OV GP MAY BE DELAYED - Tucson Local Media: Import

OV GP MAY BE DELAYED

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Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2002 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:46 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Oro Valley residents may have to wait a little longer than anticipated to affirm a revised version of a plan for the town's future development if the Town Council goes along with a staff recommendation.

The Town Council will be asked April 17 to approve a recommendation from town planners that it delay until March 2003 presenting to voters a revised version of a General Plan that will serve as a guide to how the town should develop in terms of its economy, culture, public services, housing, public safety and other areas, and an outline of how it intends to fulfill those goals.

Last summer, the council established a "soft" deadline of November to put before voters a revised version of a General Plan last updated in 1996. Public hearings were scheduled for June and the council was on course to vote on the revised plan in July, then present it to voters in November.

Under requirements of Arizona's Growing Smarter and Growing Smarter Plus legislation passed in 1998 and amended in 2000, the town must approve a General Plan and schedule an election seeking voter ratification of that plan by Dec. 31, 2002. There was no specific requirement that the plan be ratified by voters in 2002, only that the election take place "within a reasonable time" after Dec. 31, 2002.

The November election date was approved despite misgivings that such a date was "extremely optimistic," in Mayor Paul Loomis' view, considering that planners would be trying to accomplish the task on a budget smaller than recommended by a Public Participation Advisory Committee and the town's Planning and Zoning Commission, that town staff would be taking on a heavier workload, and that serious challenges were being made to the process of citizen participation in shaping the General Plan.

The request for a delay in putting the General Plan before voters presents a bit of a dilemma, said Councilman Bart Rochman.

If planners are a month or two behind and can't meet the November deadline, then that poses a problem the council must address, Rochman said. "Hurrying the schedule may leave us with a bad plan, but not meeting the schedule could leave us living with a plan residents don't want. Either way, we have a bit of a dilemma."

Rochman noted, however, that while it would be preferable not to have the delay, there is no penalty for a postponement under the Growing Smarter legislation.

Bill Adler, a member of the town's Board of Adjustment and frequent critic of the extent to which citizens are being allowed to participate, applauded the planners' extension request, but said it should have been made much earlier.

Planners knew by the end of last year that a schedule calling for public hearings in June on the General Plan, adoption by the council in July and a November vote were unrealistic, he said.

By that time the damage had already been done because the citizen participation had been so compressed as to undermine the quality of the information received, he said.

As an example, focus groups initially were initially established to discuss, issue by issue, a wide range of concerns that the new General Plan should address.

But as town planners fell further and further behind in the focus group discussions, groups were broken up in such a way that participants wound up addressing only one or two issues among a slate of concerns rather than the entire focus group addressing the entire slate, Adler said. Citizen participation became selective rather than inclusive, he said.

Now the opportunity for residents to have the impact on the General Plan they should have had has been lost, Adler said, adding that the lost opportunities would be better made up for by delaying a vote for as long as a year and reviving the entire citizen participation effort.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Bryant Nodine said town planners are recommending the delay to give the public and town staff more time to review the General Plan, but that no more than three months is needed to do so.

A November date was set initially because town officials were unclear about the requirements for General Plan revisions under the provisions of Getting Smarter legislation. What was unclear, Nodine said, was whether voters had to approve the plan by Dec. 31 of this year or whether just the council had to approve it by then.

The understanding now is that only the council has to approve the revised plan by the end of this year.

Typically, focus group meetings were set up to address three or four issues at a time, Nodine said. It was decided that because there were going to be a number of such meetings, residents should be given a chance to focus on the issues they were most interested in rather than all the issues being addressed to maintain their interest over the course of those meetings, he said.

Under the delay being recommended by town planners, the General Plan would go to the council for approval sometime between October and December and then to voters in March.

Councilman Fran LaSala praised town planners for being "ambitious as all hell" in seeking to deliver a General Plan to voters by November and "taking up the challenge" of meeting that deadline.

LaSala said that he'd prefer staff take whatever time is needed to get out the best General Plan possible rather than accelerate the process and end up with an inferior product.

"I wouldn't want to be the regulator who comes down on a community trying to put out the best plan it can," LaSala said, adding that Oro Valley is taking more time, taking in more citizen input and holding more hearings than any other jurisdiction trying to update its General Plan.

"If we need to take the time, then let's do it right and not sacrifice the product, he said.

Questions about the quality and scope of the General Plan revision process were being raised from the outset as a result of the heavier work load planners were taking on and the reduced budget they were given.

Several projects had to be put on hold and proposed budget recommendations ranging from $481,755 over two years to a "basic" General Plan process with a budget of $325,700 over the same time frame were discussed. The latter figure was regarded as insufficient to finance the task at hand.

Town planners ended up with a budget of about $360,000 to finance General Plan development with the expectation that the process would be completed in 18 months rather than two years. The process for the current update began in 1999, Loomis said.

The current budget of about $296,000 for the current fiscal year includes $230,000 for a consultant, $48,000 for a contract planner and $18,000 for related expenses.

Town planners said the cost is expected to rise if the extension is granted, but the additional funds will be well worth the investment.

Public Participation Advisory Committee and the town's Planning and Zoning Commission, that town staff would be taking on a heavier workload, and that serious challenges were being made to the process of citizen participation in shaping the General Plan.

The request for a delay in putting the General Plan before voters presents a bit of a dilemma, said Councilman Bart Rochman.

If planners are a month or two behind and can't meet the November deadline, then that poses a problem the council must address, Rochman said. "Hurrying the schedule may leave us with a bad plan, but not meeting the schedule could leave us living with a plan residents don't want. Either way, we have a bit of a dilemma."

Rochman noted, however, that while it would be preferable not to have the delay, there is no penalty for a postponement under the Growing Smarter legislation.

Bill Adler, a member of the town's Board of Adjustment and frequent critic of the extent to which citizens are being allowed to participate, applauded the planners' extension request, but said it should have been made much earlier.

Planners knew by the end of last year that a schedule calling for public hearings in June on the General Plan, adoption by the council in July and a November vote were unrealistic, he said.

By that time the damage had already been done because the citizen participation had been so compressed as to undermine the quality of the information received, he said.

As an example, focus groups initially were initially established to discuss, issue by issue, a wide range of concerns that the new General Plan should address.

But as town planners fell further and further behind in the focus group discussions, groups were broken up in such a way that participants wound up addressing only one or two issues among a slate of concerns rather than the entire focus group addressing the entire slate, Adler said. Citizen participation became selective rather than inclusive, he said.

Now the opportunity for residents to have the impact on the General Plan they should have had has been lost, Adler said, adding that the lost opportunities would be better made up for by delaying a vote for as long as a year and reviving the entire citizen participation effort.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Bryant Nodine said town planners are recommending the delay to give the public and town staff more time to review the General Plan, but that no more than three months is needed to do so.

A November date was set initially because town officials were unclear about the requirements for General Plan revisions under the provisions of Getting Smarter legislation. What was unclear, Nodine said, was whether voters had to approve the plan by Dec. 31 of this year or whether just the council had to approve it by then.

The understanding now is that only the council has to approve the revised plan by the end of this year.

Typically, focus group meetings were set up to address three or four issues at a time, Nodine said. It was decided that because there were going to be a number of such meetings, residents should be given a chance to focus on the issues they were most interested in rather than all the issues being addressed to maintain their interest over the course of those meetings, he said.

Under the delay being recommended by town planners, the General Plan would go to the council for approval sometime between October and December and then to voters in March.

Councilman Fran LaSala praised town planners for being "ambitious as all hell" in seeking to deliver a General Plan to voters by November and "taking up the challenge" of meeting that deadline.

LaSala said that he'd prefer staff take whatever time is needed to get out the best General Plan possible rather than accelerate the process and end up with an inferior product.

"I wouldn't want to be the regulator who comes down on a community trying to put out the best plan it can," LaSala said, adding that Oro Valley is taking more time, taking in more citizen input and holding more hearings than any other jurisdiction trying to update its General Plan.

"If we need to take the time, then let's do it right and not sacrifice the product, he said.

Questions about the quality and scope of the General Plan revision process were being raised from the outset as a result of the heavier work load planners were taking on and the reduced budget they were given.

Several projects had to be put on hold and proposed budget recommendations ranging from $481,755 over two years to a "basic" General Plan process with a budget of $325,700 over the same time frame were discussed. The latter figure was regarded as insufficient to finance the task at hand.

Town planners ended up with a budget of about $360,000 to finance General Plan development with the expectation that the process would be completed in 18 months rather than two years. The process for the current update began in 1999, Loomis said.

The current budget of about $296,000 for the current fiscal year includes $230,000 for a consultant, $48,000 for a contract planner and $18,000 for related expenses.

Town planners said the cost is expected to rise if the extension is granted, but the additional funds will be well worth the investment.

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