

Councilman Werner Wolff agreed that public works should be moved off Calle Concordia, but said the question is where to, especially in light of residents' opposition to a relocation at the Naranja Town Site and the likelihood that a move elsewhere would lead to similar complaints from neighbors in the affected area.

Wolff noted, however, that most of the residents who filed claims against the town because of the public works location moved in after public works began operations at the site.

Wolff said he would like to see the move take place so the site could be blacktopped and serve as a police substation.

Residents said they have heard talk of such plans and that talk, combined with the possibility of Amphitheater School using15 acres it owns nearby for a school bus depot, has added to fears of increased traffic problems.

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